At Home with Patricia Wells

Patricia Wells is a journalist, cookbook author, teacher, and four-time James Beard Award winner. For over 3 decades, she and her husband Walter have divided their time between Paris and Provence. Every year, Patricia holds several weeklong classes at her Provence farmhouse. She also offers a few classes in her Paris cooking studio, located on the Left Bank in the St. Germain des Pres neighborhood. My friend Joanne and I attended the April 11th-15th “Cooking in Paris” class, along with five other women. Our classmates (and new friends!) spanned the US, literally from East Coast to West Coast, with a stop in Chicago, as well as Panama in Central America. In what seemed like just moments, it was clear we all shared a passion for food, wine, and the traditions and cultures that influence them.

Patricia Wells' James Beard Award medals on display
Patricia’s James Beard Award medals… #goals

Patricia was the most gracious host, welcoming us into her kitchen and life with a warm smile and open arms. She was an intuitive teacher, sensing just when to model technique or offer hands-on support. As with all good teachers, she carefully balanced direct instruction with the joy of watching her students work independently with success.

Patricia Wells holding a rib-eye
Friday’s lunch: Patricia holding the biggest rib-eye I have ever seen!

The class ran Monday-Friday, from about 10am-3pm. While not formally identified, I would say the overarching theme of the food we prepared was fresh, seasonal, and very manageable for cooks of all skill levels. The recipes were family friendly and perfect for entertaining, as many were make ahead. Each day focused on a different cooking technique. For example, Monday’s objective was cooking with water- braising, poaching, and blanching. While Tuesday found us cooking with oil in a variety of ways- deep frying, pan frying, and emulsifying.

At Home with Patricia Wells- Monday's lesson
Monday’s lesson
At Home with Patricia Wells'- Tuesday's assignments
Tuesday’s assignments- before this, I had never made homemade onion rings OR panna cotta. Will definitely be making both again!

Upon arrival each morning, we found our assignments for the day, along with each student’s station complete with mise en place. Immediately, we donned our aprons and set to work as Patricia circulated among us. We were such a collaborative group; if one finished their task, offers of help were made to those still working. Chores were shared, dishes were washed, dried, and put away and the table set for lunch. Lunch was the BEST part of the day as we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor, while the conversation flowed.

Patricia Wells cooking class in Paris
Hard at work…
At Home with Patricia Wells- dining room table set for lunch
Beautifully set table with Friday’s feast… rib-eyes, steak frites, and seared green beans.

But it wasn’t all “work” and no play! We took field trips… on Wednesday we strolled through the President Wilson Market followed by an unbelievable lunch at Restaurant Guy Savoy; on Thursday we headed to Poilâne, going deep underground to see one of their bakers in action as he worked the wood fired oven, and then it was off to a late morning wine tasting at the charming La Dernière Goutte.

Mushrooms at President Wilson Market in Paris
Incredible variety of mushrooms…
President Wilson Market, Paris
and seafood at the President Wilson Market
Guy Savoy and Patricia Wells
Michelin starred chef Guy Savoy enjoying a moment with Patricia Wells and my classmate, Sarah, during our lunch at his restaurant.
Poilâne in Paris
A visit to the renowned Poilâne…
Stacked baskets of rising dough at Poilâne
Dough has finished rising and is ready for the wood fired oven.
Turning the dough out onto the peel at Poilâne
During his shift, each baker bakes two batches of 75 loaves a piece in the wood fired oven.
Display of loaves at Poilâne
Display of freshly baked bread… the famous rounds are made with a sourdough starter that has been in continuous use since the 1930s.
Outside La Dernière Goutte
La Dernière Goutte is a gem of a wine shop run by Cuban-American, Juan Sanchez. The focus is mostly on organic and biodynamic wines.
Wine tasting room at La Dernière Goutte
Wine tasting room at La Dernière Goutte.
Wine tasting notes at La Dernière Goutte
Wine tasting notes…

Stayed tuned… recipes up next!

 

36 thoughts on “At Home with Patricia Wells

  1. A fabulous post! I really enjoyed sharing your experiences in Paris – the wonderful cookery course, and its brilliant teacher, and all the lovely places you visited in that glorious city. You’ll have great memories to last you a lifetime. Thank you for sharing this, Jean.

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  2. Oh wow Jean (or is it Jeanne?), this is an incredible experience for you! I have always been in awe of the French Markets. We have nothing like that where I live. I can’t wait to see the recipes. I’m so happy you got to experience this!

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    1. Kathryn, it was amazing… the markets were stunning! I mistakenly presumed they would only sell produce… I could not have been more wrong! They were like traveling supermarkets, selling everything from dairy, to meats and fish, to produce, to breads and grains, then grocery/pantry items as well, like oils, salts, peppers, spices, etc. We have farmer’s markets near us, but like you, nothing like the markets I visited in Paris. Sigh. And yes, you have the spelling write- Jean (as opposed to très Français version, Jeanne!) 😉

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      1. Whew, glad you clarified the spelling, when I saw your name on the assignment list I thought I was spelling it wrong all this time, lol! Yes, I follow a French Blogger and he posts photos of the French Markets all the time. Just astounded!

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    1. Cameron, it WAS the biggest steak I’ve ever seen!!! Did you have The Flintstones cartoon when you were a kid? It reminded me of the “brontosaurus steak” they ate. We actually cooked them on the stovetop, on flat rounds of cast iron. One round was an antique crepe pan, I believe; and the other steak was cooked on a modern day Le Creuset cast iron pizza pan.

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    1. The onion rings were really really good! I made them and dumped them out on a paper towel lined platter, sprinkled with salt, and served while the other ladies were still cooking. They would be an excellent appetizer for a dinner party… Your guests could watch the “show” and then nibble on them with cocktails before sitting down to dinner. Everyone wants to hang out with the cook in the kitchen anyway!

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      1. Although we are just becoming acquainted, I wanted to briefly let you know that sometimes I will check blogs in spurts, depending on my work schedule. I try to “round back” and check for any new responses. If I were able to sort through my thousands of emails, I would be able to do this in one quick move, I imagine.
        Anyway, I like the idea of guests nibbling on these, possibly with some fresh veggies, and bread strips or sticks with pots of olive oil to add. Almost a meal, I think!
        I really think your being in such a small class with a renowned chef was an extra special experience, once in a lifetime. I liked the Meryl Streep movie, Julie/Julia with Meryl portraying Julia Child. I learned quite a bit from that movie, as the younger Julie tries to make all of J. Child’s recipes in a year.
        Wonderful photographs of the bread with different prints. I enjoyed the authentic brick oven you captured in your photo, too. Smiles, Robin

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    1. Is was really something to spend time with her… especially the cookbook author side. I believe many of the recipes we made are going into her next book, so in a way we were helping her test the recipes (I can’t imagine how many times she must test them!). Patricia was definitely taking notes…

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    1. The lunch at Guy Savoy will go down as one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had… from the stunning architecture and impeccable service to the outstanding food and it’s presentation… not to mention the wonderful company. An absolutely brilliant few hours.

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      1. So glad you like it! You know, I think I tried an apple tart once and it didn’t work out well. I chalked it up to differences in apple varieties in France mostly. And maybe a garden variety beef stew. I should pull it out again, but my French is mighty rusty!

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