One of my favorite pastimes is to cook, having raised a large family, cooking was always a necessity but also a daily proof of family love. As I look back on those years, I am so happy that we all enjoyed proper sit down meals together at every possible occasion. Today as empty nesters, my husband does a lot of the cooking too, and we privilege quality over quantity, eating a wide variety of locally grown foods.
But cooking can go beyond the purely practical need to eat. It also a great way to discover a city and its culture. My readers sometimes write to me asking about cooking schools they can visit, so on a recent trip to Paris between the Brocante tour and Luxury tour, I did the rounds looking for the best cooking schools to visit for a fun half day lesson or for a bit longer.
At the top of the list is the newly renovated Ritz Escoffier cooking school offering classes in pastry and savory fares to both professionals and home cooks alike. All of the classes are taught in French and translated into English with the help of an in-person translator. There is a certain touch of authenticity with this and it certainly adds to the fun. The classes range from learning sauces to visiting the market with the chefs to learning macarons. If you really want to master the delicious buttery visions of the French, there is even an eight-hour croissant class!
The school is located inside the Ritz which also means you should stop by the Hemingway bar after (or before!) your lesson.
15 Place Vendome, Paris 75001
Le Cordon Bleu
Le Cordon Bleu Paris, the school where the illustrious Julia Child and Mary Berry went to study French cuisine and pastry. Recently, the school moved locations to the 15th in a new shopping area, Beaugrenelle and from their rooftop kitchen garden, there are views of the Eiffel Tower. The café, where all the items are made by an in-house team of chefs, is also wonderful to stop by even if you’re just in the area.
The classes are taught in French and translated live into English and topics cover the classics like macarons and choux, sauces and regional French cuisine. In the pastry classes, the flavours start with familiar themes such as chocolate and pistachio but also include some that are more unique, like jasmine and passion fruit. Interestingly, they also offer a two and four day bread course to master baguettes and more.
13-15 Quai André Citroën, Paris 75015
Alain Ducasse Cooking School
A unique option is to go to the 16th arrondissement to the Alain Ducasse Cooking School learn from chefs that actually work in the kitchens of Alain Ducasse’s restaurants. Ducasse is internationally acclaimed and is the only chef to own three 3 starred restaurants in three cities. As expected, the lessons cover dishes with interesting flavour combinations with top quality ingredients and instruction, there’s even one called 3* Haute Cuisine.
64 rue du Ranelagh, Paris 75016
When I first arrived in France many decades ago, I was intrigued by the simplicity and authenticity of at home cooking by French men and women. Doughs made from scratch in minutes and dishes composed of the freshest ingredients of the season, skilfully put together and learned from generations of cooking passed down from family to family. Veronique, a fabulous French woman located in the heart of Paris in the 7th just by Rue Cler, offers a truly local experience with Cuisine Elegante. She will take you around her neighbourhood to her favorite food shops, the farmers market, and teach you to cook in her beautiful Parisian apartment. The menu is utterly seasonal and exactly what you would expect to find in a French home for a simple dinner or a Sunday lunch.
Other Fabulous Options:
Two schools that cater directly to visitors, with wonderful short classes are La Cuisine Paris by Hotel de Ville and Cookn’ with Class in Montmartre. All of their classes are taught in English with friendly chefs to show you the way!
And on a more personal note you may like to know that Molly, who is part of our team here at MFCH, also offers pastry workshops throughout the year in different parts of France and at her home in Versailles. She just released two 5 day Pastry Workshops in Gascony in April and June next year at published cookbook author Kate Hill’s 18th-century farmhouse. Here at MFCH we are very proud to have such talented team members and happy to see them grow.
And if you have any first hand experience of a French cooking school, we’d love to hear your do’s and dont’s, just leave us a comment below!