My Paris Stories

A Cooking Class Chez Ducasse

Imagine people passionate about cooking, imagine steaming pots and pans, busy hands chopping carrots, kneading dough, dressing plates. Think of Paris, too, of all the great chefs there and of the universe of ingredients and cooking styles this city represents. You still follow me? Well, let us go then and enter Ecole de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse.

Ducasse, probably the best known French chef worldwide, opened this cooking school for amateurs only a couple of years ago. Here, in Rue Ranelagh in the very posh 16h arrondissement, men and women, young and old, posh and not-so-plush people meet to resolve the mysteries of Haute Cuisine, trying to get a bit closer to the top of the top. Some just want to impress their families, their friends. Others want to bring French lifestyle home to their countries. Cooking classes are scheduled for only half a day or a full day. But they might change a life.

We where ten this week to discover “La patisserie d’Alain Ducasse”, Géraldine and Julie from Paris, young women from Brasil and Beirut. And there was Frank, Frank Geuffroy who was “chef de patisserie” of Ducasse’s Parisian temple Plaza Athenée. He has won every French cake and dessert competition possible before he converted himself to teaching.

A friendly man, humble and very organized. Like all grand chefs a king of multitasking: in only four hours he made us prepare cakes and crumbles, sorbets and granites, marmalades and the famous French clafoutis. Our heads were turning like whisks. We were juggling with apricots and strawberries, asking questions, taking notes, stirring the pans, filling the tins. How many minutes? How much heat? How many degrees? Franck would only say: forget about that stuff. Look, touch, judge. Play it by eye. Rules are for fools (=amateurs).

We prepared, just to give you an example: Clafoutis d’abricots, blanc manger au lait d’amandes, granite d’Amaretto – which was only ONE dessert and for the students a task even more demanding than it sounds. Anyway: a day at Ecole Ducasse is an event you won’t forget that fast. Our group sat around a table after four hours packed with action, we ate what we had proudly produced and felt a bit like little chefs ourselves. In fact, Frank had done most of the work. Yet just to watch a professional like him makes yourself a better cook.

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