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Are you looking for a week culinary holiday in fundamental French cuisine? If yes, then this is the one for you! Its perfect for those with little or moderate cooking experience looking to improve their skills, experience in the kitchen and create outstanding French dishes and desserts. Non-cooking participants are welcome here!
If you are looking for accommodation in the South West of France then our Chambres dHotes located in Gramont, Gascony offers traditionally furnished rooms that have been refurbished to the highest standard. Our rooms are based on an authentic style of a French Chambres dHotes with added modern facilities such as air conditioning for those hot summer evenings in Gascony.
The rooms are furnished in a style that is regional and in keeping with the magnificent build quality of the accommodation. All rooms have en-suite facilities, have air conditioning, heating and full access to the South facing terrace. Our Ruin Terrace, set in and around the ruins of a traditional village house, includes a hot tub for the exclusive use of residents and cookery school guests and overlooks the rolling Gascon countryside.
Set around a private terrace and garden with outstanding views of the Gascony countryside, our accommodation has something to offer everyone. Use the terrace to sunbath, read a book or visit the Chateau de Gramont. For those who are more energetic there are fantastic local walks. Accommodation in the South West of France offers a great base to explore the heart of Gascony and visit such towns as Lectoure, Condom, Agen, and Toulouse.
Within a short drive, there are the outdoor swimming facilities of St Clar and Fleurance. The historical town of Lectoure not only has an outdoor public swimming pool but one of the most outstanding examples of a Roman spa in France. Visit here for a dip into the soothing thermal pools or unwind with a relaxing body massage or revitalizing facial.
For that truly unique French experience, you will be offered a Table dHote menu of an evening using only the best in local produce and freshly prepared by your host and chef David Chance. Menus are carefully chosen and changed daily. Gascony is famous for its superb gastronomic cuisine such as fois gras, confit, gabure and other traditional duck and goose dishes.
This holiday is ideal for those who are looking for a six-day cookery course in fundamental French cuisine, perfect for those with all levels of cooking experience looking to improve their skills, experience in the kitchen and create outstanding French dishes and desserts. During this foundation week you will cover:
Once you have been shown to your unique room, you are encouraged to make yourself at home, start to relax and live the Gascon way, and enjoy the surroundings of the historic village Gramont which is home to only one of six national monuments in the Midi-Pyrénées, the Château de Gramont. As the evening arrives, you are invited to join for local aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres on the cookery school’s terraces that look out to the Midi Pyrenees with unrivaled views of the Gascony countryside. This is a great time to meet other students and guests and for us to discuss the week ahead.
With the aroma of your first night’s exquisite four-course dinner, prepared by your Chef David, in the air and your taste buds experiencing local wines, your French cookery holiday is well and truly underway. After dinner, take the opportunity to relax on one of the three terraces, experience one of the stunning Gascony sunsets, and soak in the atmosphere of the unique location and Gascony lifestyle.
To make the most of your time at the Gascony Cookery School, breakfast will be served at 9 a.m. which consists of a traditional French affair of local bread, croissants from the local village of St Clar and homemade preserves. There are also cereals, yogurts, fruit and a good helping of coffee, tea and orange juice available.
Following breakfast, it’s straight into the kitchen of Chef David who will conduct a short tour of the kitchen and an introduction to basic knife skills. Once your knife skills are honed it’s onto preparing a simple, French dressing and sauce Suzette before beginning work on your pastry skills by preparing a gateau pithiviers, an ornately decorated puff pastry dessert with a delicious crème d’armandes at its center.
With your first successfully completed French dessert of the week completed, you will then be given the opportunity to hone those skills even further by replicating Chef David’s famous pizza gersois; a freshly made pizza base topped with local onions, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and thinly sliced duck breast.
Your first morning will conclude with further patisserie practice as you prepare a pâte sucrée, a form of sweetened pastry, which will provide the base for the Tarte aux Pommes that you will make on Tuesday afternoon.
