Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sunday: Anthony Bourdain in Marseille

Season Six of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown--the CNN original series --premiered Sunday Sept 27, with Bourdain visiting Cuba. The Emmy Award-winning series follows the popular chef/author as he travels the globe to uncover "little-known, off-the-road and seemingly-familiar" regions, to celebrate their diverse foods and culture.

The eight-episode series will also feature Bourdain traveling in Okinawa, Ethiopia, California’s Bay Area, Borneo, Istanbul, Charleston, S.C...and Marseille, France.

The Marseille episode will air in the US on October 4 and you can see the full episode here

"If you've been to France, chances are you haven't been here," Bourdain says in the opener. "France's second largest city, the oldest city in France. It sits right by the Mediterranean, the food is famously good. Yet it's a victim of bad reputation, bad history. Marseille. As it turns out, exactly the kind of place I like..."

Bourdain's sidekick for this trip is his great pal Eric Ripert, chef/co-owner of the Michelin three-star Le Bernardin in New York. Born and raised in Antibes (roughly 100 miles away), Ripert tells an incredulous Bourdain that he's never been to Marseille. So off they go to discover it together:  zipping around on scooters, bobbing around in a fishing boat, drinking Pastis, sniffing melons in the market, playing petanque, exploring the beautiful cliffs and coves of the Calanques and chatting up colorful locals such as crime novelist Cedric Fabre, cliff diver Lionel Franc, chef/restaurateur Georgiana Viou and Le Monde journalist Gilles Rof.

And of course, they eat: pied paquets, Algerian couscous at Le Femina, Corsican meats and cheeses, grilled sardines, octopus stew, pizza, bouillabaisse and much, much more. 

"Marseille is the pizza truck capital of France," Bourdain proclaims as the two chefs head off to man the popular JD Pizza Truck alongside owner Jean-Denis Martinez. En route, Bourdain asks Ripert if he knows how to make pizza. "Never did a pizza in my life," Ripert says.

"This is going to be like I Love Lucy," Bourdain says. 

"More like Laurel and Hardy," Ripert shoots back.

Busy making pies, Bourdain remarks on how pizza toppings here--crème fraîche, reblochon, figatelli, lardon, figs, chevre--seem somewhat more high-end than at home. A customer asks for anchois and Bourdain thinks he's being sworn at. When the line of customers starts to back up, Bourdain chides Ripert for "dicking around with your insane perfectionism...Michaelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel for less time!"

Finally Bourdain takes a time out and Ripert asks him what happened. "Hey this is France!" Bourdain tells him. "You get a nice break! Have I worked my 22-hour-week yet?"

Of course Marseille's most-famous dish, bouillabaisse, is featured prominently in the 0ne-hour episode. In what Bourdain calls "the requisite fishing trip scene," the two head out with a local fisherman who works exclusively for chef Gérald Passedat, the "extremely demanding" chef/owner of Le Petit Nice, the only Michelin three-star in Marseille. He pulls his boat up right to the restaurant with his daily catch.

Ripert claims he never goes fishing, doesn't know how and never catches anything, while Bourdain gripes good natured-ly about too much fishing: "I must have done 20 fishing scenes in my life and I think I've had one good day out of all of them. Other than that it's been one humiliating goat rodeo after another..."

Afterwards, seated on the restaurant's terrace for lunch, Passedat asks the chefs "Would you mind to have the bouillabaisse?" 

Passedat's take on the famous dish is spread out over four courses, starting with a shellfish carpaccio of raw mussels and clams. Later come slipper lobster, weaver, angler and red gurnard, lightly seared and given "just a touch" in the oven.

"Incredibly beautiful, insanely good," Bourdain proclaims. 

Then it's on to the main event:  "A broth so intense it requires over ten kilos of rock crabs and various bony tasty little fishes to make just one kilo of brown, gloriously brown, magical liquid. Dorade and dentelle, steamed over seaweed water...saffron potatoes...and then finally that magical brown broth."

"This is unbelievable," says Ripert....high praise from the man widely regarded as the top seafood chef in New York.

"I had the inspiration to make this bouillabaisse when I was a child," Passedat tells his two fellow culinarians. "On those rocks, when I was with my knife opening the mussels, eating the mussels. In my cuisine there is no cream, no butter, it's not traditional at all. Just based on the fish. It's my way of thinking, my cuisine here...Provencal."

