I recently signed up to do a group cooking class at a top-rate restaurant in Nice, called l’Univers. Not having a cooking gene, I figured I could watch and learn something – but NON, this was a hands-on cooking experience! I don’t eat a lot of fish, so never handle or cook it…until then, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The class started with a walk to the famous, daily food market in Cours Saleya, with the chef – he had planned the main course for the day, but needed to see/decide what would he vegetables he wanted to include. It was amusing to watch him browse the local vendors stands, instantly choosing things that he was mentally preparing. He choose nettles, which I had heard of but never saw or touched (yes, the leaves do sting ever so slightly to the touch) – were we going to eat them? Not exactly – they were cooked to make a dark green sauce to accompany the red fish (see photo).
Back at the restaurant, wearing plastic aprons, we watched the chefs demonstrate and then, we each took a turn – fileting and de-boning the sole, pulling stems off of rocket lettuce, fileting red fish, and of course, observing the chefs as they cut, cooked, and created delicious delicacies. I tried to avoid semi-guillotining the red fish – a necessary step before fileting them, but concentrated on not cutting my self and the job at hand (pun intended)!
After about 2 hours, everything was ready, so we sat down to a beautiful table setting and were served hearty wines and the day’s cooked catch (three-course meal). Everything tasted wonderful, as we relaxed, chatted, and enjoyed the fruits of our (and mainly the chefs) labor! What also impressed me was the relaxed, easygoing ambiance in the kitchen, thanks to Master Chef, Christian Plumail, and Chef Nicolas, as they joked with us, taught us basic skills of their craft, and patiently explained and answered our questions.
I am planning on doing another class, and if and when you visit Nice, it is definitely worth doing (the class was done in French, but the Chef also speaks English).
(hover over photo to see the caption)