Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Weekend with Patrice Olivon

My weekend with Patrice Olivon...

A couple weeks back, I spent an intensive, and lengthy, weekend learning French culinary techniques with my grandpa, chef Patrice (ok, he's not that old, but his personality is much more grandpa than dad, in that sometimes gruff, but mostly cute and cuddly kind of way). I got up really, really early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to drive to Gaithersburg, and finally headed back to Arlington at 8 pm or so on Sunday (beware, folks, the class is advertised as 9-4, but the course is more than meets the eye. The "advanced culinary weekend" course is a long and exhausting weekend.). Rather than recounting my weekend step-by-step, I'll let you enjoy a course at L'Academie de Cuisine yourself, and leave you with my top ten list, David Letterman style:

10. A Sauce is Worth a Million Words -

Sauces are much more labor intensive than you might think, but this is really the glue that can bring together a dish

9. Calories, Schmalories -

Seriously, this is French cooking. It's nothing if not fat-laden. The focus needs to be portion size rather than ingredients...small bites are quite enough when a dish is layered with flavor.

8. Clumsiness Can be a Blessing and a Curse -

Ok, so maybe you might back up into someone wielding a knife in the kitchen. On the other hand, you may throw in tarragon rather than tumeric and end up delighting in the consequence.

7. The Internet is Your Friend -

All sorts of things are available at specialty stores online, especially many of those sold-only-in-France ingredients. My personal favorite is Zingerman's.

6. It's Your Bread and Butter -

Serve homemade bread and high quality butter - 'nough said.

5. Know What You are Paying For -

Some things are worth it, others are not. Don't overlook Giant and Safeway for perfectly adequate and well-priced produce. Even Costco has a great meat selection.

4. It Takes Time -

Stir-fry is for your average week night; French food is for when you have a couple of hours to devote some TLC to your cuisine.

3. Waste Not, Want Not -

From bones and other parts used for stock, to buying an entire tenderloin that can be broken down. Think before putting something in the trash bin, garbage disposal, or compost pile.

2. Not All Things can be Replicated -

I've been trying to make those pesky macaroons every weekend since I took the course (mind you, they turned out perfectly when I made them at school). I think it's time I give up and head to Pralines in Bethesda.

1. Put in a Little Heart-

Don't work from a recipe. If you make food your own, you'll enjoy it that much more.

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