A visit to France is not complete without devoting much of your time in the country to savoring its cuisine, which gifted to the world such gastronomic joys as croissants, camembert, saucisson, and macarons. Indulging in France’s culinary offerings is one thing, but diving into the process of creating these specialties from scratch and having a hand in their success from start to finish is an entirely different experience. Here are seven ways to immerse yourself in the tastes and smells of fine French food by becoming a baker, butcher, or fromager for the day — and then maybe a lifetime.
1. Learn to make macarons.
Macarons may seem simple, but it takes quite a bit more time to make them than it does to eat them. At Cook’n with Class in Paris — one of the city’s most popular cooking schools — aspiring bakers will participate in the painstaking process of making macarons, whipping up three different flavor varieties through the multi-step process. The hands-on, three-hour workshop will deepen anybody’s appreciation for the work that goes into each pillowy sandwich. (My main takeaway from this class was that the hefty price on macarons is completely justifiable.) Classes take place year-round and are priced at 109 EUR ($124) per adult.
2. Create a traditional Provençal lunch.
At Provence Gourmet in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Francophile foodies get a chance to explore the culinary traditions of Provence. Over the course of the day, students will visit a local market, chat with regional farmers, and create a typical Provençal lunch using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Taking place in a countryside mas — a traditional farmhouse of the region — this class is a full immersion into the south of France. This cooking class takes place on Wednesdays and Fridays almost all year long and costs 165 EUR ($187) per person.
3. Slave over a soufflé.
Mastering the art of the French soufflé is a skill every chef longs to conquer. The egg-based dish is notoriously hard to get right; creating a successful soufflé requires precision, patience, and perfect timing, or else the dish collapses into a dramatically unimpressive heap. If you’re interested in taking on the challenge of creating a light, airy, and perfectly puffed soufflé, enroll in the two-hour soufflé school at La Cuisine Paris. The soufflé class takes place a few times per month and costs 69 EUR ($78) per person.
4. Become a fromager.
Cheese connoisseurs won’t want to miss the chance to taste a wide variety of fine cheeses in France, a country renowned for its incredible selection and quality. Paris by Mouth‘s French cheese-tasting workshop will answer all the questions you’ve never thought to ask about the significance of cheese in France, plus leave you with best practices for pairing cheese with the perfect glass of vin. The three-hour cheese-and-wine-tasting workshop will give you the opportunity to try around 10 different cheeses and five different wines and is priced at 110 EUR ($125) per person.
5. Live your best Remy life and learn to make ratatouille.
Laying claim to famous dishes like ratatouille, Mediterranean-influenced Niçoise cuisine puts a healthier, fresher twist on traditional French food. At this hands-on cooking school in Nice, ingredients supplied by local markets form the basis of each dish. Niçoise cuisine workshops at Les Petits Farcis take place monthly and always focus on a different theme, from fresh pasta to stuffed winter vegetables. Classes are taught in French, with English translation available, and are priced at 90 EUR ($102) per person.
6. Bake flaky croissants and other fresh bread.
Taking a croissant class in Paris is perhaps the ultimate way to spend an afternoon during your visit. The croissant and breakfast-pastry class at La Cuisine Paris will show carboholics the art of the buttery croissant, from the creation of the rising dough base to practicing the proper way to shape the iconic French pastry. Students will also learn to bake pain au chocolat — a pastry that hides pieces of dark chocolate in its center — and snail-shaped pain aux raisins. Croissant classes take place twice daily and cost 99 EUR ($112) per person.
7. Take a week-long black-truffle workshop
This black-truffle workshop in Provence is a week-long dive into the world of the black truffle, a rare French ingredient found only in specific tree roots. Students of At Home with Patricia Wells spend a week with the journalist, author, and cooking instructor to learn all things truffle, from participating in a truffle hunt to visiting a major artisanal truffle supplier and learning new recipes to incorporate the fungus. This annual event is only offered mid-winter and costs $6000 per person.