Monday, September 7, 2015

A New Cooking School In Provence


To celebrate a birthday this winter, my friend Susan invited a couple lucky friends to join her for a few days in Paris. One of the highlights of our fantastic weekend was an evening at Cook’n with Class, the popular French cooking school in Montmartre. We took the “Chef’s Table: Food & Wine Pairing Class.” Perched around a large table, chef Alex Dreyer prepared a stellar, multi-course dinner for us while discussing the prep of each dish. Perfect wines were poured by the equally perfect young sommelier Preston Mohr.  It was a wonderful evening capped by a madcap spin down the Champs-Élysées to photograph the famous Christmas lights.

So when I found out that the school’s owner, chef Eric Fraudeau, was planning to open a second school in Provence, I was delighted.  And a month or so ago, Eric emailed to say Cook’n with Class was now fully up and running near the village of Uzès. Good choice, Eric!  Uzès is one of those magical, historic places that everybody seems to love. (The school is actually in Arpaillargues, five kilometres from the village itself, in front of the organic wine producer Deleuze et Rochetin.)
“We benefit from our proximity to St Quentin-la-Poterie, Nîmes, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier,” Eric says, “and from the fantastic markets in and around Uzès. What a wonderful location from which to embark on a taste of Provence and the Mediterranean!”

Eric—who was born in Poitiers and raised in La Rochelle—has 30 years of restaurant and hotel experience...in France, Mexico, Canada and the US.
He runs the school with his charming wife Yetunde Oshodi-Fraudeau, who hails originally from Nigeria but grew up in New York State. She graduated from Cornell (in social psychology), went to culinary school and worked for various French companies in NYC. The couple met in Chicago while both were with Accor Hotels: he as exec chef at the Sofitel Montréal, she in marketing and operations.
The couple lived together in Paris for eight years before moving to the South of France (to the Herault, between Beziers and Narbonne) in 2011.

One day they stumbled on Uzès, where Yetunde turned to a friend and said “I really like this place. I can see myself here.” To which the friend replied, “I could see you here too” ... and something clicked.

“It was love at first sight,” Eric remembers.

They came back three times, each time talking with locals to find out what the area was like as a place to live, to cook, to teach and to raise a family. “I’m not someone who does things on a whim!” Yetunde says.  Finally, they made the move in January.

The space they chose for the new school is next door to the antiques-filled Musée 1900, in what had been a showroom for the company Patin et Patine, which does “relooking” of antique furniture. “It’s a fantastic location,” Yetunde says, “and its spirit fit our spirit exactly. It was just so charming that I could easily see the Cook’n with Class Uzès school here, surrounded by vineyards and the museum.”

Renovation began in April, at what Eric calls “a rather leisurely (southern) pace.”

“You just can't rush anything around here!” he continues. "Anyone who’s ever been involved with renovation or construction will tell you to always tack on some extra time (weeks), to be sure that you get what you were actually hoping for (sort of). So while we’ve been all go go go, we had to patiently (or not so patiently) wait for things to be finished. But then the season kicked off with a bang.” 

The new school is now offering four types of day classes, all of them taught in English: French Market Classes, Seafood Classes, Wine & Cheese Pairing Classes and private and customized classes. You can see them all—and sign up easily—on the beautifully organized website here

And a program called A Week in Uzes invites food lovers of all levels to partake in an intensive French cuisine experience. In 2017, sessions will be offered April 23 to 30; May 27 to June 3; June 18 to 25; Sept 9 to 16; Sept 17 to 24; and Oct 1 to 8. See more info here.

In Paris, Eric uses a roster of different chefs to lead the classes but for the time being, he’s doing all the teaching in Uzès. In the Wine & Cheese class, he’s assisted by sommelier Frederic Duverger of Cannes You Taste, a good friend and a former colleague.  Additional classes—possibly taught by guest chefs—may come down the road. Plans are already in progress for a week-long program for B&B owners who want to prepare food for their own guests; more info on that will come this fall.

Day classes range in price from 80€ to 150€; kids are welcome and pay less. A private class for up to four people is 500€; additional students are 100€ each with a max of seven people total. Discounts are offered after your first class at either school in Paris or Uzès.

“I love to cook and even with all my travels, French cuisine is still my first love,” Eric says. “Whether you cook with us in Paris or here on the doorstep of Provence, we hope to take you on a culinary foodie adventure in a fun, convivial setting...one where you'll feel at home. We shop together, we cook together, we eat together. Generosity is our motto and hospitality is our forte.”

Cook’n With Class Uzès
Chemin du Moulin (Musée 1900)
Arpaillargues-et-Aureillac
30700 France
Tel: +33 (0)4 66 01 35 15
CooknwithClass-Uzes
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Photos: (1,) The school opened in June, 5 km from Uzès. It's in the Languedoc-Roussillon, which is not officially Provence, but never mind--it's close enough. (2) Yetunde and Eric love cooking together. In this photo, Yetunde is pregnant with baby Oluremi--Remi for short--who was born in 2013.  (3-6) Eric teaching, marketing, plating and tucking in. (7) French Market Classes begin with outdoor-market shopping. (8, 9) For the new school, Eric and Yetunde chose a charming location next door to Le Musée 1900. Museum owner Baron Gaston traveled around France over several decades to source his unique collection of 20th-century antiques, cars, bikes, tools and toys. Outdoors, the site has real train tracks and was designed to resemble a train station.  (10) Inside the museum, Remi's ready to take a spin.

4 comments:

  1. Not only do I want to do this on your recommendation, but for a great chef to also appear so good-natured and happy in photos.... well, how could it not be fabulous?

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    1. Iva, come visit and we'll go together. Uzes is gorgeous...great market, fun shopping, beautiful art galleries, history...

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  2. I have been to Uzes, and agree it is a great spot for a cooking school. I am always on the hunt for great cooking schools in or nearby Provence. Perhaps this will work out for my next trip. Thanks for highlighting this Julie!

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