Saturday, 29 September 2007


I don't know about you, but I have always loved getting bumped off a plane if it meant getting a free night's lodging and a few meals paid for (this was before children, of course). During our honeymoon, Sean and I were bumped off a London flight and just such a scenario ensued. A night at a hotel that was nicer than we would have chosen, and three meals paid for. A free and fancy "three hots and a cot". I felt like we were living large.

Today I again ran into such luck. I was headed to a cooking course at the Cordon Bleu that I thought I had signed up for last night via internet. But alas, my name wasn't on the list and they were full. Durn. Autumn pastries and cakes was the theme of the workshop for which I was willing to dole out some Euros. The kids were looking forward to the tasty treats when I got home.

Seeing the disappointed look on my face, the secretary invited me to join a cooking presentation. I was hardly interested. What can you learn by watching? What are they going to cook? What are the hours? What does it cost?

Turns out they are going to demonstrate a recipe for filet de Daurade Royale. Hmmm, no idea what that is. Again, reading my face, the secretary (accompanied by translator) translated the dish into English, "gilt head sea bream" (that's the translation?!).

"Poisson?" I ask as it is the only edible item that has so many varieties I've never heard of.

"Oui" the pair respond.

"Hmmmm. Le cours coute combien?" I ask suspiciously. I don't want to be trapped into a silly class just to make them a few more Euro.

"You can be our guest," the secretary responds. She shows me the menu and it includes a poached egg served with mushroom puree and sorrel cream (one can not have too many sauces in a french meal).

I love mushrooms, eggs and most sauces, and have been hoping to learn a little more about cooking fish for those Omega 3s. The menu, and the fact that it is FREE had me signed up for the class.

After having a FREE petit dejeuner of croissant, juice and coffee (I didn't drink the coffee, just want to show all that I could have gotten for FREE), we enter the studio. We sit in rows of seats that face the chef and his environment. He has several ovens behind him and in front of him is a huge island with a stovetop, a million pots and pans and all the ingredients just waiting for him.

We meet his funny British sidekick chef who translates the instructions of Chef (that's what everyone called him) into English.

Chef was very amiable and took questions while he cooked. We were given the ingredients for the meal in a hand out, but it didn't include the directions, so I was writing furiously as he spoke. (It's too impossible to remember later, even though you think you can.)

My goodness, the amount of labor that goes into a meal. Truly a spectacle. While the zucchini are blanching and the tomatoes are drying in the oven, chef is reducing the mushrooms in butter and shallots and a touch of cream, while keeping an eye on the eggs he has recently cracked into a pot of boiling water for poaching.

At the end of all this activity, his helper pulls out six white plates. Could it be? Chef demonstrates how to "plate" the fish with the tomato confit and zucchini, as well as the poached egg with the mushroom puree and sorrel cream sauce on another dish. It is a beautiful presentation, but more importantly, we all get to share in Chef's hard work. It was the tastiest meal I've ever had in Paris, totally prepared fresh and in front of our eyes. And all for Free! Yippee!


Mary said...

Yea Dianna! What a great story! You must be doing something right to have such good luck!

gillian said...

found your blog today via paris blog. will be a regular reader as you are doing what I plan to do next year....thanks for the entertainment so far!