France Cooking School Vacations in the Loire: Le Calabash
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A Chateau Culinary Adventure at Le Calabash - BEST SELLER
Yzeures-sur-Creuse (Indre et Loire)

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About the location: Le Calabash Cooking School is located on the river Creuse in the heart of the Indre et Loire region, set in a small French hamlet on the edge of the local forest. The region is home to the finest goat’s cheese producers, and winemaking has been deeply rooted here for centuries. This area is simply known as France’s ‘Bread Basket.’

At Le Calabash you will embark on a French culinary vacation that will open new doors to flavors, techniques and skills that will enable you to follow your own flair and imagination. Initial concerns about the level of cooking skills required are immediately dispelled by the informality of the environment, and the realization that the only qualifications needed are a love for food and the desire to learn about cooking. The kitchen where your French cooking classes are held is a traditional French farmhouse kitchen, fitted to allow you to feel at home. You will work with equipment and ingredients that can normally be found in the home kitchen. The cooking courses provide a hands-on opportunity to develop your culinary skills in a practical and supportive learning environment, as well as being on vacation in the most beautiful surroundings, and the chance to make new friends.

About the accommodations: Your home for the week is a luxury chateau that borders the majestic river valley, which is tucked within the Vienne region with its charming villages and rolling hills. Today, you can still see ancient Roman aqueducts, roads, and ruins that dot the landscape. Built around 1850 and influenced by the Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau styles, the chateau was transformed into a luxurious and peaceful residence with just five rooms in 2007. (During certain weeks, the accommodations will in a nearby former manor home, which is now a stunning relais hotel). While the chateau does not have air-conditioning, it does have very thick walls that keep it cool at night. This is a lovely scenic village, very pastoral and charming, a perfect location for a wonderful food and wine experience. 

About the lessons: The cooking classes are limited to a maximum of 12 participants, which allow Alison and Sidney to give personal attention to all their guests. Alison and Sidney are award-winning chefs with many years of international experience. After meeting at The Royal Swazi Sun Resort and Spa in Swaziland, they married and have enjoyed a colorful culinary career. They have cooked for several heads of state and celebrities (including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Richard Attenbourgh, Mick Jager, Madonna, Cher, Sylvester Stallone, U2, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), and have won recognition by major food guides and medals at the international level. The philosophy of this husband and wife team is ‘Balade Gormande sans Frontière’–Cooking without boundaries–or as Sidney would like to say, ‘Let’s take a walk on the wild side’: and he would, as he was born and raised on the plains of Zululand! They take traditional French cooking and introduce exotic flavors and traditions from around the world to create an exciting ‘cooking adventure.’

You will leave Le Calabash Cooking School with a new-found enthusiasm and confidence, impatient to return to your own kitchen to use your new skills.

A Chateau Culinary Adventure at Le Calabash - BEST SELLER Itinerary

Day 1 - Sunday

  • Arrive any time after noon, and settle into your room.
  • Around 7:00 pm, meet your hosts for a welcome glass of champagne, followed by dinner in the cooking school.
  • Overnight.

Day 2 - Monday

  • Breakfast.
  • In the morning, begin your first cooking class by focusing on some of Le Calabash’s most popular dishes.
    • Wild mushroom and chicken Gâteau with crêpes, port sauce, cep oil, and Parmesan crackling
    • Beef fillet with a gratin of wild mushrooms
    • Fondant and pommes Dauphinoise
    • Sidney’s seasonal dish of the moment
  • Lunch based on your efforts, along with Alison and Sidney’s favorite French artisanal cheeses and our freshly baked bread.
  • In the afternoon, begin your journey into the world of French pastries with Chef Alison.
    • Entrement styled pear, specoloos, and chocolate delice
    • Alison’s latest take on the ‘Pavlova’ and another impressive dessert.
  • After class, around 4 p.m., take some time to relax with a massage or spa treatment, or explore the area by bicycle, taking a walk or canoe trip along the river, or playing boules in the village square.
  • At 7:30, enjoy dinner based on some of the dishes you prepared this morning, along with one of Alison’s desserts.
  • Overnight.

