The week I won Paris!

April9, 2018
by Claudia Taylor

Meet Claudia T. our Cook’n in Paris Sweepstakes winner. Who hasn’t dreamed of a holiday in Paris? join Claudia as she enjoys the rewards of having participated in our 10-year anniversary contest, where we gave away several prizes. thousands entered but there could be only 1 grand prize winner and what an adventure she had. Real people really do win contests. 

My week in Paris 

First of all, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to Eric and Yetunde for the most amazing week of my life and for a week I will never forget. I don’t think the reality of this trip sank in until we had landed in Paris, and we didn’t really know what to expect. Yetunde had, of course, sent me a full itinerary and explained what we would be getting up to whilst we were there but nonetheless I was still very much overwhelmed in that taxi ride from the airport to the hotel and couldn’t quite believe we were actually there!

A week with Cook’n With Class! Dreams do come true. To mark their 10- year anniversary, they held a competition, which I won, to come to Paris for an entire week and attend cooking classes at their fabulous school, go on a sightseeing tour, have a complete hair makeover, dine at a Michelin starred restaurant and stay in a beautiful boutique hotel, pinch me right?

Saturday

photos: Hotel Le Six

We arrived at the 4-star Hotel Le Six on the Saturday evening and were greeted by the ever-friendly staff on the front desk who came outside to assist us with our bags and check us into a week at this gorgeous hotel in Saint Germaine! Our room was upgraded and we were shown to it and had all the features and amenities available explained to us. We were particularly impressed that the phone in the room was, in fact, a mobile smartphone that we could make calls and texts on and use outside of the hotel for getting around and using at our own leisure so that we wouldn’t incur charges on our own mobile phones abroad! The size of the room was absolutely perfect – we could have slept in the bath it was that big! But not as comfortable as the enormous double bed!

That evening we met with Yetunde to talk about our trip and introduce ourselves at the hotel, and I kid you not if I didn’t already feel like the luckiest lady alive, I did then! Yetunde is the most wonderful host. She is by far the most down to earth, funny and attentive person. She had planned this trip down to the very last detail, and I cannot thank her enough for the amount of effort and attention she put into making our week in Paris absolutely perfect, and for that, I will be forever grateful. We sat and had a glass of champagne in the hotel bar while she explained what we would be getting up to and how to get around the beautiful city of Paris. Yetunde recommended for our first night in Paris we try a local creperie, so once we had said our goodbyes for the evening, Theo and I headed out to do just that!

Sunday – Paris along the Seine

Sunday morning- Our first day in Paris! We woke up super early so that we could go check out the local flea market and grab some breakfast then head over for our first treat – A walking tour of Paris along the Seine with Sight Seekers Delight. We met our tour guide Karen, and the rest of our group outside the Notre Dame Cathedral before embarking on our on-foot adventure around the City of Light! Karen’s knowledge of Paris’s history and culture was not only impressive but teamed with her bubbly nature and hilarious approach to delivering an incredible amount of factual information, I couldn’t recommend a better person for the job – Or someone I would rather spend 4 hours with! We had the opportunity to check out some of the landmarks I had heard and read so much about, but actually, so much more also. It was fascinating to behold Paris’s gothic architecture and beautiful buildings and we learnt so much in the time we were with Karen, I particularly enjoyed the history relating to WWII, which was so moving to hear about. Karen’s at ease personality and close-to-the-bone sense of humour had us completely comfortable right off the bat. I cannot express just how funny this woman is and great our day was because of that. Seeing this woman work is a sight in itself to see, as her rain-man-like ability to recite facts and figures in a comedic way is truly impressive.

After our first day of seeing the sights, we decided to take Yetunde up on her recommendation of visiting Higuma for an evening meal. You know a restaurant is good when there is a queue down the street to get inside. We waited for around 30 minutes before we were seated right in front of the kitchen – the perfect view! Watching the chefs chop all the fresh ingredients and add tasty things to woks full of flames, and then personally hand us a plate full of vegetable yakisoba noodles was a really nice touch and a great dining experience!

