One of the most exciting culinary experiences during my fall fling in Paris was preparing a three-course meal in a cooking class offered through L’Atelier des Chefs. The afternoon class got off to a rough start but one of the tomes I live by is that things happen for the best, and this adventure was no exception.
Before the trip, I checked into the classes online and, via email, confirmed that L’atelier des Chefs offered classes in English, but decided to wait until I was in Paris to reserve the class. The concierge staff at our hotel (Hotel Ambassador on Boulevard Haussmann) in the financial district all spoke English and when I inquired about making a reservation they even had the L’Atelier info among their brochures.
The gentleman kindly called for me and I asked him to reserve a space in the afternoon class and told him I needed an English speaking class – it was fairly apparent :-/ The classes were offered in the popular department store Printemps and the day before I had the concierge show me on a map where the two Printemps listed on the L’atelier card were located – Boulevard Haussmann happens to be the shopping mecca of Paris, so it was just a few blocks away. Awesome!
The day of the class I decided to walk to the Musée d’Orsay and gave myself plenty of time to make my way back in time for the class at Printemps. I checked the confirmation email which said Printemps Nacion (?), wrote down my confirmation code, and went happily on my way to view the art deco splendor of the Musee.
A leisurely walk took me by this peaceful park where ancient crypts provide a historical backdrop and contrast to the bustling boulevard traffic and digital technology of passersby. When I arrived at Printemps I wandered around looking for signage and ended up asking the women at the VAT tax refund desk where the cooking class was – showing them my confirmation. Alors! Shaking her head (not a good sign), one of the ladies explained that the class was not in this store and proceeded to give me directions for what subway to take to Printemps Nacion – turns out Nacion is another location which was not listed on the card, of course. I started to become a little unhinged because I didn’t have time to try to figure out where the subway entrance was or what line to take. She gestured to come with her and whisked me through the store to flag down a taxi!
Then, to add insult to injury, I get there in time (after a 20 Euro cab ride) and, maybe you guessed it already, the class was not one of their English speaking classes! Frustration reflected in my voice as I checked in, still a bit exasperated I decided, c’est la vie, I’m here, let’s do this! Fortunately, I’m not a novice cook and could follow along by observing, and then… a voice in the background interjected with, “I can help you”, and the angel Anita (shown next to me in the video) who’s Dutch, married to a Frenchman and living in Paris for the past 40 years, came to my rescue 🙂
It was fun being in a group of Parisians, learning alongside them and seeing everyone loosen up and interact with each other. As the only person who wasn’t French-speaking, I didn’t feel out of place and now and then I would ask Anita to translate. At one point, Anita whispered to me that our instructor’s French was not very good and she was having a bit of difficulty understanding her – oddly, our chef was Japanese and even I could detect that her French was spoken with a definite Japanese accent 🙂
But let’s get to the food: the first course was a salad of Mackerel and Citrus in a Smoked Paprika and Yuzu Sauce, followed by Cod with Pumpkin Mousse and Ginger Foam, and finally, the coup de grace, a Chocolate Fondant with Smoked Paprika Espelette and Caramel Sauce.
We did all this in 90 minutes – unfortunately, several of us hadn’t eaten all day (it was now 4:00 p.m.) because we thought we were dining on our creations at the end of class. Alors! One more miscommunication! It was all packaged up for us to take away and I ended up wolfing down lukewarm fish once I got back to the hotel! As luck would have it, my new found friend Anita had to take the subway to the Haussmann station so, with brown bag gourmet lunches in hand, we chattered our way through the subway ride, nearly missing our stop!
I’ve had all three recipes translated except for the metric measurements, which one would you like to see first? Stay tuned and thanks for hanging in there for the story 🙂 After this roller coaster of a cooking adventure, I plan on taking a class wherever I travel and highly recommend it to all of you, too!