After checking into the Gascony Cookery School, put away your wallet but not your curiosity. Because in addition to cooking and eating (and don’t forget the wine), you’ll be introduced to Gascony, it’s people and treasures. Your hosts, David and Vikki Chance, are intent on their guests enjoying this corner of Gascony as much as they do. Your instructors, Chef David and Chef Bernard Corbiere, are intent on their students leaving with new skills and insights. We highly recommend the Gascony Cookery School in Gramont, France, and offer the following review:
Let’s start with cooking school: Both gentlemen are encouraging in the kitchen, and so humble that you can catch them cringing a little when someone calls them “Chef.” Chef David’s approach is classic—from knife skills to plating. Classes are limited to six students. So if you’re learning to fillet fresh fish, every student has her own fish to fillet. When you’re learning to make the perfect Tarte aux Pommes, every student makes his own pate sucree. Chef Bernard is the proprietor of the village’s only restaurant, and is the only person in the kitchen. So his approach is suited to the busy cook. For example, he teaches a basic custard that, once made, can be modified to serve as the base for crème caramel, crème brulee, or crème patissiere for a pie.
For part of several days, you’ll be introduced to Gascony. Vikki will take you to the weekly market in a nearby town (with a shopping basket, some euros and a list from Chef David), and afterwards an old Roman spa town for lunch at a local café. On another afternoon, David will take you to a mill under restoration, the fabled hometown of Dartagnan, and then on to taste forty year-old Armagnac at a local distillery. Vikki and David have relocated from London, and guests get the benefit of both their knowledge of what a tourist would be interested in seeing and what a tourist is likely to miss on a trip to Gascony. And again, keep your wallet closed, because all of this is included in your cookery school tuition.
And every day, you’ll eat well—often what you’ve made that day. Lunch and dinner are traditional four course French meals, including an aperitif, entrée, plat and dessert (with a cheese course at dinner, and wine at every meal). Many meals will be on the terrace at David and Vikki’s guesthouse, over looking a broad plain that stretches to the Pyrenees (frequently out of view, which we’re told is a good thing, because when you can see the mountains, bad weather is around the corner). Some meals you’ll take at Chef Bernard’s restaurant, which, in many respects, is homier than service on the guesthouse terrace; while you help Chef David plate perfect meals, Chef Bernard delivers meals family style, such as a large baking dish with the chef’s cassoulet that you helped prepare earlier.
For most travelers interested in experiencing the real French countryside, the accommodations will be perfect: no phones, no televisions, no mints on the pillows. The rooms and private bathrooms are immaculate, toiletries in evidence, with plenty of space to unpack yourself for an extended stay. But you’re always aware that you’re in a tiny, working village, not a fantasy reenactment.
We highly recommend the Gascony Cookery School. It’s an all-inclusive hands-on cooking school for culture-vultures.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- David and Vikki Chance would like to welcome you to their French Cookery School and chambres d’hotes situated in the peaceful village of Gramont. A wonderful place to learn the unique skills of French cooking in an authentic and charming rustic environment. The historic village of Gramont is situated in Gascony, a region famed for its food and wine. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- The Gascony French Cookery School France/Gramont