Cooking School

"Bob turns 50"


I know this web page is going up 10 months late. Maybe it was the trauma of turning 50. Yes, the big "five oh". Except, there was no trauma. I had a great time. No excuse there. Maybe I've been busy... yeah, that's it. I've been busy. Ok, believe what you want. Here's the story of our fabulous week at Famous Provence Cooking School

The school is set in Goult, a small village on top of a hill surrounded by the amazing farmland of the Luberon region of France. The school is actually a small hotel tucked away on a side street. The owner, Patrick Payet, renovated the property a decade ago and ran a restaurant in the ground floor before starting the cooking school.

The photo to the right is the best I could do to capture the charm of the building - the iron-work enclosed room in the lower right is where we ate a light breakfast before each day's travels. The area under the trees is where we would usually gather for wine and cheese before and after dinner. On the warmest nights we even ate dinner out here.

Our first day was a long one: SFO to CDG (Paris), shuttle bus to Gare d' Lyon, TGV to Avignon, rent and drive a car an hour east to Goult. Pulling into Goult, we had to ask directions to Patrick's place - Google Maps is not so good with medieval streets - but  first, I had to back down a street that seemed too narrow for a car and attempt to use my new GSM cell phone to call Patrick (I never did get that stupid phone to work in France). We arrived in time for wine and cheese under the trees. After the first of several wonderful meals, Jacob took Mary and me for a walking tour of Goult.

%%% add photos of the castle and the wooden sculptures around town.

Our first full day set the pattern for the week: fresh fruit, yogurt, and pastries followed by shopping, sight-seeing, a little wine, more wandering, and lunch (with wine, of course) with Patrick. Then we were on our own to explore for the afternoon befoer returning to Cooking School by 5pm.

These two photos are typical of the farmers markets we spent our time in several of the mornings. Appearently, my hunch that Cooking School was as much Shopping School was spot on.

A note about the ingredients: I expected the produce to taste great; Mary had timed our trip for the end of the summer so that the markets would still have fabulous berries, tomatoes, etc. What I didn't expect was the meat. In France, chicken tastes like chicken - not like US chicken, but with the flavor of a bird.

Example: The first day we were on our own for lunch, Mary and I stopped at a tiny place that listed Entrecote as a special of the day. (with my abysmal french, I almost ordered it well done - Mary caught my mistake in time -  eventually, I asked for it, and received it, "blue" - right answer!). When the Entrecote arrived and I sliced into it, I thought I was eating veal - the cows are different in France! It was one of the tastiest pieces of meat I've ever had.

Mid week, we were joined by three women from...
wait for it...

San Jose!  It's a small world. Mary, Bob, ?, ?, Patrick ?

Most of the week, we were six: Jean, Micheal, Bob, Patrick, Mary, and Becky.
Patrick's kitchen is not huge: a meat oven, a convection unit (set to 350F for everything else), a refirgerator, three or four "enox" (french for "stainless steel") work areas, a salamander, and dishwashing sink. The whole kitchen might be 150 square feet. But it works well and we were never cramped.

Every night, we cooked from 5pm till 7:00 or 7:30, leaving plenty of time to go up to our rooms to clean up and dress before dinner was served at 8 by Patrick, Micheal, and Jacob. It was very nice to do all the fun stuff (cook) and have other do the drugery (serve and clean). I recommend it to all my friends.

Different appetizers every night. This one is kind of pizza-like (except with a flacky crust) with lots of goodies on top. It goes well with wine.

We prepared fois gras. Mary and I got to try de-veining it (no one else wanted to touch it).

Here's Patrick slicing it after it chilled. I had lobbied hard all week to include it on the menu - I wasn't dissapointed. In fact, a couple of people at the table gave me their portions. It was fabulous!

Creme brulee - always a crowd pleaser!

The cats were very interested in the creme.

For some reason, we found the name of this store unbelievable funny. YMMV.

Rack of lamb. I got to rub it up with a pound or so of butter before we cooked it!

One day, we went to Babbett'e house (Patrick's wife) for a cheese tasting.

You can't taste cheese without wine, of course.

Babbett had decorated the tables with glass beans and frilly table clothes. Later, we hung out by the pool. Mary and I napped in a  hammock while Patrick and Micheal swam in the chilly water.

a nice nap
Eventually, the week was over. We spent our last day in one of the outdoor markets shopping and gathering picnic supplies for our TGV back to Paris.

The last night, there was much clowing around.

Our room was a palace - well, a palace with clothes drying in the bathroom. We like to pack light so on our penultimate day we did a little laundry.

Our room really was huge:  Besides the bathroom, there was a bedroom and even a little kitchen. We've stayed in other places where the whole thing was smaller than this bathroom.

None of the students cut themselves, but both the assistants did! Here, Micheal and Jacob show off their matching thumb bandages.

It's hard to see, but the cats are balancing on the boys' thumbs.

Lot's more fun was had in Provence. Maybe I'll add some to this page.