Day 3 - Tuesday

  • Breakfast.
  • This morning at 4 a.m., our fish delivery arrived off the boats that came in late last night at the Atlantic port of La Rochelle, a 2-hour drive from Le Calabash.
  • In today’s morning cooking class, Sidney will teach you about the best catch for each season, and how to identify your fish and ensure it is fresh. The day will include techniques on how to prepare your fish.
    • Escalope of cod with a soft parsley crust, crème légère with chives
    • Sidney’s seasonal fish dish of the moment
  • Lunch based on your efforts, along with Alison and Sidney’s favorite French artisanal cheeses and freshly baked bread.
  • In the afternoon, return to the kitchen for another hands-on cooking class.
    • Roast fillet of sea bass with chorizo, aubergine caviar, and fennel.
    • The art of paella
  • Time on your own until dinner.
  • For dinner around 7:30, weather permitting, enjoy paella around a fire.
  • Overnight.

Day 4 - Wednesday

  • After an early morning coffee in the garden, depart for Tours.
  • Start in Tours with a stop in the town’s best bakery to choose some breakfast pastries to enjoy.
  • This morning, we’ll explore both the indoor Les Halles food market, and the twice-weekly outdoor market.
  • Next, visit the old town, which clusters around Place Plumereau, where the old houses have been restored to their former glory. Small, narrow streets take you into the historic medieval city, and to the south, there’s the Romanesque basilica, the Cloitre de St-Martin, and the new Basilique de St.-Martin.
  • Return to Le Calabash for lunch based on some of the ingredients purchased at the market.
  • In the afternoon, Alison will teach you how to prepare some of the world’s most sought-after classic desserts, which she’s put her own stamp on.
    • Millionaires chocolate macaron
    • Seasonal macaron creation
    • Art of sorbets
    • Art of ice cream
  • Time on your own until dinner.
  • Tonight at 8 p.m., Sidney and Alison take you out for dinner with their friend, Michelin star Jacky Dallay at the renowned Promenade restaurant in le Petit Pressigny.
  • Overnight.

Day 5 - Thursday

  • Traditional French breakfast
  • At 9 a.m., depart for Chateau Chenonceau, where you’ll have time to explore Chenonceau on your own. The Chenonceau Castle was once a royal residence and is now an exceptional site not only because of its original design but also because of its rich collections, which were loved and protected by women throughout history, including Catherine de Medici and Madame Dupin.
  • Lunch in the village of Chenonceaux.
  • In the afternoon, visit Amboise for a stroll through this lovely easygoing town, which is said to have an Italian flair, and a visit to an Amboise vineyard. The town’s chateau, built between the 15th and 16th centuries, was built on a rocky cliff, making it the perfect observation point.
  • In the evening, return to Le Calabash for a wine and chocolate pairing. A dinner demonstration will follow, in which Sidney will make a duck confit set on a truffle risotto and pan seared foie gras while you enjoy a glass of wine from Amboise. For dinner you’ll enjoy Sidney’s creation, along with the chocolate and pear slice you prepared earlier and an ice cream caramel beurre salé.
  • Overnight.

Day 6 - Friday

  • After a traditional French breakfast, visit the local goat cheese farm and producer to taste and experience the best goat cheese in the world, St. Maures AOC.
  • Following the goat cheese farm, head to the village of Angles sur Anglin for a short visit. Considered one of the most beautiful villages in all of Frances, with its paved streets and winding alleys, take the time for a stroll.
  • Return to Le Calabash for a cooking class to learn the art of soufflés and puff pastries.
    • Cheese soufflé
    • Lemon soufflé
    • Goat cheese and duck pithiviers
    • Garlic and snail soup en crouté
    • Soufflé of the moment
  • Lunch in the orchard to follow based on your culinary efforts, along with Sidney and Alison’s favorite French artisanal cheeses and baked bread.
  • Around 2:30 p.m., take a walk on the wild side during your last cooking class. In the class, learn Sidney’s African childhood recipes. Two of the dishes you will be taught are Gold Medal dishes and appear in the Le Calabash: A Culinary Adventure cook book.
    • Chicken peri peri
    • Cape Malay lamb sosaties
    • Chakalaka sauce
    • Lamb samosas with fruit chutney
    • Vegetable bhajis
    • Putu pap
    • Edith’s fruit chutney (inspired by Sidney’s childhood nanny)
  • This afternoon, you’ll also learn the art of dessert preparation including sugar craft and tuilles.
  • After class, some time on your own to rest, take a last walk down the river, and prepare for the last evening together.
  • Certificate presentation and champagne followed by Sidney’s Zulu barbecue. Alison will also serve her classic Cape Malay Malva pudding, which was made famous by Oprah Winfrey when it was served at her Leadership Academy’s Christmas dinner.
  • Overnight.

Day 7 - Saturday

  • Traditional French breakfast.
  • Departure by 11 a.m.