The monthly ‘Cook Club’, a fourhour, hands-on cooking course covering a wide variety of different cuisines, has already started, and has attracted other expats in the local area.
“The classes are held in English at the moment as my French isn’t good enough, but we’re both having lessons and it would be lovely if I could offer lessons to the French as well at some point,” says Louise. “Anybody is welcome though and we’ve had a mix of nationalities so far. It’s as much about having a nice cooking experience as it is about learning or improving skills. We really do want to immerse ourselves as much as we possibly can in French culture, and as I’m also offering family days I think it would be really nice to get French children interested in cooking too.”
A full-day family course begins with a cooking class for the parents while the children enjoy themselves in the grounds and make the most of the swimming pool (with adult supervision), then after lunch it’s the kids’ turn to have some fun in the kitchen while the parents relax outside. And as Louise says, she’s the one who has to clean up afterwards!
The ‘Cook and Dine’ course includes an afternoon of cooking before everyone then sits down to enjoy the fruits of their labours in the evening – with a glass or two of locally produced wine, of course. Residential courses are available too, with accommodation provided at The Courtyard at Sainte Catherine, a gîte and chambres d’hôtes run by Louise’s friends Stephanie and Charlie May. Yet more familiar names – the couple were featured in the Autumn 2015 issue of Living France when they shared the story of how they renovated their property to set up a holiday accommodation business. Louise and Ian met the Mays when they stayed at The Courtyard themselves after first moving to France.
“There was a gap of three or four weeks between moving out of the gîte and into the rental property, and luckily Steph had some space and was happy to accept our dogs,” explains Louise. “We clicked immediately – we have a lot of shared interests and both love food. She’s a great cook, and obviously if I’m running cooking courses I need to know that my guests are staying somewhere where the food is really good. It’s got to be fairly representative of me, and Steph’s cooking style is very similar to mine.”
For the first couple of years, Louise intends to see how well it works having the courses and the accommodation for her guests in two separate places (The Courtyard is about 35 minutes away from Louise’s home), but the ultimate aim is to have a property where they can also offer on-site accommodation.
“Luckily we have a really large kitchen, and Ian is very handy – he’s created two large islands, one for me to demonstrate from and another one on wheels which can comfortably accommodate up to eight people on a course”