In the afternoon, following a traditionally long French lunch, you will make your way across the road to the Auberge where Chef Bernard will introduce you to the art of preparing foie gras. You will prepare four different types of foie gras –mi-cuit, traditional, cru and pain d’épices before turning your attention to another quintessentially Gascon dish; cassoulet. Bernard will share with you his tried and tested wisdom as to the best way in which to prepare his restaurant’s most popular dish before giving you a tour of his sixty-five cover restaurant.
You will see and experience the difference between Bernard’s kitchen and David’s and the opportunity to compare these very different cooking environments and the difference in cooking for an intimate number of guests and catering on a more commercial scale. Your next task with Bernard will be to make crêpes for the evening dinner and your sauce Suzette prepared at the beginning of the day will be the finishing ingredient to this traditional French classic. As the first day comes to a close you will return to Chef David’s kitchen to complete two final pastries; Pâte Sablée and Pâte Sucrée.
In the evening, you will be invited to take a tour of the wine museum with wine in hand at Bernard’s restaurant and experience his signature menu gourmand: an haute cuisine experience in traditional Gascon manner that will include the three different types of duck foie gras that you prepared earlier. Bon appetit!
Breakfast will be at 9 a.m. because today you are off to market. With shopping baskets and shopping lists in hand, you will make your way to the local market town of Fleurance. There, you will be able to familiarise yourself with the regional produce and select the fresh ingredients that you will be using in the afternoon class and during your time with Gascony Cookery School.
Fleurance’s market is a host to an array of tasty Gascon treats that are sure to whet your appetite. You will then continue on to the nearby Roman town of Lectoure where you will lunch in a local café before returning to the cookery school for the afternoon cooking class.
In the afternoon, Chef David will begin by instructing you in the correct way to fillet a fish before preparing the perfect veloute sauce as an accompaniment. You will then be given another opportunity to practice your pastry and knife skills by creating a beautifully presented Tarte aux Pommes.
Before dinner, you will be invited back into the kitchen with Chef David to focus on plating and general presentation skills. The fish in velouté sauce and Tarte aux Pommes that you prepared earlier will be the centerpiece of the evening’s menu, giving you the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
After breakfast, you will join David in his kitchen at 8:30 a.m. to put your newly acquired knife skills to the test by boning a chicken to create a sumptuous Ballotine de Poulet. Following the preparation of the chicken, you will make a rich mushroom sauce as an accompaniment. Next on this morning’s itinerary is a light and refreshing Tarte au Citron and an entrée of Soupe Aux Deux Poivrons (Two-Pepper Soup), a starter whose unique presentation never fails to impress at a dinner party.
In the afternoon, lunch with Bernard will be followed by a visit to Gramont’s seventeenth-century château: a well-preserved Renaissance castle complete with period furniture and tapestries. After your tour of the château, you will have some time to relax before joining David in the kitchen to complete the final preparations for this evening’s meal.
You will spend the evening with David and Vikki and will dine on all three of the dishes that you have prepared earlier in the day.
After breakfast, you will be with Bernard in his kitchen preparing six dishes over the course of three hours. This will be your most intensive time in the kitchen this week, the focus this morning will be on French desserts. You will prepare une crème pâtissière, une crème brulée, une crème caramel before switching from sweet to savory ingredients at the end of the morning to make that most iconic of French sauces: la sauce béchamel. You will then return to David’s kitchen to practice sugar spinning and prepare a reduction sauce, jus de vin rouge. Then it’s lunch at the Auberge.
After lunch, you will visit the Château de Cassaigne, Condom’s acclaimed Armagnac distillery, where you will learn about the history of this local brandy whilst indulging in a short – optional! – degustation. You will then take you on a tour of the beautifully preserved, medieval fortified village of Larressingle. There you will see the Gascony of old in the delightful village of La Romieu, named for its many sculptures of cats and possessing of a fabulous- if not slightly bizarre – history.
That evening you will dine at Bernard’s restaurant and your menu will include the cassoulet that you prepared on Monday afternoon and today’s desserts.
Sadly, the cookery school has come to an end! Breakfast will be served as usual, until 10 a.m. and you can kindly vacate your room before 11 a.m. À bientôt!
