The best Cooking School in France

by Beth Graham

I’m an adventure traveler. Or I should say a foodie adventure traveler. I love exploring new places through the food. So when I was invited to spend a week at a cooking school in France, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d be learning classic French cooking techniques, including all those classic French mother sauces, along with exploring the local foods and wines of the region. And in true empty nest style, my husband, a non-cook, tagged along.

Now that our kids were out of college, it was a great chance for the hubs and I to explore a new country. Despite living as expats in Italy, we had not spent much time in France so this was going to be an excellent mid-life adventure. We’d be staying in a tiny hamlet in Burgundy, Marigny le Cahouet, as guests of Katherine Frelon, in her gorgeous chateau, La Ferme de la Lochere.

We flew into Paris and rented a car for our drive to Marigny le Cahouet. We drove through the bucolic Bourgogne countryside, passing sleepy little villages and miles and miles of farmland. I could not imagine what the next few days had in store for us, but I was never more excited. Going to a cooking school in France was a dream.

Our itinerary for the week can best be described as perfect, exposing us to food, flavours and sites of the Burgundy, France. Each day would entail a local foodie adventure – to a goat farm for cheese-making, a local artisan bakery and the famed Dijon market, designed by Gustav Eiffel.  And to fully appreciate the delicacies of the region, the week included a visit to Burgundy’s only snail farm, complete with its electric fence to keep the critters from escaping.

When we returned in the afternoon, we cooked alongside Katherine in her gourmet kitchen and learned the intricacies of French sauces, artfully butchered meats and elegant cheese platters. At night, we’d enjoy a multi-course dinner paired with a selection of Burgundy’s best wines. Perhaps my favorite meal of the trip was Katherine’s Beef Bourguignon, a homey, comforting dish iconic for this region of France.

Our menus for the week included multi-course selections such as these:

soupe e l’oignon
boeuf bourguignon au joue
pomme de terre dauphinoise
et carottes
plateau de fromage
regal de Bourgogne, chaource et valençay

or this:

terrine de fois gras
poire poché au sirop d’éspices
pot au feu
légumes de automne
plateau de fromage
fleur de maquis, bleu des causes époisses
crépe sujette et soufflée de crépe aux chocolat

La Ferme de la Lochere offers true luxury accommodations for up to 10 people. You can also rent the entire villa and hire Katherine as your personal gourmet chef for your stay.

Brendan, of Wine Liaisons, is the perfect guide for exploring the wine of Burgundy. His humour, coupled with his knowledge of the region and relationships with local wineries, is an experience not to miss. Brendan says, “there are no winemakers in Burgundy, only farmers.” The farmers of Burgundy tend to their grape crops unlike any others. Brendan teaches his guests how to truly enjoy wines, saying, “The wines are not prepared for you. You must adapt to the wines.”

I’ve always associated Burgundy with deep red wines, but was surprised to learn that Burgundy is really regarded for its whites. Burgundy’s Aligoté wines are crisp and light. What was once a “throwaway” grape planted on undesirable land has now been refined as the perfect lunch or early afternoon wine. Burgundy’s Chardonnay grapes produces some of the finest Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines in the world. The king of whites, Meursault, is produced in the commune of Meursault in Côte de Beaune.

Brendan offers a number of specialised tours covering the entire region of Burgundy. He prefers to take his guests to the family wineries for a truly authentic experience.

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