Paris’ Best Amateur Cooking Schools for the Hungry Tourist

Now that French Cuisine has been declared a World Cultural Heritage Listing by UNESCO, how could you dream of planning a trip to Paris and not penciling in time for an amateur cooking class? (Trust us: They’re not all like the onion-chopping nightmare in Julie & Julia.) Here’s a sampling of a few of the city’s top kitchen destinations to consider on you next journey to the City of Light — and Food. (‘’)

Ecole Ritz Escoffier – 15 Place Vendôme, 75001
If you have a lunch hour to spend at a cooking school in Paris, Ecole Ritz Escoffier is your gig. First of all, it’s effortlessly easy to find, at 15 Place Vendôme. It’s posh, it’s excellent and the classes are given in both English and French.

Ecole Ritz Escoffier kitchens are located in the basement of Ritz Paris Vendôme Hotel, right next to the hotel’s working kitchens where they create all of the meals for the entire hotel. It is also, as legend goes, the inspiration for the kitchens seen in the celebrated Pixar film, Ratatouille.

But in spite of all the international outreach and friendliness (the school is also partnered with the Tokyo School, Vantana) it remains very much an iconic bastion of French Culinary Tradition. Executive Head Chef is the larger-than-life Michel Roth, the ninth Executive Chef the hotel has known in its 110 years of existence. His teaching team at the Escoffier Ecole is both accomplished and easygoing.

My class was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon from 1:00 – 2:00 pm. On the menu was: Suprême de volaille, lard fumé, patates douces aux noisettes (Poultry breast, smoked bacon and sweet potatoes with hazelnuts). Our instructor, Chef Adeline Robert, had spent time working in NY and in San Francisco so she would give the instructions in French and then once more in English. On this day, I happened to be the only English-speaking student in the class of 10. The others were all French and three of them were celebrating their birthdays, having received the cooking lesson as a birthday gift. Lucky for the rest of us, because after the meal – with which a fine bottle of Sancerre was served – the Ritz Staff brought 2 bottles of champagne and a plate of divine cream and raspberry-filled puffs which we all shared.


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Vegetarian cooking is all the rage

Judging by the number of new vegetarian cookbooks, this is a good time to be interested in a plant-based diet. Five new cookbooks, some totally vegan and some vegetarian, are out or due out in the next few weeks.

Here’s a peek at each.

“Everything Vegan” by Vegetarian Times (Wiley, $29.95).

What’s good about it: This compendium of more than 300 recipes – with a good portion having full-color photos – is from one of the best-known vegetarian magazines. Recipes cover the gamut – starters, burgers, sandwiches, pasta and noodles, tofu, tempeh, seitan and desserts. The health benefit of adopting a vegan lifestyle is covered, but in a brief, straightforward way.

Best aspect besides recipes: Menu ideas for holidays, special occasions and ethnic dishes.

“Good Housekeeping Simple Vegan!” from Good Housekeeping Magazine (Hearst Books, $14.95).

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