It’s Saturday morning at Place Vendôme. Shortly before 9 a.m., I pass through the doors of the famous Ritz Paris. The surrounding square is still calm at this hour, as is the hotel’s interior. You may be wondering what I’m doing so early in a Parisian luxury hotel, but I’m here for a good reason: I’m going to spend my morning in a pastry class at the Ritz Escoffier Cooking School! Here goes!
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I have a big sweet tooth and particularly love French pastries. I’ve told you about my passion for Pierre Hermé’s macarons, my addiction to the Mariage Frères tea brand, and my obsession with Jean Paul Hévin’s chocolates!
When I learned that the Ritz had a cooking school in the heart of its Parisian hotel, I was immediately interested. The school bears the name of Auguste Escoffier, the first head chef at the Ritz, and his values live on today within the establishment’s walls. The school is an institution in the realm of world gastronomy; while budding cooks like myself can take classes here, it’s also the site where chefs from all over the world come to train for several weeks. As you can see, the standards are high! But that doesn’t prevent the school from providing a wide range of very accessible classes.
With this in mind, I took a look at their agenda, full of available courses: you can find cooking workshops featuring particular themes or techniques, pastry classes, oenology… I finally came across the perfect class for me: “Introduction to Pastry-Making,” a four-hour workshop for learning the basics. I haven’t done a lot of cooking over the past few years, and almost none since I began my nomadic life. But as an avid dessert fan, I was interested in learning about pastry decoration and exploring the behind-the-scenes work involved in making delicious cakes and other sweet treats.
Back in our Saturday morning class, there are not very many students—only five people (including me), which is perfect for a cohesive group and allows us to speak with the head chef. I’m thrilled to meet chef André Loutsch, who has an impressive resume, as well as his assistant who translates for participants who don’t speak French (the classes can be taught in French as well as English).
We’re very warmly welcomed—the chef tells us what the class will entail, but there’s no time to lose, as we have work to do! We begin with our first dessert: a pistachio cake, with aromas that already make our mouths water. The chef explains the techniques, shows us how to do the most complicated ones, and then it’s up to us to make it happen. We continue with hazelnut financiers before finishing the class with a Bourdaloue Tart (a pear and almond pie). As the class focuses on baking basics, everything is very straightforward and feasible, but in any event if we have a question or problem, the chef is always there to help and explain how we can improve.
To complete our pleasant morning, we’re offered a tour of the three kitchens where classes take place, and I have to say that I’m astonished by the beauty and modernity of the facilities. We even have the chance to spend a few minutes in the kitchen of l’Espadon, the Ritz’s 2-Michelin-star restaurant, all of us observing a monastic silence of course!
I’ll admit that I was worried I might be bored in a 4-hour class; it can seem a bit much at first! But the time flew by! I had a wonderful time with my classmates for the day, as well as the chef and his assistant. The ambiance was lovely and I learned many things. It was a flawless experience, and I left it feeling delighted… not to mention that I went home with my arms full of the goodies I’d baked! So a word to the wise—when you attend a class of your own, don’t forget to invite your friends over that evening to enjoy your creations!
- “Introduction to Pastry-Making” class: 4 hours for 165 €
- Consider getting a gift card: it’s the perfect idea for gourmet food-lovers and cooking fans (for the holidays, for example!). Don’t forget to check out their website.
- “Young Chefs” classes: classes for children and parents, or just the kids, are also available.
- Signature Ateliers: floral arts, oenology, and cocktails (I think that I’ll choose this category for my next class!)