Monday – the hair makeover

On the Monday we took a stroll out of the hotel and into some local boulangerie’s, sampled a few croissants and did a bit of window shopping before returning to the hotel to meet with Yetunde and Nicole Pembrook – American born, Parisian hairdresser and owner of Nicole Hair Care, Paris. Now, I was a little bit nervous to say the least, I mean, a girl’s hair is a pretty big deal to her right? And usually everyone has that ONE hairdresser they know and trust to do their hair, so naturally, I was a little bit apprehensive to have my hair cut. HOWEVER – when Nicole came to meet me in the hotel reception, my worries subsided. Clearly, by looking at this woman, you know she has taste. Never in my life did I think anyone could pull off the colour blue so boldly, but Nicole wore it on her lips and in her hair as if she was born to. We got up to my room and Nicole set up like the professional she is in no time at all, adorning the bathroom in Aveda hair products – which are all natural and smell AMAZING. We talked through what she planned to do with my hair- WAIT, HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO TAKE OFF?!- And just like that, I was in her hands now. I soon forgot about the plans to dramatically decrease my lengthy locks, (my hair was long, but those ends… were dead) as Nicole massaged my head, neck, shoulders and zzzzz… I DID NOT close my eyes! Well maybe I did a little, but I was so relaxed. Nicole set about adding oils to my hair, massaging shampoo into my roots before washing it out – and even teaching me the correct way to wash my hair! All this time aromatic natural scents from the products filling the room – along with the sounds of Nicole’s playlist on shuffle (Who doesn’t love 90’s/00’s RNB?) Once washed, Nicole started to blow dry my hair into high volume! Side note: my hair was as flat as a pancake and as thin as smoke in your hands before now so I was in awe watching this talented woman effortlessly bring new life into my dull strands. Armed only with a hairdryer and a rounded brush I gawped in the mirror at myself as Nicole transformed me. She chopped, sliced, snipped and glided through my tresses as I nervously watched long chunks of hair fall to the ground, I couldn’t help but smile giddily at this new Claudia looking back at me in the mirror! At this point, I have forgotten all about my worry of short hair as Nicole styles it with beautiful curls and wavy bangs. By the time she was done I was in love with my new, fuller look! I felt completely pampered and now I feel like I’m going to have to book a trip to Paris every time I want my hair done!

Tuesday – Mad about choux pastries

Tuesday rolls around and I’m thinking, this trip really can’t get any better… oh wait, the reason I’m here, the thing I have dreamt about for years now, I’m going to Cook’n with class! First up on our week of culinary experiences is the ‘Mad about Choux’ pastry class and today, we’re learning the art of Croquembouche with Chef Sarah! Now, first of all, I need to tell you about Sarah, an experienced pastry chef with an incredible teaching ability. I learnt so many helpful tips and tricks from Sarah that I will use for the rest of my life. Sarah explained each ingredient, the methods behind the recipe and why we use them, and even two different ways of cooking the intricate pastry! Sarah is such a joyful and warm person, skilled in educating and filling you with the confidence you need to complete a complex pastry showpiece! We were in a class with two other women, all the way from Florida, so we were able to have a very personal cooking lesson with Sarah, and I’m sure I can speak for the 4 of us when I say- she put us to work! Between making the pastry, pastry cream and caramel, we were not stuck for things to do and I have definitely benefited from this. We were split into two groups and Sarah led the way with her own demonstration for us to follow. Now, Sarah makes this look easy, dipping each individual choux ball filled with cream into the hot caramel then assembling the cone-shaped, sweet masterpiece. We’re all stood watching this like, oh well that’s a piece of cake, let me at it. Oh, how wrong we were, that caramel is HOT! A lot of dropping, laughing, side glances and hoping for the best and our croquembouche (more like franken-bouche) are up! Leaning… but up! And to be quite honest, I was very proud. A few quick camera snaps and we were ready to give them a try – absolutely delicious! Now I’m hoping that one of my friends gets engaged (or me, HINT, HINT) so I have an excuse to show off my new skill. Or maybe I’ll just make one just because I can.

After riding the metro ‘home’ to our hotel with our croquembouche, making other passengers both curious and hungry we decided to make friends with the staff at Hotel le six and share our magnificent creation with the ladies on the front desk! I think if we ate it ourselves we would have entered a sugar induced coma!

Wednesday – French Desserts & More

 

Paris is a beautiful city with so much to explore, every morning we woke up wanting to make the most of our time here and setting out on foot or down to the metro to discover more and more. On Wednesday, once we were done picking out restaurants and cafés to come back to, we once again, headed over to Cook’n with class. Today, we had our French Desserts class with the wonderful Chef Sarah again! Our agenda for the day: Crème Brûlée, Chocolate soufflé, Pistachio and raspberry entremets and Almond financiers! Quite the line-up. I honestly did not think at the start of the day we would be able to complete such a task. We got to work on the pistachio entremets and the crème brûlée, all the while picking up some great lessons from Sarah. We made our own pastry, chef Sarah showed us how to correctly line our pastry moulds- which is something I then used later in the week! The smells coming from our kitchen were divine! We even made our own jam, and I could have just eaten the jam right out of the pan, it looked and smelt gorgeous. Luckily for me, once we had made the lemon cream for our tarts we got to try it, not once, but twice! Before and after the addition of butter – absolutely magical!

