After years of teaching cooking at my cooking school I find it is a pleasure to go to another cookery teacher’s class to pick up some new ideas. So whilst staying in Paris each year I look around for classes that specialise in French cuisine. I enrolled in an evening class given by a seasoned food professional, the die hard Francophile who has lived in France for many years, Susan Herrmann Loomis.
Since living in France she has become well connected to other food professionals so when Susan comes to Paris from her home in Normandy she rents their kitchens for her classes. I got to see the beautiful kitchen of the American food writer Patricia Wells who also lives in Paris. I met Patricia in Brisbane a few years back when she came to promote one of her cookbooks. Patricia lives between Paris and Provence and still teaches cooking from Paris and Provence.
The magnificent oven in her Paris apartment. It would have been amusing to be around when it arrived – it had to be taken in through a courtyard and then up narrow stairs and finally assembled in the apartment.
At $AUD360 for one evening class it is a bit stiff compared with the prices charged for cooking classes in Australia. More expensive than going to a 3 Michelin star restaurant but I am not complaining, just giving you the facts.
Patricia Well’s kitchen is charming, done in French country style with antique marble sinks and a centrepiece is a big fat ‘Le Cornue’ cast iron range worth around $USD40,000 but the kitchen is quite small for teaching and it was a tight squeeze with 6 students working around the island bench. Susan made up for its shortcomings by being very professionally organised. Everything was prepped for us, and we all donned take home aprons to tackle a course each.
But to begin, we had an extensive ‘tasting’ starting with 4 kinds of salt, then on to olive and J. Leblanc nut oils, and lastly chocolate of various percentages of cocoa butter.
The menu, cooked thin green beans salad with sliced pears, dressed with almond oil, olive oil, and raspberry vinegar and garnished with blanched almonds. That dish demonstrates how easy it is to make a delicious dish without a lot of skill, just patience to top and tail the beans and great ingredients for a dressing.
The main course was duck breast with orange syrup and served with fresh flageolet beans (the French like these beans taken from the pod whilst immature) dressed with hazelnut oil. We had a simple lettuce salad with dressing served with 3 cheeses; dessert was the deep rustic fresh fruit tart you see in the photos.Having mentioned the top price Susan charges, her ingredients are the finest quality that I would use myself. No cheating here.
At Susan’s class I met an American ex-pastry chef (I think Susan said he worked at Chez Panisse) who has created a new career in Paris as food blogger and writer. His name is David Lebovitz and coincidentally I had actually read his blog earlier. He brought along his French friend, Romain a sculptor. Romain agreed to my request to visit his atelier on my return to Paris. Thank goodness for Google because I was able to check that such visit would not be embarrassing. At a glance his work definitely looks worth a follow-up.
The fresh green beans, pears and walnuts with raspberry vinaigrette.
The stunning fruit filled pie.
Susan has written a few cookbooks and has just written a new cookbook specialising in nuts – ‘Nuts in the Kitchen’. If you take a look at her website – go to her name at the top of this post, click on it and you will find her website. The details of the new book are there and a list of her classes in Paris and those she offers right in her home in Normandy. Roz