When my husband’s colleague came into Paris for a few days of team-building, one of the things they wanted to do was take a cooking class (and eat really good food). I’m lucky enough to have the connections to set such a thing up.
Didier Quémener – aka Chef Q – proposed a cooking demonstration for the group of 14 people (recipes included), plus an elaborate, exquisite meal. This took place in the intimate Café Zia, owned by his friend Justin Kent. They brought us into the tiny kitchen in small groups to see how things were being prepared. (Sorry for the picture quality – the lighting was not great).
We started out with a salad comprising wild asparagus (tiny little stems that have the head of an asparagus and that are only in season for a very short time), poached, then broiled salmon, mesclun and a Bois Boudran sauce, which we learned how to make.
Bois Boudran is a sauce that was created (by accident) by Chef Michel Roux and has crazy ingredients – shallots, canola oil, vinegar, ketchup, worcetshire sauce, and a splash of Tobasco.
… or several splashes, depending on who’s in charge. The herbs that complete this strange (and delightful combination) are chervil, mint, and chives. The final taste was ah.ma.zing!
For the dinner part, we had a delicious beef medallion with a béarnaise sauce (which we learned how to make). This is a hollandaise sauce with tarragon. Served with that were new potatoes from Ile de Ré that are also seasonal plus braised sucrine, which is basically grilled lettuce, but tastes way better than it sounds.
Didier let us choose whether to make the traditional béarnaise sauce or add tomato paste to make it Choron or mint to make it Paloise.
Yum! I stuck with the traditional béarnaise and was not sorry.
For dessert, there were homemade berry meringues (a thoughtful touch for those of us who can’t eat gluten), fresh seasonal berries – and a berry coulis that was made out of those fresh berries, homemade yoghurt ice cream, and mint-infused whipped cream that allowed us to make towering creations (I mean, delicate assortments) in our bowls. There was also pistachio cake, which had wheat flour so I didn’t taste that.
Didier is French & naturalised American so he’s perfectly bilingual but speaks English with a French accent. He proposes a variety of culinary services from coming to your place to cook for you, to wine and champagne tours, to market tours to cooking classes. You can find out more on his website here. And if you have no immediate plans to be in Paris, check out the two cookbooks he has out (link on the website).
Justin is American (father) – French (mother), is also perfectly bilingual but speaks French with an American accent, and owns Zia Café. This café is located in the 7th arrondissement (22 Avenue de Tourville 75007 Paris. Phone: 01 44 18 90 71) and is all about brunch and seasonal food, organic whenever possible. They create picnics to go and serve brunch morning to night Wednesdays through Sunday. You’ll want to make a reservation if you plan to go on the weekend. You can read all about his café here.
Didier and Justin
The whole experience was delightful from the fun chefs to the delicious food and all those cooking tips we picked up on the way. I hope you get a chance to meet them and taste their cooking some day soon.