Another day, over lunch with crime writer Cedric Fabre, Bourdain asks: "Why is this such a fertile ground to set a crime novel?" Fabre talks about the city's rich multi-cultural make up and its deep North African roots.

"In Marseille there's a very poor area and a very rich area," he says. "The difference between those two areas is the worst in that makes an interesting city. When we write a crime novel, we write about those that's interesting. 

The adventure continues outside the city too, as the chefs hit the road in a 1972 Citroën Maserati. They head for the gorgeous old village of Lourmarin in the Luberon, about 90 minutes from Marseille, where they pack a picnic from the Friday market stalls and spread out to eat on the grounds of an ancient chapel.

Over lunch, Bourdain asks Ripert a classic Bourdain question: "You know Martha Stewart pretty well...give me an honest answer. In a street fight, could she choke me out?"

"I think if she goes to the dark side, I think so," Eric says. "I think so too," Bourdain comes back. 

Then he gets philosophical, asking Ripert, a Buddhist, if he ever worries that his next life won't be anywhere near as good as this one. 

"No, I have good karma from my previous life!" Ripert tells him, while slicing and salting tomatoes.

But Bourdain presses him. "What if the worst case scenario happens? Your next life is going to probably suck! The best case scenario, in your next life, maybe if you would be if you get to sit in a sub shop in Asbury Park, New Jersey. More likely, you'll end up a mime! A diseased, itinerant mime wandering the streets scrounging for money. I'm just saying how much better can it be than this? Enjoy every minute of this now, Eric, and pray, pray, pray that this is it and the end of the day they roll you into a hole in a ground and you're diet for worms! Because if you're right and there is a next life, you're fucked my friend."

"You're a desperate case," Ripert tells him.

Back in Marseille, the guys are invited to dinner at Chez Georgiana, where chef/owner Georgiana Viou hosts a monthly meal for her women chef friends. There are so few women running professional kitchens in Marseille that they fit around a small dinner table (although three were absent that evening). 

"Marseille is not an easy city," one of women says. "It's not a museum, a Disneyland, you know. Everything is kind of dirty and complicated. But when you are in Marseille, you have the fantastic light and the can have the best fishes...yes you are home...I mean, it's just like being home."

For the group, Georgiana--who was born in Benin and came to France via Nigeria and London--whips up a beautiful beef tartare with apple and celeriac, topped with botargo (also known as bottarga or poutargue, it's salted fish roe). "Counter intuitive, but truly amazing and delicious," Bourdain deems it.

"I'm coming from Paris and I used to cook with butter and cream," Georgiana explains. "Today I can't imagine my cuisine without olive oil, without vegetables, without seafood, without spices..."

The botargo is a good idea, Ripert says, better than anchovies.

"If you want you can do it at Le Bernardin and you can call it Georgiana's Tartare," she tells him with a laugh.  The meal moves on to a main course of pieds paquets, which Bourdain calls his single favorite Marseillaise classic, "a dish which encapsulates everything I love and believe in about food." 

Towards the end of the show, the chefs are invited to an al fresco lunch at a sea-front cabanon that's been in the same family since the 1940s. First comes panisse (chickpea fritters) with aïoli, then Mediterranean sea snails with anise and wild fennel, followed by fresh grilled sardines marinated in lemon and olive oil. "Perfect happiness," Bourdain says.

"So when are you retiring?" he asks Ripert over lunch.  

"As soon as possible, seriously!" Eric says, looking out to sea...and clearly enjoying the sunshine, the company,  the meal, the whole scene.

And when are you going to come back?  

"I don't want to leave!" Ripert says. "People come from all over Europe, spend hours in their car to be here. My grandparents and my uncles used to have that lifestyle, but I forgot about it. Now I'm remembering."

"[You could] open a chain of cynical surf-and-turf restaurants and cash out in two years," Bourdain tells him.

Ripert replies: "If it is to be here, yes...I will do it."

Whether you know Marseille well or have never been, this is a terrific hour of TV filled with interesting characters, rich history, beautiful scenery, fantastic-looking food and of course lots of off-kilter, off-color Bourdain humor.  But when he proclaims his love for the city and its people, you get the feeling that it's genuine. And Ripert appears to be every bit as besotted.

"I could retire here," Bourdain says.  "That's sort of the measure of a place for me, if you start thinking thoughts like that. Like that must be nice, I could live there, just me and my watercolors, puttering..."

