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  • Writer's pictureProvence Paradise

French Cuisine and Culinary Classes in Provence [Your Tour Into Food History]

French cuisine is renowned in the world for being elegant, and sophisticated. The simple truth behind the food, is the knowledge and care that is taken in selecting the ingredients that go into every dish.

Depending on the region, the food you’ll see in the marketplace and in those wonderful fine dining restaurants will vary greatly, reflecting rich French history. This is especially true in the Southern France Provence region, where a delightfully mild climate raises the finest produce, and the Mediterranean Sea provides the most bountiful seafood.

"The flavors of Provençal food tend to be direct and uncomplicated, reflecting the sharp clarity of the light and the landscape." - Richard Olney in his classic cookbook Simple French Food.

What produce is local to the region?

Provence is well known for its tomatoes, olives, fresh herbs and garlic, and because of its warm weather, can produce fruit and vegetables year round in their orchards and farms, especially in the summer.

If you’re planning a vacation this season, be sure to take advantage of this by trying your hand at a hearty soupe au pistou, which is popular in Provence this time of year and consists of various summer vegetables, beans, pasta and pistou (the French version of pesto). Top it off with some grated cheese, add a glass of chilled rose wine on a side and you’ve got yourself a beautiful summer meal.

While staying in your luxury Provence townhouse rental, be sure to ask about in house cooking and culinary classes. Marseille Bouillabaisse might be a famous staple in the restaurants, but there’s nothing better than preparing the finest Provencal cooking recipes yourself with master chefs and culinary artists. You’ll be cooking like Eric Ripert, the undisputedly best French seafood chef around, in no time.

3 Top dishes and recipes to try:

No aperitif (appetizer) is complete without tapenade, which is an olive dip made from black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil served on croutons or crunchy French bread toast. For the best tapenade possible, select your olive oil from the long line of olive farmers, Moulin du Calanquet in the marketplace in Saint Rémy, Provence.

A dish served worldwide, but is always best fresh from the country of its origin. It actually came from the city of Nice, in the northern regions of France, but is popular in Provence due to the freshness of the produce and anchovies in the area.

The salad is made with long green beans, tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, hard boiled eggs, and your choice of lettuce.

Famous even before the Disney spread the word, this vegetarian’s dream dish isn’t just for vegetarians. To really appreciate the cuisine Southern France Provence has to offer, this is a must-try meal.

This vegetable casserole made of tomatoes, onions, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, garlic and herbs can be eaten on its own with bread or served as a side dish for steak or cutlets. By the way, lamb happens to be the meat of choice in Provence, so be sure to pick up some choice cuts.


Of course in the land where pastries became an art form, the array of desserts to be had are nigh endless. Head over to famous Chocolatier Joel Durand’s shop for the most exquisite handmade chocolates in Provence. For an extra bonus, ask him which ones pair well with the area’s famous blushing rose wines straight from the vineyard, or go the whole nine yards and treat yourself to a wine and chocolate pairing and tasting. He literally offers the whole alphabet of flavors.

In the market of St Rémy you’ll also find Le Petit duc, which offers up delightful sweets, but is world renowned for its traditional white nougat, made of sugar, honey, roasted almonds and egg whites. Pâtissier Aurelien keeps samples of all her decadent desserts on hand and ready for you to try so you get the best dessert, every time.

"You can enjoy an authentic Provencal experience here! Best thing ever: [our host at Provence Paradise] arranged for a private chef to take us to the St. Rémy market and give us a cooking lesson. We had the time of our lives!!!" - Isabelle Feliz

If you’re cooking your own dessert, try your hand at tarte au citron. The orchards of Provence, particularly Menton, are famous for its lemons, which makes this sweet pastry tart filled with lemon cream a perfect choice to end a meal with.

How to get the full experience:

The “Market to Kitchen” cooking class that’s offered by Provence Paradise pairs your group with the region’s top chefs to design your own menu over wine, and even teach you how to select the best ingredients! If there’s one thing the French have taught us, it’s that fine ingredients make for fine dining.

For many travelers in the South of France, the thought of experiencing this famous cuisine "at the source" is a huge draw. From loud and colorful local cafes to gilded Michelin-starred dining rooms, Provence offers something for every taste. The growing season is long. The quality of the produce is sublime. The skill of the chefs are unparalleled.

The Provence that you see in the movies--with long tables set up in on flower-filled terraces and large families eating, drinking and laughing late into the evening--is a delicious reality.

Because so many travelers want to learn more about French food and bring a taste of it home to their own kitchens, cooking classes are wildly popular here in Provence.

They range from simple two-hour workshops to week-long (or longer) programs. The setting might be a beautiful but compact kitchen in a medieval village home, a sprawling magazine-cover kitchen in a countryside mas (farmhouse) or an elegant five-star hotel kitchen. Whether you choose to devote a few hours, a few days or even a few weeks to your French culinary experience, that's up to you. But definitely consider a cooking class while you're visiting Provence! The fun of cooking with a French chef--learning a couple new tricks, enjoying a wonderful meal together and recreating the dishes at home-- make for some of the richest and most-delicious vacation memories of all.

While English seems is the lingua franca of most multinational guests, the chefs are all authentic French. This makes the time more fun--- sign language in all directions, laughter and lots of "franglish." The wine in the kitchen does wonders for the ambiance. Inhibitions seem to vanish, and culinary skills flourish!

"Provence Paradise, virtuoso maestro extraordinaire innkeeper William, and his entire network/virtual "family" of guides, chefs, wine whisperers, and more made for one of our most relaxing, rewarding, and idyllic vacations ever." - Jeff K

Provence Paradise also happens to offer In-House cooking so for those of you traveling in groups, this option is like having fine dining in your own home… while on vacation! It doesn’t get better than that.

For more on vacations and travel in Provence France, Click Here to Find Out More.


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