Time is flying by but at this point but I’m feeling pretty confident as we make our financiers and soufflé! Everything else is ready for their final touches – piping the meringue on to the tarts, piping the ganache on to the entremets, lining the soufflé moulds, and topping our brûlée with sugar! We have everything ready to go so that when the soufflé comes out of the oven we can eat it straight away. And we cannot wait! I learned so many valuable skills from Sarah, in both this and the croquembouche class, and experiences I’ll treasure forever! – We even got to take our desserts home with us, but not before we attended an evening at the ‘Chef’s table’ with Cook’n with Class.

An evening where an experienced chef of 50 years cooks a delicious 5-course tasting menu, right in front of us while we have a hand-selected wine paired with each dish. Sounds terrible right? The talented chef Patrick composed a menu and went out to the Parisian markets to hand pick the freshest of ingredients to use in his recipes. We sat down with 6 other diners, some fellow Brit’s and some American women, all were great company to spend an evening with over great food and wine!

Our first course of the evening was a spring green soup with quail’s eggs served with a glass of lovely champagne! A light and a fresh start to the night. We moved on to a delicious vegetable tart with side salad and a scallop carpaccio. Mona, our sommelier, paired it with a beautiful white wine, and at this point it’s definitely going to my head a little as she was an expert at topping up any empty glass in sight! Watching Eric go about the kitchen was so fun to watch, and having the opportunity to ask him questions about the ingredients or menu choices was a great experience.

Now for the main event: a beautiful, pan-fried cod fillet with caramelised onions and roast tomatoes on a bed of vanilla mashed potatoes…Yes, that’s right. VANILLA mashed potatoes. They were the star of the show, and I must admit I was a little dubious before trying them, now I don’t know how I lived without them! Mona then poured us a lovely bold red wine to go with our next course of camembert which we sprinkled pepper, chives and fleur du sel over before spreading it over our warm baguettes. We finished on a rich chocolate lava cake which we watched chef Patrick skilfully plate in front of us and it was a beautiful dish to end on! Feeling very drunk and very full we took a metro back to the hotel, with the desserts we made earlier that day with chef Sarah, to sleep off a wonderful day.

Thursday – Michelin stars are shining

Its Thursday and we deserve to sleep in! But we can’t – we feel too guilty not seeing every inch of Paris we are able to while we can! We took another metro ride to go check out LuLu Berlu– A vintage toy shop in Paris. Theo is a toy collector and loves anything and everything cool, artistic, retro and edgy. You can imagine how excited he was when we went to go look around one of Europe’s largest retro toy shops. So, after we have spent more money than I can even believe people could reasonably charge for toys- toys that people don’t even play with may I add! – Sorry Theo, I guess I’ll just never understand. We head back to our beautiful hotel in the sixth and get ready and glammed up for an evening of being wined and dined at a Michelin star restaurant.

You cannot possibly fathom how overwhelming this week has been up until this point, never mind right now. We are on cloud nine and totally do not know what to expect as neither of us has dined Michelin star before. We weren’t sure how we were expected to dress, there’s a part of me that still believes special occasions deserve to be dressed up for and that you should make an effort and throw on your party frock, get that nice shirt dusted off and show the world that pyjamas and tracksuit bottoms aren’t the only things you’re known to leave the house in. But then, this is the modern day, and even the top restaurants’ clientele don’t put on their glad rags to go out to dinner, because to some, its every day dining (oh how the other half lives!) So, a small part of me felt silly for wanting to put a nice dress on and dress to the nines – and to be honest after checking the weather forecast this seemed like a sensible option. We thought we would try and outdo one another by wearing crazy shirts (I think Theo won).

La Table d’Eugene is fairly small but easy to find, we arrived to find we were the only ones there, but thought, well it’s a Thursday evening, how busy can you expect it to be. We were seated and given a drink straight away and all the staff were very friendly so we didn’t mind having the place to ourselves. It didn’t take long for the restaurant to fill, almost as if we had just blinked our eyes and then suddenly been surrounded by other eager diners waiting for their food experience to commence. To begin with we were served the most otherworldly looking food. Three small dishes compromising of different tastes and textures, all bursting with flavour. We are trying to hide our bulging eyes and look as if this is just a normal Thursday for us but it’s clear we are already very impressed.