"I could retire here too," his friend tells him.

"Life is good," the chefs agree with a laugh. "Life is very good in Marseille."

The Marseille episode of Parts Unknown first aired October 4 at 9 pm ET/PT in the US.  The show was also syndicated to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. 

You can now see the full episode online here and read more about it on the CNN site here.

You can follow Parts Unknown on Twitter and Facebook...

Follow Bourdain on TwitterFacebook and Instagram...

Follow Eric Ripert on Twitter and Facebook...

See Bourdain's last trip to Provence on my blog here...

And read about the huge food market that Bourdain is building on New York's Pier 57, see the recent New York Times article here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Best of France This Weekend in NYC

This weekend, Times Square in Manhattan will be transformed into a huge French marketplace called Best of France.

The September 26 and 27 event is organized by the non-profit group of the same name, whose purpose is to promote the image of France and "French expertise and savoir-faire" abroad. The event is presented in conjunction with Atout France.

Entrance to Best of France is free, but tickets must be purchased for special events such as the VIP Opening Night Reception and the Grand Wine Tastings presented by top NYC sommeliers. 

Event exhibitors and programs are organized by themes: Cuisine, Lifestyle, Travel, Fashion, Culture, Technology and Innovation.  

The list of exhibitors and sponsors includes Air France, Back-Roads, Club Med, Clarins, Croisi Europe, Delta, Diptyque, Galeries Lafayette, Laguiole, Lancome, Le Boat, L'Oreal, Moulin Rouge, Parfums de France, RailEurope, Sofitel, Tartine et Chocolat, Valrhona, YSL and many more. The cities of Cannes, Lyon, Toulouse and Paris will be on hand, as will regional tourist offices (Bordeaux/Aquitaine, the Rhône Alpes the Midi-Pyrénées, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, etc.) and the islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint Martin. The full exhibitor list is here.

At the Inauguration on Saturday at 11 am (Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets), 130 French and American kids will be unraveling huge US and French flags. Following the two national anthems, they'll also unravel the largest “marinière” (the iconic striped, knitted sweater) in the world. How large you ask? It's  22' long by 44' wide.

The show highlights are listed hereOn the Culinary Stage all weekend, chefs--including Christian Tetedoie, Eric Kayser, Michel Bras and others--will be doing demos.

On the main stage (Times Square at 46th St.), Francophone singers and French artists (such as 16 Moulin Rouge dancers, a first in NYC) will perform. Other offerings include art exhibits, a French book store, book signingsfashion shows on a 45-foot runway, a kids fashion show casting call, live demos by French craftsmen making artisanal products, a French market and "bistro areas."

Volunteers are still needed and can compete to win a trip to Paris; info on volunteering is here

The public is invited to enter to win a week in luxury rental in Chamonix (with a six-day ski pass) and a week-long French river cruise. Anyone can don't have to attend the event to win...just fill out the form here.

For all the details, visit the Best of France website here...and follow them on Facebook, Twitter,  Instagram and Pinterest.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fête de la Gastronomie is Sept 25 to 27

The 5th-annual Fête de la Gastronomie takes place September 25 to 27 and an estimated 10,000 culinary-themed events are being staged across France and beyond. 

There are more than 1000 of them already listed in Paris alone...see a selection of those here

The loose theme this year is "creativity and daring" and Michelin three-star chef Anne-Sophie Pic is the honored "patron."  

The Fête was created to celebrate French cuisine in all its forms... and the "savoir faire unique to French gastronomy." Events include community banquets, picnics, tastings, special restaurant meals, farm visits, conferences, street fairs, cooking competitions, dine-arounds and more. 

The initiative is also designed to burnish the image of French food and gastronomy abroad. Last year, 232 Fête-related events took place outside France. 

So what's going on this year? Search the FDLG website for events in your area and check back often because the list is being updated daily. Or, visit your local Tourist Office or their website. (A list of Tourist Offices in Provence is here.)  

Meanwhile here's just a quick taste of events around Provence and elsewhere: 

The Bouches du Rhône department is staging numerous events, many of which you can see on their website here.  

