On my 2008 trip to Paris, I took a cooking class at A World in a Pan. The most exciting part for me was that it took place in the chef’s own kitchen at her apartment, located in the 16th arrondissement, directly above a restaurant.
Chef Laura Neulat spoke English well, and we chatted easily in her living room, until the other participants arrived. Incredibly, they were three American ladies from Kansas City, where I lived at the time, and they were also staying at my same hotel (the one with the teeny, tiny elevator)! Quelle coïncidence!
Our luncheon was a typical 3-course French menu: cheese souflée, chicken in mushroom sauce, and a simple apple tart. We began making it in reverse order, dessert first, since it took the longest to cook.
The petite kitchen was surprisingly functional! I took mental notes (and a few discreet photos) of her essential tools and how she maximized her small space for efficiency. At her direction, we crowded around a little table and began peeling, slicing, and grating. It was tight, but cozy. Chef Laura bustled back and forth between the stove and our table, giving excellent tips and instructions. I kept peeking out the window through the wrought iron balcony, feeling delighted with the experience of being in a real French person’s home!
Next we began the chicken recipe. Chef Laura explained how she purchased only the freshest produce and free-range chicken from the market, and the best cheese and cream from the fromagerie. She was very much into organic food and clean eating, as most French people seem to be. They love knowing the story of where their food comes from.
I was disappointed there was not much French used in class. There was one golden moment, when one of the ladies asked for a ‘tea towel’ to wipe her hands. Laura had no idea what that meant, until I supplied the French word, torchon. Yes, I’m such a language geek I get excited helping people bridge the tiniest of communication gaps!
Lastly, we made the cheese souflée for our entrée. In English, we use this word to mean main dish, but in France, it’s the “entry” to the meal, the appetizer. The French main dish is called le plat principal.
We enjoyed our lovely meal at her dining room table, along with paté, crusty French bread, a green salad, and a glass of wine. We exchanged travel stories and got to know each other. She gave us copies of the class recipes, then we lingered on her gorgeous balcony and took group photos before saying au revoir.
If you’re looking for a unique experience in Paris, as well as a delicious meal, I highly recommend A World in a Pan. Of all the cooking classes I’ve taken since, this one is my favorite! They’ve moved to a larger facility now, but it’s still small and intimate. They have a variety of class themes and menus to choose from. Some classes include a trip to the local market to shop with the chef for ingredients.
I met up again with my new friends later at our hotel. Months later, I bumped into one of them at a gourmet cooking store in Kansas City.
Qu’est-ce que le monde est petit! What a small world!