cooking with the pros
As an international city with a large, diverse immigrant population, Paris offers a nearly limitless array of fantastic cuisine. We enjoyed spicy creole food with our French friends, sampled a bevy of mezes at a Michelin-rated Turkish restaurant hidden in one of Paris’s outlying districts, and compared the dishes at two excellent Moroccan restaurants on our classmate’s initiative, but one of the most memorable meals we had in Paris was one that we prepared ourselves.
From the outset, we had tried to include a cooking class into our immersion agenda, but booking one proved a bit of a challenge. For one, we were a large group — 8 people — which made squeezing into a group class difficult and taking a private class expensive. Also, with our constantly shifting agenda, we did not have an easy time finding an atelier whose schedule conformed to our own. At last, we found an opening with L’atelier des Chefs, which not only offers reasonably-priced cooking classes, but also does so at various locations all around Paris.
The chefs in our group were most excited about learning some cooking techniques and mastering a couple of new recipes to incorporate into their culinary repertoires, but the class also proved to be an excellent way to practice French. Because L’atelier des Chefs charges very modest rates — essentially we cooked our own meal for a similar price to what we had been paying for lunch at cafe-brasseries all over the city — they rely on high turnover for their profit margin. The entire meal took less than an hour to prepare, and a new group of students filed into the kitchen as we sat down to eat.
We were a few minutes late, and the class had already begun by the time we washed hands and donned our aprons. To economize time, the head chef unleashed a rapid-fire torrent of instructions, explaining the dish we were going to make and the precise order in which we were going to cook it. It was not easy to understand all the directions, and harder still to keep them straight once the slicing, dicing, and chopping began.
Culinary arts are not among D’s strong suits or interests, but even he enjoyed the class, though he did so from behind the camera. He had volunteered to serve as the group’s photographer during our immersion, which provided a convenient excuse to avoid the actual cooking. S, on the other hand, loved the class. She made a mental list of several fancy culinary utensils she’d like to add to our own kitchen. She also liked the recipe — both simple and delicious — and has made it a couple of times since our return.