The Chef Studio offers an intensive one-week cooking course in the Bordeaux region each fall. Participants are offered two hands-on cooking classes per day and a window into the local food culture that teaches authenticity of place in a way rarely accessible to travelers. The course is appropriate for students from a wide range of experience levels and backgrounds. For over two decades, students have engaged in this singular experience that transforms the way one thinks about food, cooking, and culture.
On the first day of the course, we convene in Bordeaux and enjoy the ritual of dining in a French restaurant. Fortified for the journey, we travel to the countryside château that will be our home and kitchen for the week.
Class begins each morning with a trip to the market where we gather the best ingredients the region has to offer. We return to the kitchen for a hands-on class where we prepare our lunch focusing on simple French home cooking.
The afternoons are given over to visiting the farmers and producers of the distinctive foods of the region. We visit farms, fromageries, wineries, distillers, and foie gras producers.
Enriched by the experience, we return to the kitchen for an intensive discussion and instruction on formulas and techniques that will deliver each ingredient to the plate perfectly. Students work closely with instructors as we together prepare our dinner, set a French table, and linger over the meal and conversation about the day and beyond.
The curriculum taught was developed at The Chef Studio in Portland, Oregon. It emphasizes authenticity of place– you will make dishes in the region where they originated with the ingredients they were created for.
What you will learn:
- How to read the pulse of the market
- What local/regional means in France
- How to compose a French menu
- Techniques for best treating regional ingredients
- The role of cuisine in French culture and life
View sample recipes.
Read Chef Reynolds’ essay on the Spring 2011 course.
Sessions are taught by Courtney Sproule and Blake Van Roekel, who co-taught the Spring 2011 session in the region. Courtney and Blake, both former Chef Studio students who have instructed at the Chef Studio since 2009, will be assisted by other Chef Studio staff.
Gabrielle Esbeck, a native of Bordeaux, will accompany as a cultural liaison, translator, and local expert. Gabrielle has owned a relocation consulting business in the Bordeaux region and was a producer for a local television station. She currently owns and operates C’est Si Bon!, a crêperie, catering, and wine business in Portland, Oregon.
- Both Chef Studio students and those new to the Chef Studio may enroll. Those from outside of Portland can easily join us, as we meet up in Bordeaux, where the course commences.
- Only six students are accepted, for a distinctly low student/teacher ratio of two to one.
- The course is appropriate for a wide range of students of varying experience, ages, and backgrounds. The very low student/teacher ratio allows each student to receive personalized instruction tailored to their cooking level, whether you’re new to cooking or are an experienced professional. The course teaches lessons of authenticity of place that are applicable to many levels of experience and various backgrounds. Those who have joined us in the past include 20-some year old industry line cooks with ambitions of a culinary career, professionals in their 40s and 50s curious about cooking and looking for a cultural experience, and a wide variety of both home cooks and seasoned chefs.
- It is not necessary to speak French. Classes are conducted in English and translation will be provided during tours.
This is why Chef Robert Reynolds created this course, in his own words:
“I have always felt that the goal and vision we pursue is best served by having a segment of training at the source in France. I want students to understand that the ideas we advocate about cooking are supported in France by a philosophical commitment. The pursuit of excellence is not a marketing device; it is a way of life.”
Students develop culinary technique and skill in the context of learning the lessons the French culture has to offer about truth from soil to table, which are equally apropos to those in the culinary industry as they are to a very broad range of other professionals.
“The week of study in France was the perfect culmination to my time at the Chef Studio. In class, we always talked about the regional cuisines of France and how each place has its own key flavors and ingredients. Traveling and cooking in Bordeaux brought that concept to life for me. Every market we went to, we saw the Bordeaux flavors: duck, prune, armangnac, pork sausage. We saw the beautiful vegetables of the region. We saw wines from the regional grapes. I loved seeing this concept that I had studied presented so effortlessly each day. And I think it goes without saying that the food was incredible!” – Amie Edelstein, 2010 Chef Studio graduate
“The ingredients are so much a part of the landscape and the generations who have farmed the land, raised the livestock, grown the wine. As a result, I found the dishes we put on the table fit – they belonged there and made one feel at home.” – Peter Compton, Biostatistician
We lodge and conduct classes in a château in the countryside surrounding Bordeaux. Students experience the added charm of residing in an archetypal château over a century old surrounded by vineyards in one of the most renowned wine regions of the world. Students are offered their own bedroom.
Bordeaux is one of the world’s great gastronomic regions. It’s known for many foods, including foie gras, duck, prunes, and confits, as well as the world-famous Bordeaux wines and the treasured Armagnac. We will sample many authentic examples of each. We will also meet the producers whose families have been at their craft for centuries. During the Spring 2011 France session we visited:
M. Gros, who gave us a tour of his eau-de-vie distillery. M. Gros’ family tended a pear orchard until the EU started applying bogus regulations to pears.
The innovative and undaunted M. Gros decided to start distilling his fruit. His Poire Williams eau-de-vie is unsurpassed, and his honeysuckle eau-de-vie is truly unlike anything else on earth.
Mme Hélène Singlande, who farms a 7-hectare vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes almost single-handedly. She is currently also the wine maker in this Buzet denomination and recounted to us the characteristics and story of each vintage dating back to years before many of us were born.
Armagnac producers who welcomed us into their living room and gave us a taste of literally some of the last remaining bottles of true Armagnac. To hear them talk about their Armagnac is to be gifted with history.
Read Chef Reynolds’ essay on these producers.
Tuition & Enrollment
Early Enrollment $4,800 Early Enrollment for the September-October 2013 course closes July 14th (Bastille Day).
Standard Enrollment $5,200 Standard Enrollment for the October, 2013 course closes August 1st.
Tuition includes lodging, lunch and dinner each day, and local transport for tours. Students are to arrange for their own travel to Bordeaux. Students are provided with travel suggestions and tips.
Students are encouraged to inquire about enrollment as early as possible.
Contact Blake Van Roekel at 503.753.1655 to enroll or for more information.