As courses continue to flow from the kitchen to our table, so does the wine, which has been carefully matched with each dish to balance and complement our meal. With it being a six-course tasting menu, each dish that was presented to us did look rather small, but I can promise you that what these plates lack in size they more than make up for in quality, and as the fourth dish was placed in front of us we were definitely feeling full- maybe even slightly panicking with not knowing how many dishes were yet to come at this point. Between both me and Theo, we have quite the tall order of food intolerances, that the chef more than catered for. I always worry that having allergies or diet choices can often hinder your experiences in restaurants, or make you feel like a bit of a nuisance but at La Table d’Eugene, they not only worked their magic around our fussy eating habits but delivered a beautiful array of exciting dishes and ingredients that you would need to try for yourself to believe just how good it is. We ended on a fabulous dessert, which was really more of a show in how it was displayed to us! And spent the evening in our hotel trying to sleep off the amazing amount of food we had consumed.

Friday – Paris by foot

We spent all of Friday playing our own game of ‘metro roulette’ pretty much letting the transport system take control and choosing our destination for us. If you haven’t already, check out Theo’s video of our time in Paris to see the street art, art galleries, historical landmarks and many other weird and wonderful things we checked out during our stay. We wanted to get as much shopping done on the Friday as we could as we knew we would be leaving the next day, so we looked around a few clothing stores, sampled a few boulangeries, stocked up on wines to take home as well as some lovely macarons and did a bit of window shopping before checking out the Eiffel Tower. We got off the metro and started to follow our city mapper towards where the Eiffel tower was located but to be frank we probably could have just followed the crowds of people and let the mass foot traffic pull us in the right direction, as it was CRAZY BUSY. It is a hugely impressive structure, but we didn’t feel like queuing for hours on end to go up it. If you want the best vantage point for a photo, I would recommend walking halfway across the bridge, or if you walk to the other side of the river and turn left you’ll see some steps that take you down to the river bank where the boats pitch up, and from here you can get a pretty good picture with no one else around! You’re welcome.

We decide to take a slow journey back to the hotel, knowing we have to pack our belongings and have an early night tonight, so we stop for an early evening meal at a restaurant called Nicole’s and order the biggest pizza (Goats cheese & Honey) with some four-cheese pasta AND fries, only to be a little underconfident when our server brings out crostini with tapenade and some bread for the table. Good thing we love carbs. What we couldn’t finish we took back to our hotel and later demolished as a midnight snack after strategically packing our cases.

Saturday – The best class we have done all week!

We wake up earlier than I care to mention on what feels like the coldest day we have experienced in Paris yet. After sitting on our cases and thinking we can’t possibly get anything else in them- and worrying that they may be slightly overweight! We check out of our hotel, hop in a cab and head to Cook’n with Class for our final class – A French market class with the founder himself, Chef Eric Fraudeau!

We get to the school around 8.45 and meet Eric, and are just in time to see Yetunde as she leaves with their child Remi who is absolutely adorable- but not a morning person! Hey who can blame him?! And then Theo, Eric & I, leave to meet the rest of our group before heading to the Parisian markets. I have loved every class throughout this week, and I have met some lovely people, in fact, everyone in our classes all week was just an absolute delight to share these experiences with, from all over the world. I think there’s a certain irony in the fact that it’s our last day in Paris, and our last class with Cook’n with class, and we are with the loveliest group of people yet, a great chef and teacher and the best class we have done all week. Why can’t we do this exact day every single day?

We look through the market as Eric teaches us all about the stalls, what they offer, and interesting facts about them. We stop at a butcher shop and as queasy as it makes me feel looking at things that are looking right back at me, Eric has a great way of educating us about the reasons why things are served the way they are and how far back these traditions go. We move on, peering in to shop windows and markets as we go and then stopping at a fishmonger. Amazing fresh seafood in front of us, we talk through the dishes we are going to cook today and decide that a fish course for the main is on the cards. We start scouring the ice-covered stall for what takes our fancy and decide on emperor fish fillets! Which Eric tells us we are lucky to find as they are only fished for two weeks a year.

