By Marlise Kast
With its rich heritage and charming villages, Burgundy's greatest treasure lies in its unrivaled gastronomy. Helping to uphold this honor are the region's remarkable chefs who dazzle with their culinary expertise. From cheese and baguettes to truffles and soufflé, their creations have rewarded our appetites for centuries. Now, those secret tips, tricks, recipes and techniques are available through Burgundy's cooking schools.
Famed for its red wines and rich cuisine, Burgundy has long gifted our palates with traditional dishes like stewed escargots, parsley-flavored ham, poached river fish, and coq au vin. In Burgundy alone, over 150 varieties of truffles and mushrooms are found in the forest and limestone near Vézelay, Puisaye, and Châtillonais.
In addition to offering exceptional wine, the region proudly produces one of the world's finest breeds of cattle, the charollais. These extraordinary cuts of beef are often cooked a la bourguignon, in a red wine sauce with mushrooms and bacon. Other Burgundy meats include a variety of sausage like rosette, cervelas, and ouillette.
In France a meal is incomplete without the heavy creams and soft cheeses of Chaource, St-Florentin, Epoisses and Morvan. Equally notable are the chickens from Bresse and the mustards from Dijon, both considered world famous in their own right. Abundant in the region are blackcurrants, often featured in desserts, sauces or the popular Kir aperitif, crème de cassis. Of course the best way to savor the area's fine cuisine is with the accompaniment of a bottle of Burgundy wine.
Burgundy's Best Cooking Schools
L'Atelier des Chefs. "The Workshop of the Chefs" caters to those who are as interested in tasting their creations as in preparing them. Founded by brothers Nicolas and Francois Bergerault, the relaxed course entices people "back to the kitchen" with a series of delightful French dishes each delivered in less than thirty minutes. The main draw here is the finale, during which classmates gather in a dining room setting to enjoy their finished products. Whether you enroll in the lunch-hour "Cook-Eat-Run" (€18), or the Three-Course Master Class (€60), there is a cooking experience to fit every appetite. 18 Rue Chaudronnerie, 21000 Dijon. 03-80-31-72-75. www.atelierdeschefs.com
Terre d'Or. Under the direction of Master Chef Alex Miles, cooking courses at Terre d'Or extend far beyond the kitchen. Starting bright and early, students head to the Beaune village market to select the necessary ingredients for the designated seasonal menu. The cooking class, entitled "French Family Food", is well underway by 10:30, and by 1:00, everyone heads to the garden terrace to partake of the extraordinary meal. Rates (€150) include hands-on instruction, printed recipes, and a commentary by Chef Miles on French cuisine and culture. Rue Lzembart La Montagne, 21200 Beaune. 03-80-25-90-90. www.laterredor.com
Chateau d'Ancy-le-Franc. The same 17th century kitchen that hosted Louis XIV and Marquess of Louvois is where you'll be preparing meals at the Château d'Ancy-le-Franc. Taught by Parisian Chef, Judicaël Ruch, culinary workshops combine creative contemporary cuisine with traditional French recipes like pâté en croûte. Three-hour classes are followed by several tastings, each paired with Laroche wines from the Burgundy Region. Groups of 8-to-12 can select between various courses (€120) but must register two weeks in advance. Enrollment includes a private tour of the Chateau, built in 1542 for Antoine III of Clermont-Tallard. 18 Place Clermont-Tonnerre, 89160 Ancy-le-Franc. 03-86-75-14-63. www.chateau-ancy.com
Marc Meneau's Cookery Course. Located in the countryside of Burgundy at Restaurant L'Espérance, cooking courses are under the direction of Marc Meneau, one of France's most recognized chefs. Two-day classes (€200) begin with instruction on Thursdays and continue into Fridays with hands-on cooking. Recipes may include oysters with camembert cream, cromesquis of foie gras, or roasted bresse chicken. Seasonal menus integrate vegetables and herbs grown in the restaurant's garden. This is a serious course for aspiring chefs, all of whom must adhere to Meneau's culinary philosophy of combining "air-grown" food with products from the earth. L'Espérance, 89450 Saint Pere, Vezelay. 03-86-33-39-10. www.marc-meneau-esperance.com
La Côte Saint-Jacques. Established in 1996, cooking courses taught by Jean-Michel Lorain take place over a three-day period and include market shopping, food preparation, six meals, and wine tasting with a sommelier. Lectures are projected on a large screen so that students can simultaneously emulate the Chef's techniques. Recipes may include champagne-steamed hen, lamb with licorice sauce, or duck with green lentils. The school's philosophy is to teach a number of culinary skills that can be applied to various situations. Cooking packages range from €80-€180. 14 Faubourg de Paris, 89300 Joigny. 03-86-62-09-70. www.cotesaintjacques.com
Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne. "School of the Wines of Burgundy" teaches everything from wine geography and grape varieties to tasting-techniques and food pairing. For over thirty years, novice tasters and wine connoisseurs alike have come here to understand Burgundy wines with people who share their same passion. Courses, ranging from two hours to five days, take place at estates and vineyards in addition to the on-site tasting rooms and lecture halls. All-inclusive weekends incorporate lessons on the history of Burgundy, as well as wine-tasting lunches and dinners. Approximately six Burgundy wines are tasted during a two-hour course. Prices vary according to the number enrolled and class duration, but €980 covers a weekend for two including meals, hotel and transportation. 6 Rue du 16 Chasseurs, 21200 Beaune. 03-80-26-35-10. www.ecoledesvins-bourgogne.com
About the Writer
Marlise Elizabeth Kast, author of Tabloid Prodigy, has coauthored Fodor's Guidebooks for Mexico, San Diego, Puerto Rico, and Panama. Her passion for traveling has taken her to 62 countries. She has appeared on twelve television shows including CNN, FOX and CNBC. Visit www.marlisekast.com.
Photos: (1) courtesy of Marlise Kast (2) courtesy of Benjamin Myers