See that picture below? It might not mean anything to you but to me, it represents everything I loved about the recent Le Dolci Paris tour I helped organise, whereby nine ladies from Australia, Canada, and the U.S. descended on Paris (many of them for the first time!) and spent a week in the kitchens of La Cuisine Paris learning the ins and outs of French cooking and baking with a remarkable team of international chefs. But it wasn’t all hard work; in between kitchen time, the ladies enjoyed a lot of free time where they shopped, walked, walked and tasted, biked, ate, and drank and were generally very, very merry. Though I don’t live in Paris anymore, I do sometimes feel like I can take the city where I spent and spend so much time for granted and, for me, this trip taught me to see the City of Light differently, through fresh eyes.
And that picture up there ^^^? It’s the “moment”. The moment where after about four minutes in the oven, macarons begin to develop their characteristic “feet” (the ruffly part on the bottom – you want that!). This happened in the macaron class I taught the Le Dolci group that week in Paris. A class I was nervous to teach. Because even having spent the better part of a month in the kitchens at La Cuisine, it still sometimes didn’t feel like “my” kitchen. Like “my” oven. Also, I was teaching the Italian meringue method for the first time. I’ve made Italian meringue macarons before, with great success. But teaching them? In a new kitchen? Scary. All my nerves flew out the window at that four-minute point in the oven though – as one of our lovely participants, Giovanna, wandered past the oven, peeked in and most emphatically encouraged others to look in the oven too. With her hand on her heart and the glisten of a tear in the corner of an eye, she declared this one of her best moments in the kitchen. As I stood back and watched everyone else crowd around the oven and look at the feet on their macarons (for most of these ladies, also the first time they had made them), again, I realised that making up to four batches of macarons a week had made me a little blasé too. I DO forget about the “magic moment” of the feet appearing and I shouldn’t. It’s really something.
This trip to Paris for these ladies was something many of them had dreamed about for years and watching them discover the city I love so much was a true delight. Whilst I wasn’t with the group for a few of the activities, I did manage to sneak into the kitchen for each one of their classes and capture some moments on my iPhone. No, these are not the best photos technically speaking but they do tell a story. A story of a shared love of cooking, baking and – now – of Paris.
On Day 1, the group worked hard in the La Cuisine kitchens learning how to make croissants, pains au chocolate, and croissants aux amandes with the lovely Guillemette.
As you can see, “Team Croissant” was pretty happy with their results! Later that night, we met up for a welcome dinner at Le Procope, reputedly Paris’ oldest café (established in 1686), where many of us enjoyed “real” crème brûlée.
The next day, we were up bright and early for a macaron tour of Paris’ St Germain area (led by me!). We hit up Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, Un Dimanche à Paris and Georges Larnicol. We tasted the Ladurée and Hermé treats en route (have macarons, must travel with cutting board and knife so one can share!) and brought the rest back to taste at La Cuisine after our macaron class that afternoon.
And the macaron class? A HUGE success! We found our feet!
Day 3 saw more sweet treats with Emmanuelle at La Cuisine in the choux pastry class. The ladies made chouquettes, éclairs and pastry swans!
So many of the ladies were blown away with how easy this was for such impressive results (sssh!). I foresee many a homemade éclair in their futures!
On the Thursday, the group met at the Marché Bastille on Boulevard Richard Lenoir for a market tour with Chef Eric where they checked out (and purchased) the best of the day’s offerings and headed back to La Cuisine to cook themselves a tasty lunch of salmon, ratatouille and peach/ apricot crumble. Oh, and there was some cheese….
The final day saw the group tackling bread – baguettes, épis and fougasses with Chef Justin.
With AMAZING results…
What an experience, huh? A week of cooking, baking, and new friendships that went better than Lisa or I could have ever expected. It’s always a little scary putting strangers together in a group setting for a short, intense period of time but these ladies bonded almost immediately. You’d never know that most of them only met for the first time that Monday morning at la Cuisine. The smiles on faces at the final night’s dinner at Pomze told a great story.
Thanks to Jane and Olivier and the whole La Cuisine Paris team for a wonderful week. We learned and had fun – always a great combination! Thanks, ladies, for being a great group and thanks to Lisa for helping make this happen.
For more information on classes offered by Le Dolci in Toronto, please visit their website.
For more information on cooking classes in English and French and food-themed walking tours in Paris offered by La Cuisine Paris, check out their website.
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher and part-time food blogger based in Toronto. Her blog, eat.live.travel.write, focuses on culinary adventures both near and far because she travels as often as she can!
by Mardi Michels