Monday, April 23, 2012

Cooking at the Ritz

We returned to the Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie for one of their 1-hour cooking classes.  You may recall that we did one of these "Ritzy Lunch" cooking classes the last time we were in Paris.  The Ritz cooking classes here are conducted by some of the sharpest French cooks in the world, and it always offers a good opportunity to learn about some of the unique kitchen tips they pass along to novices like us.  And, one of the best parts is that these cooks teach with an element of humor, which makes it a fun event all round.  Today's class would be no exception.

Ready to get started!
Just experiencing the labyrinth cooking world beneath the famous Ritz Hotel was a humbling part of the whole experience of taking a class here.  This is where students are taught the secrets of fine French cuisine by chefs wearing the tall white toques (the higher the hat, the more experienced the chef).

We actually had two chefs:  Chef Jerome Coindre (the shorter man with the higher toque) and Chef Tino, a tall young German under-chef who spoke marvelous English and acted as our interpreter since Chef Jerome did not speak English very well:

Today we are making Beef Tenderloin with Peppercorn Sauce and Gratin de Pommes de Terrre et Celeri (potatoes au gratin and celery).  Parts of the preparation (like boiling the potatoes) had been completed for us -- necessary so that our meal could be made in just the one hour. 

We tied our beef cuts with white string (to keep their shape), pressed one side into crushed peppercorns, and seared it on both sides.  Then, with a spoon, we basted the meat in foaming butter seasoned with garlic and thyme.  Mmmmmmmm....  it looked so good!!  We added a pinch of salt at the very end (so that it would not dry out the meat).  Chef Jerome became frustrated with our minuscule sprinklings of salt and started flinging larger quantities of salt at the food, chiding us (tongue-in-cheek) in French, "Don't be afraid of the salt!"

Chef Jerome loved showing off his flambé skills, and delighted in showing us how to do it more than once:

This one looked like somebody was going to lose their eyebrows, and we thought we might have to call "les pompiers" (the French firefighters)!

Cooking completed, we each carried a dish of our concoctions into a small adjacent dining room, where a perfectly set table was prepared for us to "test eat" our lunch -- with some red wine, of course.  And enjoy lots of fun conversations with our new fellow "cooks."   Here is our delicious finished product:

And of course, we each received a certificate from the Chef:

We were especially glad that we took this course because The Ritz is going to be closed for 2 years for renovations, and Chef Jerome did not know whether the cooking school would return here or end up in a separate location. We may therefore have been one of the last classes to ever be taught in this location.

After class, we took a stroll through the lobby of The Ritz where we found a real show of affluence.  We learned that spending just one night in a basic room at The Ritz here in Paris will cost you 850 euros (about $1100).  Backpackers like us need not apply.

Flower arrangement in the lobby of The Ritz

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