Just over 20 kilometers from Avignon is the charming Provencal town of Carpentras, known for an old fortress and the surrounding fertile plains. It used to be the home of Chef Gina, who led cooking classes in the historical center of the town in an elegant 18th century hotel particulier. Within her home, French doors opened into a beautiful garden, where lavender plants and lemon trees created a beautiful aroma and a wonderful setting for learning the secrets of Provencal cooking.
During her cookery course, Chef Gina taught students how to fuse the classic with the modern, and shared how to use all the riches the south of France has to offer. Although Gina has since retired and sold her hotel particulier, we still enjoy our interview with her, in which she taught us her views on Provencal cuisine.
What is your first cooking memory?
I was an only child, my Mom was a Cordon Bleu chef. All my childhood memories take place in the kitchen; as soon as I was able to stand up, I began cooking.
Where or from whom did you learn about cooking?
When I was three years old, my Mom offered me a small terra cotta dinnerware set and I began to cook with her.
What is your favorite ingredient or food to cook with? Least favorite?
My favorite food is when I make fresh vegetables and herbs lightly cooked with a fruity olive oil. Least favorite: organ meat or offal.
What is the best piece of advice you would give someone who is just starting to cook?
Before starting to cook you need to recognize the best products, to have a good knife and a good pan.
Have any funny or embarrassing stories you’d like to share?
One day for a cooking lesson, I received a couple from Israel. We were speaking about the different origins of Israeli food, and the lady evoked Nantis from Kurdistan, country of origin of her Mom. Some days before, in a magazine, I had seen an article about Kurdistan cooking; we find the magazine and we are lucky enough to find the recipe of the Nantis. This dish is a kind of ravioli stuffed with lamb meat and squash. So we decide to change our plan and we had a dinner from Kurdistan instead of Provence. It was very exciting and touching.
Why do you like teaching cooking classes?
Cooking is the best international language. I am very proud to receive this culture from my family, it is a great pleasure to pass it.
What’s unique about the food from your region?
Provence is a paradise from Spring to Winter you could find fresh and local products with perfect quality and the best is the black truffle.
Learn more about the food of Provence, and more tidbits of wisdom from our chefs, during a cooking vacation with The International Kitchen
By Liz Hall
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