Feast: La Cuisine Paris
While planning for Paris, one of my “must do” items was to take a cooking class. I researched several different options before settling on La Cuisine Paris, primarily because they offered a combination market tour/cooking class. We also signed up for their “Bellies on Foot” tour, which promised (and delivered) a fantastic cultural and culinary tour of the historic Les Halles area.
We started with the Market Tour, and were met at the Place of Maubert-Mutualité (famous for their outdoor market – Fromagerie Laurent Dubois is right there) by Chef Julie, Emmet (the “Walking Wallet”), and eight more classmates. Chef Julie took us around to most of the different vendors, and it was clear that she already had a personal connection with many of them. (We found this was also the case with our “Bellies” tour guide, and this connection was the unexpected prize of the trips – the vendors were especially helpful and gracious to us, which led us to return to them several times later in the week. ) We learned how to pick out saucisson, seasonal melons, and cheese. Julie’s original plan was to buy fish, but after examining all of the seafood, and pointing out to us why it was sub-par, she chose duck instead, then led us to Blvd St Michel and the La Cuisine Paris headquarters.
We were welcomed by Jane Bertch, co-owner of LCP, who had coffee and tea set out on little tables to warm us up before we began cooking – it was unseasonably cold that morning. Jane was a gracious host, keeping us occupied for a short break in action while Chef Julie took a few minutes to plan our menu. Then, we marched upstairs and donned our aprons – it was time to cook.
The kitchen at La Cuisine Paris was impeccable – clean, bright, spacious. All participants had a station at a large work counter, and Chef Julie demonstrated some techniques and then divided up the work – one person peeled and blanched tomatoes, another minced garlic, another scored and seared duck breast. We learned how to prepare white asparagus and how to make simple, delicious potatoes. (Boil potatoes. Toss in butter and salt. Eat.) While Julie oversaw the whole operation, it was the participants that really did the cooking. In our class, we had a precocious 12 year old girl who seared the duck breast, and I admit, I thought she was going to ruin our lunch. But Julie’s patience and teaching skill ensured that every piece was done perfectly.
Before we convened for the main event, Julie gave us a lesson on what Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) means, and we relaxed with some well-chosen wine. Julie also taught us how to properly cut and serve fine cheese, a serious education for many in the room. Finally, we settled in to one of the best meals of our entire trip : melon soup with candied fennel, seared duck breast with apricot fig sauce, roasted tomatoes with garlic, buttered potatoes, and marinated asparagus and zucchini.
I highly recommend La Cuisine Paris for anyone looking for a unique, non-museum related Paris experience. The staff was wonderful, the location was great, and the food was delicious. Thank you to everyone involved.
(PS. We stopped back at the market for a visit to the MOF cheesemonger Laurent Dubois – see below. Cheese for dinner is never a bad idea.)