Ever since Julia Child taught cooking classes in her Paris kitchen decades ago, many an American living in the city has guided visiting countrymen on the intricacies of French cooking. But you need to know the professionals from the poseurs. Here is an edited chat with chef and tour guide David Lebovitz on how to find (reliably good) cooking classes and food tours.
Say you want to take a cooking class in Paris; where do you start?
First ask yourself, "Do you speak French?" Because many, particularly professional, schools only have classes in French. L'atelier des Chefs offers single-subject classes like bread making or macarons -- really popular right now -- at all levels. Classes run up to two hours and cost about 70 euros; make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because you'll be standing for most of it. If you're a professional or someone really interested in cooking, I'd suggest looking at the schools of Guy Martin or Alain Ducasse, famous chefs who are not necessarily there, but their staffs are highly regarded.
Any other options for English speakers?
There are some really good people, French and American, who hold small group classes in English. La Cuisine Paris near Hotel de Ville or Cook'n With Class in Montmartre often do menu classes, where you go to the market, get ingredients, make a several-course meal and sit down and eat it. Paule Cailat, who's French but speaks perfect English, of Promenades Gourmandes, takes you on a tour of the markets and then you do a hands-on cooking class in her kitchen.
Any ideas for those who just want to walk and eat?
Paris by Mouth does a lot of great tours -- wine tasting, cheese tasting, pastry tours and market tours. I do a weeklong chocolate tour of Paris and Lausanne, Switzerland, once or twice a year. We might go to a chocolate shop or a confectionery maker, then do a wine or charcuterie tasting at lunch or go to a cheese cave.
Any options outside of Paris?
Susan Herrmann Loomis, an American who's lived in France for decades, teaches weeklong classes at her country home in Normandy. Patricia Wells does something similar at her home in Provence, and Kate Hill in Gascony teaches multiday charcuterie classes.
-- Emily Brennan, New York Times