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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Stayed tuned… recipes up next!