For a memorable travel experience, try a cooking class with a charming French chef. Our Philadelphia Traveling Mom and her son shopped a farmer’s market in the village of Uzes, France, guided by the friendly chef. They cooked by his side, transforming the farmer’s market haul into a four course meal. Then they sat down to enjoy the meal they had helped prepare, starting with perfect tomatoes. Delicious! And a day’s immersion into French culture.
Cooking and Eating in Uzes, France
While vacationing in the small medieval town of Uzes, France, my teenage son and I took a cooking class with an experienced French chef. It was a delicious plunge into the culture of the south of France.
My family stayed in the center of the rural medieval village of Uzes, in the Languedoc region of France. The stone buildings of Uzes glow in the bright sunshine of the south of France. Its narrow stone streets are fun to explore and too skinny for cars, and wandering on foot felt like we had stepped back in time.
We loved that everyone in town was French. The summer population is nearly all French families on vacation, living a leisurely, vacation pace of life. We had just spent time exploring Paris, eating in Paris, exploring Normandy on a river cruise, exploring Arles and Aix en Provence. We welcomed the chance to slip into the leisurely rhythm of small town Uzes.
Uzes is a rural village surrounded by vineyards and farms. It is a good base to explore nearby Provence and the monumental remains of a Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.
A French Farmer’s Market
The highlight of our stay in Uzes was the English-language cooking class my son and I took with Chef Eric, of Cook’n With Class Uzès. Our day started early. We met the charming Chef Eric in the morning to shop the Uzes farmer’s market by his side.
I shop farmer’s markets at home in Philadelphia, but shopping with a French chef is a different experience. Chef Eric guided us to the tomatoes grown by the farmer who raises his crop without extra water, so the tomato flavor is more intense. He chose fresh goat cheese from the farmer who left her career as a physics professor to raise goats and make cheese. Chef Eric was just as picky about meat, guiding us to the butcher who selects which lamb to slaughter.
Chef Eric planned some purchases. He chose pigeon so my son and I could try it for the first time. But other purchases were on-the-spot inspirations. Raspberries looked luscious, so we bought them, then decided to use them to top a chocolate tart.
Travel to the Cooking Class
To get from the farmer’s market to the huge spotless kitchen where Chef Eric teaches the cooking class, he drove my son and me a few miles through the rural countryside. Once in the kitchen, Chef Eric carefully guided through ever step of the preparation process to create this fabulous meal: Tomato carpaccio, Pigeon with red wine sauce over carmelized onions with almonds, stuffed lamb shoulder over ratatouille nicoise, cheese, chocolate tart with raspberries.
A French Cooking Class
My son and I love to cook. But we have no training. Chef Eric was patient and friendly as he taught us French Provencale cooking techniques, all in English. Chef Eric showed us how to hold the knives as we chopped, deboned, sliced, and diced ingredients. He showed us what heat to use to saute the onions and when to pour wine into a sauce. He taught us to hand mix and roll out pastry dough and how to whip a chocolate cream.
Chef Eric brought us outside to cut herbs from his garden. Lavender is the iconic plant and fragrance of Provence, and Chef Eric showed us how to infuse a sauce with lavender flavor, by immersing its dried leaves before straining it out.
Eating What We Prepared
The best part of a cooking class – eating! We set the wooden table in the kitchen with ceramic plates, a huge water pitcher, and a bottle of wine. Then Chef Eric sat with us as we relaxed with our first course, the perfect tomatoes sliced and sprinkled with local salt. This was followed by pigeon, lamb, cheese, and finally, chocolate tart.
This was a truly hands-on experience. Chef Eric’s teaching was thoroughly enjoyable for my son and me, two enthusiastic but completely untrained cooks. This cooking class was a brief immersion in French culture – plus, a great meal. Cook’N With Class also offers classes in Paris, and one day I hope to take another class with them.
Eating in Uzes, France
The next day, we took Chef Eric’s suggestion to try an excellent restaurant in Uzes called Piano Piano. Delicious! We ate outside in the stone walkway flanking the restaurant, surrounded by French families. My family was interested that the French families expected their toddlers to eat at the dinner table and to participate in conversation.
Uzes has plentiful sidewalk cafes and patisseries, each one memorable. This small rural town, populated by French families on summer vacation, was a perfect place to drink in the atmosphere of the south of France.
Have you ever taken a cooking class on vacation? Tell us about it in the comments.