Cassis has its sixth annual Vendanges Etoilées wine harvest festival with 27 top chefs participating. There's a cooking competition at the Port and on the Place de la Mairie. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be a large producers market on the Place Baragnon and a "showcooking" barbecue in the public garden. On Sunday afternoon there's also a picnic. For info, click here and here

In St. Remy, the Hotel Les Images is hosting a farm market and family picnic from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday. Chefs will be cooking, local foods will be available for purchase and everyone can picnic on the grass. Chef Christophe Chiavola has invited some of his best local chef pals to join him, such as Glenn Viel of  L’Ousteau de Baumaniere. Admission is free. For info, contact the St. Remy Tourist Office, 04 90 92 05 22, 

In the Camargue, the "Marais du Vigueirat" will feature local producers, a farm market, a picnic and activities for kids on Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm. 

In Châteauneuf du Pape on Saturday, there's a harvest picnic at the Domaine Chante-Perdrix, with grape picking, wine tasting and more on Saturday. To reserve, contact the Tourist Office at 04 90 83 71 08. Price: 25€ pp for adults, 15€ for kids under 12. Kids under 5 are free.

In Aix on Saturday, everyone is invited to stop by the Tourist Office for a tasting of local wines (11 am to 1 pm). In the evening (5 to 7:30 pm),  local chefs will be serving up their specialties in small portions and more local wines will be served. The event is free and more info is here

In Avignon on Saturday, a dozen chefs will be cooking at the Les Halles indoor food market, preparing dishes around the theme of "land and sea." There will be tasting of course, and plenty of local wine. The event starts at 11 am. For info, click here.

In Carpentras on Saturday (10:30 to 12:30 and 2 pm to 6 pm) three well-known chefs will be doing cooking demos and of course, offering tastes....the info is here and here.

And here's a tiny sample of what's going on elsewhere in France: 

The Burgundy region will feature 50 different "Fantastic Picnics" in châteaux, vineyards, windmills and abbeys and more. For info, click here.  

Rennes will once again host its the "Festival Gourmand" with demonstrations and contests featuring chefs and food producers at the Marché des Lices.

The villages of Alsace are staging a wide range of are the villages of Normandy.

The main website for the Fête is here. To see some of the info in English, click here

For the press kit in English, click here

You can also follow the Fête on Facebook and on Twitter.

And if you want to stage an event under the FDLG umbrella, there's still time. The contact info is:  01 53 18 85 20,

Monday, September 14, 2015

Journées du Patrimoine is Next Weekend

It's that time again: The 32nd annual Journées du Patrimoine takes place this weekend, September 19 and 20, in cities and villages all over France. The program was created by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (where it's also called European Heritage Days). It's one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The idea is that thousands of historic sites, monuments, buildings, estates and domaines are open to the public for special weekend visits and events...along with many private sites that are normally, um, private. Most sites have a guide on hand leading tours and answering questions...and most (but not all) offer free entry. Some sites or events may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. The website with all the participating venues is here but you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the main Patrimoine website lists just eight participating sites in my village of St. Remy. But the village itself has published its own terrific guide and map featuring 21 participating can see it here (and a map is here). 

For other villages and cities in the South of France, here are some Patrimoine schedules I could find online: AixArlesMarseille, Avignon, Carpentras/Mont VentouxNimesUzes, TarasconVaison la RomaineOrangethe Vaucluse region, Nice, AntibesCannes, Cassis and St. Tropez

For others, here's a list of most of the Tourist Offices in Provence.

The main Patrimoine website in English is here and you can also download region-by-region schedules here

Finally, a bit of advice for those of you who speak little or no French: get a fluent friend to join you (offer to buy 'em lunch--that always works). While you can still enjoy the site itself--whatever it is--most of the narrations are in French only and learning from the experts on hand is a big part of the appeal. 

Vive le Patrimoine de France!

Photos: Get out there and explore! A few of the thousands of sites offering Patrimoine events include The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar (Alsace), the fantastical houses of Jacques-Emile Lecaron in Clamart, the Théâtre Antique d'Orange, La Cite Radieuse by Le Corbusier in Marseille, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Cap Ferrat, the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles, the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the recently re-opened museum Hotel du Sade in St. Remy, the Jewish Cemetery in St. Remy, the Maison du Riz in the Camargue, the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, the Heliport of Paris (photo coutesy Nicolas Gauthier), The Chateau de Thouzan in Thouzan and of course, the Eiffel Tower.

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 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 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)
30700 France
Tel: +33 (0)4 66 01 35 15
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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.