After leaving the smells of the ocean behind we head into a fresh produce market shop full of vibrant colours and fresh smells. In England, there aren’t as many fresh produce shops available as there used to be, and we definitely do not have the same types of vegetables readily available, unless you know where to look. You can imagine how my eyes were lighting up every time they met a new aisle or shelf with an exotic looking vegetable on it. We select our vegetables and herbs, all trying to figure out how we can work those beautiful looking artichokes into our dishes, and then head to the local fromagerie.

So, cheese shops are pretty stinky for your information. It’s a very conflicting feeling; being in your own personal wonderland but having the pungent waft of aged cheese smacking you in the nose! Chef Eric is very knowledgeable about his cheese, and food in general! And picked out some fantastic selections to take back to the school with us – including a very vibrant tomato and olive cheese dyed with beetroot.

Once back at the school we have a quick refreshment then assemble round our cooking stations. Our menu today: Sweet onion cake aperitif, Roasted beetroot with parmesan potatoes and Chantilly goats cheese to start, our main of emperor fish on a bed of fresh diced vegetables and artichokes, a selection of cheeses with hazelnut and fig bread and the dessert will be a salted caramel and apple rose tart to finish with.

The classroom we are in today is big and set out perfectly for our lesson, and what I loved most about this class was the relaxed atmosphere in which we were learning and how much fun we were all having getting to know each other whilst chopping, grating, stirring and cooking away. Chef Eric taught us many tips and tricks that I am not at liberty to share, as I believe all those useful anecdotes really made the day for me so you would have to go and be taught by him yourself! We were all busy with jobs to do, but I never felt under pressure, in fact quite the opposite. It was a day full of laughter, learning, and good food, using only the best quality of ingredients. I learnt different methods of chopping, how to cut an artichoke, how to get the most out of a pepper, and a fantastic new potato dish I cannot wait to cook at home! Along with a multitude of other fantastic cooking skills.

When we sat down to eat our wonderful creations, I couldn’t believe what we had managed to achieve! The food was beautiful and cooked so well. The sweet onion cake aperitif was a delight! So moist and the perfect savoury start to our meal. Our starter was wonderfully light but full of such great earthy, sweet and rich flavours, I was trying to eat it slowly just so I could savour it that extra bit longer. The main course we prepared was refreshing and actually deceivingly filling. It was very well presented, with our fish sitting proudly on a bed of colourful vegetables and went down very well with the lovely wine on our table! At this point, we have started to notice that it is snowing – and snowing quite heavily. Is this a sign? Maybe we can’t leave Paris today? Oh, what a shame, great food and great company in an exciting city. What rotten luck that would be! As we watch the snow fall we move on to our cheese course, eating through our cheese clockwise, as Eric tells us all about it. Our desserts – made spectacular by the salted caramel sauce – and Theo’s rose art, were delicately presented and the perfect dish to end on.

We get a call from our taxi driver saying he can take us to the airport earlier to avoid getting stuck in the snow. And just like that, bubble, burst. We knew this week had to come to an end, we just didn’t expect to be so sad about it! Our last day was possibly the most perfect; cooking in an amazing kitchen, having lots of fun with great people, and eating food we were taught to cook by an absolutely wonderful Chef all whilst the snow came down outside.

When I started writing this I didn’t know how I would convey how magical my week in Paris was. I am so sincerely grateful I had the opportunity to cook at the most amazing cooking school with some of the nicest people I have ever met, not only that but to be treated to a lovely stay in a fabulous hotel, see the sights with the Cities most knowledgeable tour guide, have my hair cut by an international hair stylist and dine at the most amazing restaurant has been an experience I have been so overwhelmed by and am so fortunate to have had.

Thank you! and Au Revoir!

Thank you again to Eric, Sarah, John, Patrick and Mona for an unforgettable cooking and educational experience at Cook’n with class, a place I have followed through social media channels for a number of years now and have had my dreams come true by being given the opportunity to meet you all and learn from you there. I could not recommend Cook’n with class enough, it truly is an experience you have to try for yourself!

A special thank you to Yetunde, who organised this incredible experience and came up to stay in Paris and make our week perfect, there was never a dull moment in her company and I hope to see her again in the future.

I will be back to at Cook’n with Class as soon as I can, maybe even to their school in the south of France? Watch this space.

For more of the juicy details of Claudia’s adventures in Paris, check out her blog The Hungry Claudia


Book a French cooking class in Paris with Cook’n With Class Paris


ABOUT OUR BLOGGER

Claudia Taylor

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Our cook’n in Paris contest winner, Claudia Taylor hails from Nottingham, England. She entered our 10th-anniversary sweepstakes and won herself a trip to Paris for two.

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