France Cooking School Vacations in the Loire: A Chateau Culinary Adventure in the Loire Valley
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A Culinary Adventure in the Loire Valley
Yzeures-sur-Creuse (Indre et Loire)

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About the location: enjoy a cooking vacation 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.’

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 will be one of three properties: a luxury chateau, a former coach inn that has been turned into a charming relais hotel, or a recently renovated all-suite 4-star hotel in the village, depending on property availability and the week booked. All offer charming accommodations in a lovely scenic setting that is very pastoral and charming. Today, you can still see ancient Roman aqueducts, roads, and ruins that dot the landscape.

About the lessons: The cooking classes are at a nearby cooking school and are limited to a maximum of 12 participants, which allows a maximum of personal attention to all guests. Your hosts and cooking instructors 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 "cooking without boundaries." They take traditional French cooking and introduce exotic flavors and traditions from around the world to create an exciting ‘cooking adventure.’

You will leave the Loire Valley with a new-found enthusiasm and confidence, impatient to return to your own kitchen to use your new skills.

A Culinary Adventure in the Loire Valley 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 your hosts’ most popular dishes, and in the process learning the art of butchering and working with poultry.
    • Chicken supreme with a herb farce, confit leg, pomme fondant, and a jus roti
    • A contemporary take on the classic ‘tournedos rossini,’ made with foie gras and beef
  • Lunch based on your efforts, along with some favorite French artisanal cheeses and freshly baked bread.
  • In the afternoon, begin your journey into the world of French pastries starting with the chef’s latest take on le Vacherin, a meringue. Other plated desserts during this course may include sugar craft, tuiles, and sorbet.
  • After class, around 4 p.m., take some time to relax with a beauty spa treatment (these services must be booked in advance, and cost is not included; please inquire), 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 dessert.
  • 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 the cooking school.
  • In today’s morning cooking class, learn 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.
    • Spiced smoked salmon with a kachumber raita
    • A dish featuring mussels
    • Seasonal dish based on the fresh ocean catch of the day
  • Lunch based on your efforts.
  • In the afternoon, return to the kitchen for another hands-on cooking class. This course will focus on paella. The word ‘paella’s is Valencian-Catalan and is derived from the French word for pan, paelle. Traditionally speaking, Valencian paella often features green vegetables, calasparra rice, rabbit, chicken, beans, land snails, and seasoning like saffron and rosemary.
  • Time on your own until dinner.
  • For dinner around 7:30, weather permitting, enjoy paella around a fire as well as a wine and chocolate pairing.
  • 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 the cooking school for a lunch that’s been prepared by one of the chefs.
  • In the afternoon, learn how to master pâte à choux, which is the basis of a variety of classic French desserts. Today’s course will focus on preparing eclairs, profiteroles, and fillings. Some items on the menu include:
    • Crème caramel
    • Crème à citron
    • Praliné noisette
    • Mousse au chocolat
    • Amarula ice cream
  • Time on your own until dinner.
  • Tonight, take part in the chef’s Zulu BBQ that features recipes from the chef’s childhood.
    • Mozambique chicken peri peri
    • Chakalaka sauce
    • Lamb samosas
    • Durban vegetable bhajis
    • Putu pap
    • Fruit chutney
  • Overnight.

Day 5 - Thursday

  • Traditional French breakfast
  • At 9 a.m., depart for Chateau of Villandry where you’ll have some time on your own to explore the stunning chateau and its gardens. This chateau was originally built during the Renaissance, and it’s considered one of the Loire Valley’s jewels. Once an ancient fortress, its particularly famous for its Renaissance gardens, including a water garden, ornamental flower garden, and vegetable gardens. Similar to the other chateaux of the valley, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Enjoy lunch at Villandry.
  • In the afternoon, it’s on to Chinon, located on the banks of the Vienne river, for a stroll through the medieval town that’s steeped in history. The town has been the site of Henry II’s residence, as well as the meeting point between Joan of Arc and the Dauphin Charles VII. (If you decide to visit the chateau in Chinon, entrance ticket not included). Experience a wine tasting while here; the town is one of the better-known wine growing towns of the Loire.
  • Return to the cooking school for a ‘surprise’ dinner.
  • 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.
  • Return to the cooking school for a cooking class to learn the art of soufflés and puff pastries.
    • Cheese soufflé
    • Goat cheese cannelloni
    • Bread of the moment
  • Lunch in the orchard to follow based on your culinary efforts.
  • Around 2:00 p.m., delve into the world of a classic French pastry, the macaron. Some items you may prepare:
    • Millionaires chocolate macaron
    • Seasonal macaron
    • More contemporary macarons
  • 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 dinner out with a friend, Michelin star Jacky Dallay, at the renowned Promenade restaurant in le Petit Pressigny.
  • Overnight.

Day 7 - Saturday

  • Traditional French breakfast.
  • Check out and departure by 11 a.m.