David’s passion as a professional chef for French cuisine, made him move to Gramont in 2002. He and his wife Vikki specifically selected the Tarn-et-Garonne region, situated as it is in the heart of Gascony, for its famed gastronomic repertoire. David and his wife ran the chambres d’hotes and table d’hotes for four years, however the popularity of David’s cooking soon attracted the attention of talented local chef Bernard and from their newfound Franglais friendship the cookery school was born.
Motivated by their shared love of France, Vikki Chance and her husband moved to Gramont in 2002. They specifically selected the Tarn-et-Garonne region, situated as it is in the heart of Gascony, for its famed gastronomic repertoire. With the original intention of establishing a chambres d’hotes and table d’hotes they began their new life by carefully restoring an old farmhouse and barn. They ran the chambres d’hotes and table d’hotes for four years and after a great success the cookery school was born.
Bernard has owned and run a successful restaurant in Gramont for over 25 years and his traditional menu has earned him a respected reputation in the region. Bernard and David's vision was to design a program that would enable students of French cookery to work their way up from mastering of knife skills to executing impressive four-course meals in just under a week. They wanted to use their combined knowledge as professional chefs from either side of the Channel to make French cookery enjoyable.
Still remaining as one of the most "French" parts of France. It is largely unspoilt by tourism and retains a great deal of character and charm. Property prices, like everywhere, have increased recently, but the region still remains comparatively excellent value for people seeking a permanent residence or holiday home.
Gascony is the ancient name of a former duchy in South West France. Steeped in history these lands were ruled by the Romans, conquered by the Visigoths and then by the Francs. By the end of the 10th century, its dukes had achieved autonomy from the French crown but in 1052 Gascony fell to Aquitaine and came under English control in the 12th century.
It was the nucleus of English possessions in France until regained by the French at the end of the Hundred Years War (1453). The department of the Gers is the heart of Gascony, so often described as the Tuscany of France. It is a region of gently rolling hills, hilltop bastide towns & villages, an abundance of rivers and wide-open spaces.
Gascony is a land of rich and fertile soils which has historically elevated its produce and cuisine to the top of the French culinary table. Gascony is still very much a farming region, a land of wheat, maize and sunflower fields and fabulous wines that are so often overlooked outside of France.
Armagnac is the oldest of the French eau de vies and is still made by individual producers who care more for their product than the profits of a multinational business. Gascony is famed for its garlic and is the true home of foie gras, the region is a gastronomic delight.
Gascony is located in the department of Gers, one of the least densely populated departments in France. There are no heavy industry or auto routes. It has some of the cleanest air in all of Europe. It is therefore no surprise that Gascons live longer than any other people in France.
Auch: the capital (prefecture) of the Gers and its largest town with around 20,000 inhabitants. The impressive cathedral of St-Marie holds two of the regions finest art works, the Arnaud de Moles stained glass windows and the 113 carved oak choir stalls. Auch is a vibrant centre of commerce and has numerous good cafes and restaurants.
Condom: situated in the north of the Gers is a sous-prefecture and capital of the Tenareze Armagnac region. It is a beautiful town centered on the Cathedral of St-Pierre and although its name is often a source of amusement to English speakers it is believed to be derived from two Latin words "condate" and "dum", meaning confluence and hill.
Eauze: the main town in the west of the region and the capital of the Armagnac trade. This old Roman settlement is surrounded by vineyards and remains very much central to the Armagnac trade.
Lectoure: a spectacular town perched on a high rock escarpment with wonderful views stretching all the way to the Pyrenees. It has been an important centre since Gallo-Roman times and was the main residence of the Counts of Armagnac.
Fleurance: a bastide town and an important market town with one of the best markets in the Gers.
Mirande: a fine example of a 13th Century bastide and now holds an internationally famous country and western festival each year.
Marciac: well-known for its world famous jazz festival. An attractive quiet bastide town with some good cafes and restaurants.
Three daily meals are included in the prices. Enjoy your exquisite breakfast, lunch, and dinner with local wine prepared by the special chefs.
Take Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris and then change for Toulouse.
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