Traditional French Cooking Class

Cooking Gear

[Traditional French Cooking Class]

Show-and-tell: this is the gear I bought for the cooking class I am taking this year! It’s part of the Cours Municipaux pour Adultes, a learning program sponsored by the Mairie de Paris (the mayor’s office), and mine is a weekly three-hour class to learn about traditional French cuisine. All classes offered in this program (although the quality of teaching no doubt varies) are a real bargain, since they are financed in great part by local taxes — for once I am more than happy to pay them — but they are reserved exclusively to Parisians (who have paid the aforementioned taxes, it’s only fair) and the odds of getting in are akin to winning the lottery. Word has gotten around, they get a lot of applications, but naturally there is a limited number of seats for each class, so it’s first come first serve.

I first learned about this cooking class sometime over the summer, and in the morning of September 1, the day the enrollment began, I walked over to the Mairie, picked up an application (plus a few for my neighbors) and within the hour had sent it off, with a good luck kiss. The kiss thing seems to have worked, because I soon received a notice to come to the school at a certain date and time, and after a somewhat nerve-wracking test (multiple-choice questions? for a cooking class? what has the world come to?) only 18 or the 42 candidates (out of some 500 applications) were enrolled. Including — big sigh of relief — yours truly.

The classes started two weeks ago, and so far so good! What will we be learning? The basics of traditional French cuisine — Potage Conti, Pintade Grand-Mère, Steak au poivre, Carottes Vichy, Tarte aux Poires Bourdaloue, Paris-Brest (yay!) — you will no doubt hear about some of these as the class progresses. This is in perfect complementarity with my recent acquisition of L’Art Culinaire Moderne and I am delighted for the chance to learn more about this side of French cuisine I don’t know so much about. Looking at the scheduled weekly menus, I got irrationally excited by the thought of making Oeufs Pochés Toupinelle — don’t ask.

Although this class doesn’t have professional ambitions per se, we have a professional chef teaching us, we are using professional equipment, and we are following recipes from a book called La Cuisine de Référence by Michel Maincent-Morel, which serves as a reference book for the students who prepare the BEP or CAP Cuisine, the official cook’s diplomas. One thing I also like is the fact that this isn’t your average bobo (French for bohemian bourgeois) cooking class: budget is limited, there is no staff to prep the ingredients or clean up after you, and so you do it all yourself, including wiping the floors and taking the garbage out, just like you would in a real kitchen. I like the spirit.

As for the gear, I am now the proud owner of a double-breasted chef jacket, a white apron, two kitchen towels, and a pair of white safety shoes so no one will stab my toes — accidently or not. And for those of you who may be looking to buy such an outfit, I can recommend the store I went to (address below) where all of this cost me a grand total of 50€.

Henri Bricourt
229 rue St-Martin 75004 Paris
01 42 72 73 93

  • You go, Chef Clotilde, can’t wait to hear about all your culinary class adventures. I remember when I bought my first chef’s whites last year, sigh. It’s never as good as the first time!

  • Alisa

    Yipee for you!
    Nice photo :)
    I so want to ask what Oeufs Pochés Toupinelle are, but I won’t.
    Learned a new word: *complementarity* I hadn’t know that form before.

  • Hi Clotilde,
    You’re really lucky I’ll try twice to have this kind of adult”s courses with “La Mairie de Paris” (practice Spanish for me) with no success (same story, there early on 1st September), unfortunately it”s always too crowded…

  • I sent my application form September 3th…and oubviously, i’ve been rejected.
    So, good luck to you, Miss!

  • Neil

    I, too, will be looking forward to your posts about you classes. I just finished a series with one of our local chefs, Rick Farmer of Jarrett’s in Memphis, where he teaches a small class in his restaurant kitchen. There were 8 of us and much like your class we did all the work. Then we would sit on the patio and enjoy our labors with a class of wine.

    Good luck on your endeavor.

  • gwen

    Hi Clotilde,

    This is totally unrelated to your post but I thought I’d pass the info since we know you have family in eastern France: The dates are for last year, but I heard from faithful followers of the event that it will happen this year again, as it has for many years now.

    The étoilés d’Alsace have special dinner and lucnh menus for folks under 35 from November to April. Too bad the rest of France isn’t taking a page from that book !

  • The class sounds superb. I’m dreaming of doing something similar, though my day-job spans 12 hours a day at least :( which leaves little time for cooking, especially since I’m cooking for myself only..

  • Canuckette

    Sounds magnificent! I wish you the best in your class. Congratulations on getting in too! I never knew such classes could have such a wicked competition. I guess they only want people who know a thing or two about food and cooking it. And from all I’ve read here, you amply fulfill their requirements. Good luck!

  • Rainey

    I have images of Audrey Hepburn learning to crack eggs in Sabrina in my head as I say “lucky you”. May Givenchy be in your future!

  • Monica

    Congratulations! I can’t believe they made you take a test – tricky questions? And all self-respecting chefs should clean up after themselves, in my opinion (since I always have to!).

  • Good luck on the course – and love the chef’s whites.
    I went on a class earlier this year (at Rick Stein’s seafood school – excellent!) and bought myself some chef whites afterwards.
    But my wife doesn’t want me to wear them – she claims it’s because they are pretentious, but I know it’s because she doesn’t want to wash them (that’s the arrangement – I cook, she does laundry!).
    There is one friend I know who’ll be dead jealous when he sees them so the Whites will get an airing soon!

  • Sirena

    Sounds awesome! Clotilde, would you mind sharing on your blog the sort of questions you had to answer for the multiple-choice test?? I would love to know the sort of things you need to know about to stand out among so many applicants. Thanks Clotilde!

  • i find it overrated that some folks need to have others to prep the ingredients and clean-up after them. especially those still in culinary schools. if you can’t hack cleaning fish and taking out the garbage, you have no right to even be in the kitchen. i’ve known some real brats.

  • Oh Clotilde! This is so SO damn exciting. You are truly living the dream, woman. *smile*

  • Paz

    Congratulations for making it into the class. It sounds like it will be a fun and good learning experience. Enjoy!


  • Being a celebrity foreigner in Japan at one time, I ran a cooking class that had some of the same ‘first come first served’ issues. My cooking class was very low budget (no budget actually; I had to charge 700 yen (about $6.50) per head.

    I really do wish I could have the opportunity to be on the other side in your shoes now and LEARNING rather than teaching. It sounds so fun!

  • Sounds delish! But aren’t you missing the white hat? [|:)

  • That’s brilliant Clotilde. Congratulations. Looking forward to your progress reports.

  • may

    enjoy!!! we live vicariously through your cooking aspirations and gourmet experiences!

  • di

    Congratulations- sounds like a fantastic course. Looking forward to hearing more about it in your future posts.

  • It looks wonderful, once again. And once again, I find myself wishing I could live in Paris, if only to take this course. But I’ll be able to experience it vicariously through your writing, my dear. Grow irrationally excited all you want. that’s the joy of it.

  • Oh think of the knife skills you will learn as well. You will improve in speed as to the rate at which you can chop. Next you’ll have ideas about needed to upgrade all your kitchen equipment, pots and pans… ha ha, enjoy!

  • joan

    Clotilde, so nice to know that you too send particular mail off with a kiss…a fine tradition I think :-) beautiful colours by the way…

  • Meg

    Oooh!! I’m so jealous! Congratulations!

  • I’ve been in this program two years ago…I loved it, even if it’s very, very “tradi”….:-)
    Where is your little hat? I don’t see it on the photo…although it’s so pretty!
    I regret for the birthday party not to be there…next year, I hope so!

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