Cours de Cuisine

Trip Start Sep 13, 2012
Trip End Dec 21, 2013

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What I did
L'atelier des Chefs - Cours de cuisine

Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Monday, November 12, 2012

Over the past couple of weeks, i have been taking a couple cooking class through L'atelier des Chefs cooking school. They have cooking classes all over the city in teaching kitchens, open to the public on almost every day of the week and with a great variety of menus. Jane sent us emails about the available spaces in the classes earlier in the semester, and a few of us jumped at the chance. As people who know me know, I can't cook. It's actually dangerous if i get near kitchen appliances that heat up; i can microwave, that's about it, (and yes, I realize the microwave is one of those appliances that heats up; it's only slightly less dangerous when i use one of those).

The first class I took was on a Saturday, (10/27/12), and happened to be at the school location a few blocks from my apartment. When I got there, I asked the receptionist if the chef could speak English, (I'm not really familiar with kitchen vocab, as you can imagine). She said that he did a bit, but to ask him to translate something if i didn't understand. When we were told we could go into the kitchen for the class, I asked the chef, (a man probably in his early 30s with really red hair), if he spoke any English. He said that he did, but then he made a big deal of asking everyone in the class if they spoke English, because "we are going to have a special class in English today because we have an American friend." The class ended up being in entirely French, though. I did not understand most of what the chef was saying, but he was kind enough to ask me from time to time if understood him. It really didn't matter, though, if i understood him or not, because it was a "show and repeat" kind of class. The chef would show us how to do something, and then we would do it. He could have been speaking a long extinct African tribal language, and I would have been able to follow his direction. It was good, though, that one of the women there spoke English, so I did have someone to talk to. The group of us, (about a dozen), cooked everything together; one person would put something in the pot, then another would stir, and another would take their turn while the rest of us stood there and watched. When we chopped things up, we each had our own apple, lemon, pumpkin piece, or whatever, so we all got to do something. The chef had us chop green apples into thin slices like french fries as the garnish for the appetizer; i dubbed them "apple fries". I've made them as a snack a few times since the class. Anyway, the chef made sure everyone participated. At one point, he asked me to put some horse radish, (which is one of the foods i hate), into the curry sauce. I didn't know how much he wanted, but what i understood from his gestures, was that he wanted me to scoop the horse radish into the pot with the curry. Before i started scooping, i wanted to be clear as to how much he wanted, so i asked "Tout" - all? Everyone laughed, because apparently he had only asked for three scoops. The whole jar would have ruined the sauce. When we handled raw salmon and chicken for the appetizer and main dish, it was so gross. The meat was all slimy and meaty. The chef was making fun of me because as i was chopping some salmon up i was like, "Eww, oh god. So slimy." He grabbed some salmon and imitated me. I guess he had never had a student who expressed their aversion to raw meat. It tasted good on the appetizer, though, I tell you what. We used salt pinches a lot for the main dish. When we cooked the desert, we melted actual chocolate pieces in a pot, and dipped our chocolate/pumpkin mini cakes in it as a topping. It was delicious. When we finished cooking the food, we got to put together our own plates and design them with our garnish as we pleased; it was so much fun. It was like art class, and everyone's piece was unique. Some people made log cabins with their apple fries, others made towers: the Apple Tower Fries. The food was absolutely amazing; best food i've had on this entire trip, and I had a hand in making it. the only complaint i would have, is that the cake was really dry; it would have benefited from some filling, like the cherry sauce the chef used to decorate the desert plate.  

The second class i took was last Friday night, (11/9/12), with Rachelle and Afsy. More people from the public were signed up, but we were the only ones who showed up; it was like a private lesson. This lesson was at a different location and with a different chef, but the set up was the same. Since there were only three of us, and it was a late lesson, the chef was trying to to move us quickly so we wouldn't be there all night. We were each doing different tasks at different times: Rachelle kneaded dough, (which promptly got stuck to her fingers and all over her hands), Afsy stirred something, we cut potatoes for the mashed potatoes, (using what Julia Child claims to be the only three ingredients in French cooking: butter, butter, and butter). We sauteed the vegetables in a pan with oil, and Rachelle did the fancy flipping. We cooked steak on the stove; i learned that the French don't marinade their meats as Americans do. For the appetizer, we used four different kinds of mushrooms; one was called "corm of death" because it is black. Regardless, it was pretty tastey. When we made the filling for the tarts, we used caramelized sugar and cream, flour, too, i think. Whatever it was, we ended up with this amazing fluff-like custard filling.  
We got to hang out and chat a little with the cute guy who was working reception because it was basically just the five of us in the whole place. I guess he didn't really have much to do that late at night, so he helped us cook a little, and we made him dinner. We had so many extra ingredients, (because they had expected a few more people), that it was no problem. For some reason, even though we had enough ingredients to make surplus food that we could take home for later, the chef threw out any of the extra ingredients. It was really weird. When we were making the dough for the tarts, we cut out 5 tarts, but then was still enough dough left for a few more, but he just wrapped it up and threw it away. Maybe it's a French thing, or maybe it's just him....I don't know. I was not a fan of that. Even though it was a more private lesson than the first class i took, i did not enjoy it as much. I felt like the chef was rushing us through the class, and then when we were done eating our meal and sipping our wine having some great conversation, (during which i learned that Rachelle is a bartender back in Alaska), the reception guy told us we had to leave because they were closing. If you are going to close before 10pm on a Friday night, don't have a class that starts at 7pm! Even so, we left the class very satisfied and happy. 

    On the train ride home, the train stopped at a station and did not move for a couple minutes, (which is not common with Paris metros). There was a man sitting next to me and Afsy, and I asked him what was going on. He told me, in French, that there had been an announcement over the speakers that there was a slight delay. We started up a conversation with the guy, and we found out that he speaks only French; he did not know a work of English. I know a lot more French than Afsy does, but it was the first time either of us had had a conversation completely in French with a stranger. Most of the time, a stranger will realize we speak English, and try to accommodate for that, or try to practice their English. On Halloween night, a man asked me for directions, (that conversation was totally in French), but this conversation was a different experience. It was just a really awesome moment where we were forced to use our French in a conversation with no safety net. 
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