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What is authenticity of place? Step into the agricultural and culinary fabric of France with a week-long cooking class. Experience the local food culture of the Bordeaux region with hands-on cooking classes every day. Draw parallels between the small farms of Oregon and small farms of France – and the quality of ingredient both produce.

For the week of October 2nd – October 9th, cook with us in France.

For more than two decades, students have engaged in this singular experience that transforms the way one thinks about food, cooking, and culture. The curriculum taught is inspired from the trips organized by Robert Reynolds, founder of The Chef Studio. It emphasizes the integrity of terroir – you will make dishes in the region where they originated with the ingredients they were created for.

Why is the France Tour course so important?

This is why Chef Robert Reynolds created this course, in his own words:

“I have always felt that the goal and vision we pursue is best served by having a segment of training at the source in France. I want students to understand that the ideas we advocate about cooking are supported in France by a philosophical commitment. The pursuit of excellence is not a marketing device; it is a way of life.” Robert Reynolds

Students develop culinary technique and skill in the context of learning the lessons the French culture has to offer about truth from soil to table, which are equally apropos to those in the culinary industry as they are to a very broad range of other professionals.

The course is appropriate for students from a wide range of experience levels and backgrounds.

→ See photos from previous France Tours.

The Course

On the first day of the course, we convene in Bordeaux and enjoy the ritual of dining in a French restaurant. Fortified for the journey, we travel to the countryside château that will be our home and kitchen for the week.

Class begins each morning with a trip to the market where we gather the best ingredients the region has to offer. We return to the kitchen for a hands-on class where we prepare our lunch focusing on simple French home cooking.

“The ingredients are so much a part of the landscape and the generations who have farmed the land, raised the livestock, grown the wine. As a result, I found the dishes we put on the table fit – they belonged there and made one feel at home.”  Peter Compton, Biostatistician

The afternoons are given over to visiting the farmers and producers of the distinctive foods of the region. We visit farms, fromageries, wineries, distillers, and foie gras producers.

Enriched by the experience, we return to the kitchen for an intensive discussion and instruction on formulas and techniques that will deliver each ingredient to the plate perfectly. Students work closely with instructors as we together prepare our dinner, set a French table, and linger over the meal and conversation about the day and beyond.

What you will learn:

  • How to read the pulse of the market
  • What local/regional means in France
  • How to compose a French menu
  • Techniques for best treating regional ingredients
  • The role of cuisine in French culture and life

The Teachers

Sessions are taught by Courtney Sproule and Blake Van Roekel, who co-taught the Spring 2011 session in the region and led the trip in 2012 and 2013.

Gabrielle Esbeck, a native of Bordeaux, will accompany as a cultural liaison, translator, and local expert. Gabrielle has owned a relocation consulting business in the Bordeaux region and was a producer for a local television station. She currently owns and operates
C’est Si Bon!, a crêperie, catering, and wine business in Portland, Oregon.

The Students

    • Both Good Keuken students and those new to Good Keuken may enroll. Those from outside of Portland can easily join us, as we meet up in Bordeaux, where the course commences.
    • Only six students are accepted, for a distinctly low student/teacher ratio of two to one.
    • The course is appropriate for a wide range of students of varying experience, ages, and backgrounds. The very low student/teacher ratio allows each student to receive personalized instruction tailored to their cooking level, whether you’re new to cooking or are an experienced professional. The course teaches lessons of authenticity of place that are applicable to many levels of experience and various backgrounds. Those who have joined us in the past include 20-some year old industry line cooks with ambitions of a culinary career, professionals in their 40s and 50s curious about cooking and looking for a cultural experience, and a wide variety of both home cooks and seasoned chefs.
    • It is not necessary to speak French. Classes are conducted in English and translation will be provided during tours. 

The Lodging

We lodge and conduct classes in a château in the countryside surrounding Bordeaux. Students experience the added charm of residing in an archetypal château over a century old  surrounded by vineyards in one of the most renowned wine regions of the world. Students are offered their own bedroom.

The Region

Bordeaux is one of the world’s great gastronomic regions. It’s known for many foods, including foie gras, duck, prunes, and confits, as well as the world-famous Bordeaux wines and the treasured Armagnac. We will sample many authentic examples of each. We will also meet the producers whose families have been at their craft for centuries. During the Spring 2011 France session we visited:

M. Gros, who gave us a tour of his eau-de-vie distillery. M. Gros’ family tended a pear orchard until the EU started applying bogus regulations to pears.

The innovative and undaunted M. Gros decided to start distilling his fruit. His Poire Williams eau-de-vie is unsurpassed, and his honeysuckle eau-de-vie is truly unlike anything else on earth.

“The week of study in France was the perfect culmination to my time at the Chef Studio.  In class, we always talked about the regional cuisines of France and how each place has its own key flavors and ingredients. Traveling and cooking in Bordeaux brought that concept to life for me. Every market we went to, we saw the Bordeaux flavors: duck, prune, armangnac, pork sausage. We saw the beautiful vegetables of the region. We saw wines from the regional grapes. I loved seeing this concept that I had studied presented so effortlessly each day.  And I think it goes without saying that the food was incredible!” Amie Edelstein, 2010 Chef Studio graduate

Mme Hélène Singlande, who farms a 7-hectare vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes almost single-handedly.  She is currently also the wine maker in this Buzet denomination and recounted to us the characteristics and story of each vintage dating back to years before many of us were born.

Armagnac producers who welcomed us into their living room and gave us a taste of literally some of the last remaining bottles of true Armagnac.   To hear them talk about their Armagnac is to be gifted with history.

→ Read Chef Reynolds’ essay on these producers.

Tuition & Enrollment

Early Enrollment:  $4,800

Early Enrollment for the October 2nd – October 9th  course closes July 14th (Bastille Day).

Standard Enrollment:  $5,200

Standard Enrollment for the October 2nd – October 9th  course closes August 15th.

Tuition includes lodging, lunch and dinner each day, and local transport for tours. Students are to arrange for their own travel to Bordeaux.  Students are provided with travel suggestions and tips.

A discount is available to students who enroll in the Culinary Program at Good Keuken.

Students are encouraged to inquire about enrollment as early as possible.  

→ Contact Blake Van Roekel or call 503.753.1655 to enroll or for more information.