A cooking class at the Ritz Escoffier School
If your clients want to dabble in some of the culinary arts while vacationing in France, here are some hotels that organize food-focused classes and add-ons.
Naturally, one of the best cooking schools in all of Paris would be in one of the city’s best hotels. At the Hotel Ritz Paris, the Ritz Escoffier School has intensive classes for culinary students of all levels, even for kids as young as six years old. Classes range from one-hour workshops (approximately $75) to two-month internships (about $40,250). There are classrooms and kitchens for both entree and pastry, and students can learn not only about cooking and baking, but also about serving wine with meals and setting a formal table. Group and “tailor-made” classes are also available. The legendary hotel has 103 rooms, 56 suites and 10 Prestige Suites named in honor of popular icons like Coco Chanel, Elton John and Cesar Ritz himself. Note: The costs of the courses are separate from accommodations. For more information on the school, call 011-33-143-163-050 or e-mail [email protected].
In the Provencal town of Lourmarin, the Auberge la Feniere holds cooking classes on Thursdays and Friday mornings with Michelin-starred chef Reine Sammut, one of the few female masters with this ranking. Morning classes (which include lunch) cost about $200. Those who want to show off their newly acquired skills will appreciate the hotel’s Chef for the Evening program, which lets a guest prepare dinner for eight (supervised, of course, by the kitchen staff) after a class. This program costs approximately $887.
The hotel’s several small buildings (the Inn, the Farmhouse and Bellevue) and, out in the fields, two rustic Gypsy Caravans make for a truly unique experience. Call 011-33-490-681-179 with queries.
La Bourdaisiere, a 16th- century château (and 17-room hotel) in Montlouis-sur-Loire, serves up a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Owned by Prince Louis Albert de Broglie (a.k.a. The Garden Prince), the château’s tomato conservatory has over 630 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
Every September, the château hosts a tomato festival, and the event last year kicked off a series of cooking classes taught by Chef Randall Price, former resident chef at La Varenne École de Cuisine. For his classes, which are one- to five-day long, Price brings his students out to the garden to select the day’s vegetables, and then instructs them on preparing the meals in the château’s kitchen. This is followed by a sit-down multicourse lunch or dinner.
As for the hotel itself, which will reopen for the season in the middle of March, five new rooms will be available this year in the Pavilion Choiseul. Call 011-33-247-451-631 for more information.
Choosing a School
We asked Erik Wolf, president and CEO of the International Culinary Tourism Association, what makes a cooking school stand out. Here are a few of his suggestions.
The curriculum and the skills of the instructors are unique among schools in the town, region or country.
The school is associated with related activities of interest, such as an olive grove and press; a winery, brewery or distillery; and lodging.
Something unique about the school: its architecture, history, faculty/instructors, location, neighbors, etc.
A helpful customer service. Do they speak your language and make an admirable attempt to satisfy your dietary needs or special requests?
We asked Robin Zell, owner of Just Girl Trips about her favorite cooking school in France. She recommended the Villa Beaulieu in Roanne. “They offer a weeklong stay in a beautiful villa—complete with cooking classes, visits to local markets, an oil-pressing workshop, vineyard [tours], pottery-making and, of course, wine-making and cheese classes. All of this while learning as much French as possible while wearing a crisp, white chef’s hat. Fantastic!”
However, she cautioned, even culinary-themed vacations need some variety. “No one interested in French cooking wants to go to France to be chained to a soufflé,” Zell says. “They want to use all of their five senses to learn why French cooking tastes, smells, sounds and is so special. That has to include the wines, cheeses, history of the country, right down to the bakeware food is cooked in and the baguettes you can buy on the street corner out of a vending machine…While learning is the focus, relaxation is also a must to absorb the culture of France.”