France Cooking Vacation Interview: Chef Barbara of “A Taste of Bordeaux”

December 17, 2020  |  By Liz SanFilippo Hall
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Our chefs, and their passion for cooking, are the heart of all of our cooking vacations. In this series of interview blog posts with The International Kitchen, hear the chefs in their own words as they talk about their background, their love of food, and what they hope you gain from your next vacation.

In the heart of the Bordeaux countryside, a husband and wife team — Barbara and Jonathon — followed their dreams and opened a lovely Bourgeois-style B&B after working as professional chefs in London. It is here, among fruit trees and extensive gardens, where they offer cooking classes and wine tours, such as during our vacation, “A Taste of Bordeaux.” In this chef interview, Chef Barbara shares her thoughts on cooking, as well as her favorite dish.

Jonathon and BarbaraWhen did you first start cooking? What’s your first cooking memory?
My first time in the kitchen cooking was in secret. I was a child filled with intrigue. What could I do with sugar? Well I found out the hard way. Not recommended for beginners without supervision.

Where (and from whom) did you learn about cooking?
I am completely self taught. So is Jonathan. You can encourage people to become interested in cooking and eating… and to find the confidence to become a chef and leader….but it is a special gift which some of us are given whereby we can translate food into wonderful edibles. Not sure if that can come from someone else… it is inside.
As I grew up I ventured from one cooking adventure to another always seeking a challenge.

What’s your favorite ingredient or food to cook with? Favorite dish to make?
My favorite style of cooking is slow cooking using simple but great fresh ingredients and being able to  turn them into something really delicious just by the method I use. The ultimate ingredient for me is the humble onion as we would be lost without him and his family.

But I love eating crab dishes… baked with ginger and spring onion, ravioli, dresses with mayonnaise, and delightful as a soup with a chicken stock.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting to cook?
My advice to cooks is to think about what combinations work really well and do not go beyond. Great cooking and eating is about understanding your ingredients, sourcing them and not compromising. Remember fresh is always best and try to keep to seasonal produce.

What do you hope people gain from your cooking vacation?
If you join us here for a few days or longer you will enjoy not only careful culinary exploration but a breath of fresh air and a chance to taste the fruits of the Bordeaux/St Emilion region.

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This five-night culinary vacation in Bordeaux includes 2 hands-on cooking classes and a variety of excursions, including a visit to a wine chateau and a full-day excursion to a local town.

Interviewed by Liz Hall

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