French Cooking Class: Alain Ducasse
Taking a cooking class anywhere is one of my favorite things to do. Of course I’ve taken many in the US and many in France, it’s a great thing to do with my husband who enjoys cooking even more than I do. I’ve also learned take-out Chinese with my daughter, Vietnamese with my son and we even tried making Balinese food in Bali and Pizza making en famille in Sorrento.
What’s amazing is after almost 70 cooking classes over the past 20 years, I was surprised to find out how much I still had to learn at chef William Grout’s French cooking class at the new Alain Ducasse cooking school at the BHV.
If you are not familiar with the BHV, its is a large department store just across from the Hotel de Ville hence the name Bazaar de L’Hotel de Ville. Ducasse does have another school in the 16th but this one is much more convenient and central.
Chef Grout has worked for Mr. Ducasse all of his adult life since the age of 22 when he decided to go into the profession. There might not be a better person in the world to learn from for classic and modern French food than Ducasse with his hat full of Michelin stars and restaurants around the world plus a chocolate brand thrown in for good measure.
Chef William told us that the best way to learn the French technique for cooking is to work in a restaurant, rather than going to school because there is much more pressure and you must be fast on your feet.
William was a chef at Mr. Ducasse’s Le Rech in the 17th for 9 years and now for just under a year he’s been teaching. He admits he prefers the hours but sometimes misses the excitement and the fast pace of the professional kitchen. I took a 1-3 pm class on a Saturday, one of the ones offered in English and I was joined by students from Canada, India, Tennessee, Australia and Texas.
We made roasted rack of lamb with glazed vegetables including carrots, salsify, artichoke and pearl onions. The Chef instructed us to make a rich lamb jus that involved roasting lamb bones, adding veggies and a lot of butter and letting it cook down. However the incredible thing I learned that nearly knocked me to the ground was the idea that after browning the protein, it you want the internal temperature to be say 150 degrees fahrenheit which you do in the case of medium rare lamb you just stick it in a low heat oven at the very same temp you want it to end up at. This way you can leave it for 2 hrs or more and it won’t get overdone or dried out. Incredible! And to think I reached 50 yrs without knowing that! I don’t even want to think about how many dinner parties would have been made easier had I known this.
We also made a marinated escabeche of mackerel, an oily fish made much more enjoyable with the addition of a citrus-y saffron sauce that lightly cooked the white flesh of the fish. Thé chef used the blow torch for the skin, which was great fun to watch. Of course you can sear it in a very hot pan instead if your not a pyro at heart. For me the most fun was learning to debone the fish and using fish tweezers to take out the remaining spine bones, who knew there was such a thing as a fish tweezer? When served, the fish was superb, light yet filling and served with shaved fennel.
Half the fun of a cooking class is getting to know your neighbors and this was no exception. Our worldly crew included two professional chefs and one true novice but somehow our chef glided effortless between the knowledge bases. There was a joke running that the chef would only open wine for us after most of our work was done and in good time we sat down and ate and laughed (yes this chef had a good sense of humor which is not always the case) and we thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of our labors. A more tender and beautiful lamb I’d never tasted.
Note: If you have a GG2P GO-Card we are delighted to have a number of cooking class partners each who will offer you some extra special treatment and discounts.