Before leaving for Paris I signed up on line for a one-day cooking class along with my daughter and daughter-in-law. Le Foodist came well recommended, had a nice website and offered what I was looking for: a market tour and the preparation and serving of a four course meal. The price seemed reasonable, too. Viola! A few clicks on line and the three of us were signed up for French cooking.
There were six of us in the class, plus the instructor, Chef Fred. I was unsure whether he had a last name; I never saw it anywhere. Having worked in corporate America before turning to professional cooking, his English was quite good. After coffee and croissants, Fred collected us like a mother hen would her brood and we followed him along the narrow streets to a sidewalk market.
We watched as Fred selected cheeses, fruits, and vegetables for the day’s kitchen adventure. Eventually, I wandered off, bought a scarf, and snapped a number of colorful food photos. Remarkably, when we passed the corner later that afternoon, the day market was gone–disappeared–and the large corner had returned to pedestrian traffic.
Back at the kitchen, we divided into teams as Fred made assignments that would bring together a lunch beginning with salmon tartare on soy-infused turnips (sounds awful, but tasted good). There were no recipes; they would be emailed to us later, Fred said. For now, all instructions came from the Chef.
The main course would be coq au vin (chicken in red wine) with potatoes aux Robuchon (a copycat version of the famous chef Joel Robuchon). Robin and I worked on the glazed vegetables, that required scooping tiny balls from carrots and turnips.
We Cooked; We Ate; We Drank
Dessert was Peach Melba, an 1892-creation of Chef Escoffier and named for a popular opera singer. He also gave her name to the little toasts still marketed today. Making the ice cream required splitting a vanilla pod lengthwise and using the raw bean. The poached peach was later nestled in a raspberry coulis along with the vanilla ice cream. Simple, but elegant.
Half the class was attentive, orderly and given to following instructions. The other half, less so. Guess which half we were in? When my daughter-in-law observed that the carrots and turnips were being overcooked, Fred declared in a huff that they were just fine. The two never agreed on the doneness of the vegetables.
Later, I noted that the consistency of the mashed potatoes was a bit gummy. Had I served them on Thanksgiving, Uncle Ned would have protested. I can hear him now: “What the hell’s wrong with the mashed potatoes?” Fred said ours were not gummy; they were pureed in a Robuchon style. Frankly, I think the French should stick to cooking fries and leave the mashed potatoes to us.
I learned something from Fred with that exchange. One must be the sole authority in one’s kitchen. Don’t take criticism from mouthy intruders, who saunter through your domain. If someone dares to suggest the “carrots are burned,” just look aghast and say, “No, they’re not. They’re over-braised, as I intended.” Or blame it on Robuchon.
Would I do it again! Certainly. But those plastic, disposable aprons would have to go. Despite corner cutting on the aprons, Chef Fred knew his stuff, was methodical, his kitchen spotless, and his stories mildly amusing. He favored pausing during our cooking soirée for a bit of wine, a culinary ceremony that Julia Child heartily endorsed. It was a fun and informative class, but I’m sure Fred is glad he doesn’t have three opinionated Carnahan women to deal with everyday.
Le Foodist, 59 rue Cardinal Lemoine, 7 minutes from Notre Dame.