What if there were a wand that would ease your wanderlust by opening a portal that instantly takes you back through time and space to a magical moment in Paris? There is. It’s called a rolling pin. The portal is a plate of mouth-watering French dishes you learned to make at La Cuisine Paris, the jewel of a cooking school on the Right Bank. Madeleines transported Proust to the past, so just imagine the memories a bite out of one of these mini cakes you mastered at La Cuisine would evoke? Memorable moments are precisely what founder Jane Bertch is in the business of creating.
The creation of what has become one of the leading cooking class destinations for American travelers (she hosted nearly ten thousand in 2019) was not part of some life-long dream by a die-hard foodie. As former finance executive Bertch tells it, “when I first came to France on a work trip for the bank I was working for, I didn’t even have a specific love for cooking, but I did fall in love with Paris. I didn’t follow my passion, my passion found me.”
So how did she cook up the idea? “It kind of floated down to me,” Bertch notes. “I asked myself, ‘what would be a great business that I’d really enjoy?’ It occurred to me that at the best parties, people usually congregated in the kitchen. Food brings people together, and France is one of the global epicenters of food, so why not create a cooking school where it feels like a dinner party every day?”
She took cooking classes to see what the current crop of schools were doing, understand what people enjoyed most, and figure out what she could do differently. When she launched twelve years ago the first classes were in French and for locals. “I realized travelers might like to take cooking classes,” adds Bertch. With cooking classes recently identified as one of the key opportunities for growth in food tourism [according to The World Food Travel Association 2020 annual report], Bertch was clearly ahead of the curve.
The school is housed in a cozy classic French town house in the 4ème arrondissement, overlooking the Seine with a view of Île Saint-Louis directly across the river. It’s just two blocks from the gateway to le Marais, around the corner sits the oldest house in the city, and a stone’s throw away is the cobblestoned rue des Barres, one of the most frequently filmed streets in Paris. The charm and atmosphere seamlessly continue inside the school. The ground floor houses a boutique with delightful gifts and cookery keepsakes. A strikingly long work table festooned with kitchen utensil jars sits at the center of the roomy main classroom which more than comfortably accommodates the intimate classes and private groups.
Friendly, experienced, and extremely knowledgeable English-speaking French chefs lead the three-hour private and group classes. “We get a lot of families booking together, mother-daughter outings, and groups of friends, but even those who join existing groups are sure to make friends,” notes Bertch.
The most popular classes are the ones based on iconic French baked goods. You’ll come away from Croissant & French Pastry Fundamentals knowing how to make classic croissants, Pain au Chocolat, and Pain au Raisin, among other things. The basic tenet of Bertch’s philosophy is recognizing the inclusive nature of cooking, and the fact that, as she puts it, “everyone can cook.” There are classes for bread (baguette being the most popular), macarons, and eclairs, as well as select savory dishes. A stand-out offering is the Menu & Market tour, in which the class takes a trip to the local market to source fresh ingredients, returning to La Cuisine to cook together, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor as they dine together with a view of the sun speckled Seine.
Bertch sees her mission as building a sense of community and creating memorable experiences. Those experiences continue after her guest “family” have gone home, where the moveable feast continues through La Cuisine Paris’ stunning social media posts on Instagram (34.5K followers), Facebook (48,000+) and via their terrific monthly newsletter. Online classes are also available and are a great way to stay connected to Paris.
Price: The three-hour classes are 99 Euros per person.
How to book: https://lacuisineparis.com/