Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm a foodie, and Paris is a city for the gastronome. It's true that the culinary excitement in Europe has shifted to Spain (think Barcelona and Ferran Adria and El Bulli), but the influence of French culinary tradition is deeply entrenched even there.

The idea of a learning vacation has become popular in recent years, and one of the things I love to do in Paris is to take cooking classes (albeit with more success than Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina at Le Cordon Bleu, above). The city is full of cooking schools, and below are three suggestions. And don't worry. All three instructors are totally bilingual.


(Photo credit: Paule's Lacanche stove, by ddip)

Paule Caillat and Promenades Gourmandes
This red Lacanche stove graces the kitchen of my friend Paule Caillat, who offers cooking classes out of her home in the Marais neighborhood of Paris's 3rd arrondissement. The groups are small and hands on, and you share the meal together when it's all done. It's a great way to learn basic French dishes and techniques, as well as to meet people while you're at it.

As part of the package, Paule takes the group to one of the city's many food markets to shop for ingredients, and if you like, she'll also take you on an afternoon shopping excursion to some of the city's best culinary stores.

Check out Paule's Promenades Gourmandes website for more details, and tell her I sent you!

(Photo credit: tile outside a boulangerie, or baker's shop, on the Rue de Grenelle in the 7th, by ddip)

At Home with Patricia Wells
The food critic for many years at the International Herald Tribune, Patricia Wells runs cooking classes out of a former artist's studio on the charming Rue Jacob in Paris's 6th arrondissement. She also offers classes in Provence in the south of France, and her popularity means it's good to sign up early.

Unlike Caillat, Wells offers week-long classes, so this option is for those who want more than a glimpse of French cooking--and who are willing to make the commitment in time and money. A less demanding introduction to the depth of Wells's knowledge is available through the fourth edition of her Food Lover's Guide to Paris. Even with a copyright in the late
1990s, it's still one of the best print resources for Things Culinary in Paris that I know of.

Check out At Home with Patricia Wells for more details.

(Photo credit: camembert on baguette at L'Esplanade de St. Eustache cafe in the Les Halles area of Paris, by ddip)

Eric Fraudeau and Cook'n with Class
One of the newest cooking schools in Paris is in Montmartre. At one point an artist's haven (think Gene Kelly and An American in Paris), this neighborhood surrounding the Basilica of Sacre Coeur (in Paris's 18th arrondissement) fell on hard times for many decades. Lately it's begun to gentrify, and classy restaurants (and people) are moving into the area.

Along with many other Parisians, my father and I marked Valentine's Day in Montmartre last month with dinner at Le Chamarre. (Note that, even though Le Chamarre's website is in French, everyone speaks English there.)

Eric Fraudeau's Cook'n with Class offers a range of hands-on cooking classes, market tours, and cheese and wine tastings out of a studio not too far from Le Chamarre. His website (which is currently being updated) also provides good information about Paris in general, and if you're interested in learning a little French while you're in Paris, sign up for a French-language cooking class with him! (For more information, email him at

Take a leap with any of these cooking schools, and don't forget to check back next Friday for more tips from Experiential Paris. Bon appetit!

(Photo credit for top photo:, Audrey Hepburn, as Sabrina, in Billy Wilder's 1954 classic film Sabrina. Tip of the nib to my sister for pointing me in this direction.)


fresca said...
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ddip said...

You know, I did a little googling to see if I could find out, and it seems to always be referred to simply as "a cooking school in Paris."

If you can figure out if it is based on an actual school of the era, you win a free pass to Patricia Wells's one-week cooking extravaganza in Paris!

ddip said...

Eureka! Sabrina went to Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, which became wildly successful as a result of the movie. (I just had to change my search words to find the info.)

So, does this mean I win the pass to At Home with Patricia Wells?!?

Anonymous said...

although i can cook, i prefer to eat. and paris is a culinary heaven. my policy is to eat well and let someone else do the dishes.

ddip said...

Hooray! "Guest Blogger" has figured out how to comment. Welcome to the Blogosphere!

PaulD said...

You are A pro! So much so that I, who cannot cook, and am so-so about eating (I do appreciate), even I leave here saying, "I might try that". Alas, for the good of us all, and ny budget as well, the operative word in this enthusiasim is, "might". But only a pro could get me that far. Thanks.

PaulD said...

and, HEY, who's that with my scooter!?! No, never mind, wrong model.

ddip said...

Yeah, I wish it were my scooter too! Glad I've inspired you to almost cook.