My French kitchen: cooking class and market tour
One of my favorite things when people come to visit is seeing a city I have fallen in love with from a whole new perspective. Once you become a resident, the tourist activities tend to come to a halt. Visits to the Louvre or walks down the Champs Élysées are replaced with dinner parties at your friend’s flat or picnicking by the Seine.
When I have visitors, I am able to take advantage of them being tourists and explore the city through their eyes. I remember how it felt the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle or how my taste buds danced with happiness when I bit into my first Nutella and banana crepe.
Recently I had a whole new experience when my mom visited me. She is a fabulous cook and has secretly always wanted to leave the States behind and enroll in one of the many prestigious culinary schools in France. Now, with her trip to Paris, it was her opportunity to get a small taste of this. She decided to book a cooking class and market tour. The class would take place in the chef’s personal kitchen in the 20th arrondissement.
Nestled right next to Père Lachaise Cemetery, was the apartment of our chef, Frédéric. We met him early in the morning to begin our half day adventure.
The man greeted us warmly and led us to the nearby market. We rushed through the first half of the market where food was mixed in with cheap clothes and little trinkets. Apparently, as Frédéric said while pointing to a yellow tinted cauliflower, the first part of the market does not have the same quality as the vendors at the end of the market. He was right.
As we kept walking, it was as if the crossing of a street had led us to a whole new market. Vegetables and fruits were not uniform in size or incorrect colors. The fish was not indicated as farm bred and there were no clothes stalls in sight — just delicious food ready to be picked out and taken home to create the perfect meal.
Frédéric typically does not come to his classes with a set menu or plan. He feels out what his customers want and what their taste is. My mother, whose curiosity and passion for learning about different cultures is infectious, carefully inspected each vendor’s stall in awe of the fresh produce. Our personal expert pointed out how to pick out the best of the best and what to look for when scouring the markets.
After our excited response to the scallops and my mother’s questioning about the gigantic white asparagus, Frédéric had decided the meal we would cook. White asparagus with a cilantro dressing for the appetizer, scallops with fresh vegetables for the main course, finished with mangos and strawberries cooked in honey and thyme. Perfection.
After grabbing some wine from a local vendor and bread from the neighbourhood boulanger, we headed to the kitchen to cook our meal.
Spending the afternoon with Frédéric felt like an afternoon with friends. Yes, I learned a lot about conquering the French markets and how to cook an incredibly tasty meal; however, it never felt like a class. I felt like a guest invited over for lunch in Frédéric’s kitchen. I highly recommend this experience to anyone visiting Paris. It is truly a unique look into what truly makes Paris remarkable: the food!Image credits:
1. Paris Produce Market, by Ed Yourdon via Flickr
2. Crepe Stand, by NickeyNickey via Flickr
3 & 4 Coco Rosenthal