Over 20 years in the past, I met the homeowners of Le Moulin Brégeon, a former wheat mill and monastery transformed into a rustic luxe resort in rural France. Since then, I’ve run a hands-on cooking and baking program utilizing the resort as a base for our culinary-themed excursions and to host a wide range of courses with completely different cooks. This September will mark our twentieth course.
Annually, I attempt to incorporate some new actions so I can continue learning in regards to the sources of meals, artisan meals manufacturing and methods, and to incorporate new courses for anybody who has participated earlier than and needs to return once more. We’ve had a number of return guests, and definitely the cooking program is rarely the identical!
For somebody who’s labored, cooked and toured with varied cooks across the western Loire Valley over a 20-year interval, what are a few of my favourite actions? I at all times love displaying the scholars our lodgings at Le Moulin Brégeon (the Mill, situated in Linières-Bouton. The area is a wild boar forest the place the French kings used to hunt with a yr spherical inhabitants of about 100 individuals, together with a duck farm producing foie gras. It’s a really pretty space and an unimaginable place to remain. Every room in the Mill has its personal distinctive vintage furnishings and you sleep in hand-ironed French linens, with French-style duvets and bolster pillows. Our eating desk is lit with vintage candelabra and bowls of backyard flowers. (It’s luxurious, to say the least.)
Just a few years in the past, I wrote the cookbook for “Le Moulin Brégeon: Le Petit Moulin of the Loire Valley.” The recipes spotlight the sorts of meals we produce in our courses: seasonal meals that includes natural backyard produce (you’ll choose your individual lettuce for the salad and French cheese course) and native meats from neighboring farms — however theirs is a delicacies that’s not heavy or sauce-based. The 2 French cooks we work with on the Mill are from, respectively, Brittany and the Dordogne. Chef Bernard Lévénez and Chef Pascal Mérillou imagine in producing as a lot as they’ll on website and supporting native farmers, and our cooking program displays the identical philosophy.
I at all times get pleasure from our artisan bread class at La Maison du Ache in Angers, with Grasp Boulanger Philippe Soulard. Catherine and Philippe Soulard dwell above the bakery with their household and make bread utilizing a levain, which is to say they use their very own tradition of yeast moderately than utilizing any business yeast. Who wouldn’t be joyful, shaping baguettes with Philippe and sampling some 14 sorts of bread with rye and wheat starters, complete grains and flour from a stone-ground, water-driven mill we go to in the course of the course!
Moreover breads, courses will embody charcuterie and meat fabrication, and you’ll additionally bake recipes from my first two cookbooks, “Les Petits Macaróns” and “Les Petits Sweets,” alongside myself. I sometimes additionally educate a savory tart class. There are a whole lot of various kinds of doughs on the market, and the extra you understand and perceive how they every work — the higher to your baking repertoire.
We’re very busy with action-packed days — and I at all times joke that this system is just not a trip! We go to the fleur de sel marshes on the coast, be taught in regards to the area’s well-known glowing wines (there are 10,000 kilometers of caves from the Loire’s smooth limestone, tufa, additionally used to construct the area’s 1,000 châteaux), mushrooms (additionally grown in caves), walnut oil presses, chèvre farms to see the goats being milked and even a neighborhood escargot farm (the place the proprietor Arnaud vegetation radish greens and different greens the snails want). We choose blueberries (or different fruits, relying on the month) and make jam with Chef Bernard, who makes the confiture for the Mill and visitor breakfasts.
What’s a typical class like?
If we’ve got a pig fabrication class, we’d prepare dinner typical rustic French pork dishes corresponding to neck chops sautéed in butter with salt and pepper, French-style barbecue grilled sausages, Noirmoutier potatoes cooked in pork fats, pâté de tête with Orleans vinegar and pâté en croute with cornichons and grainy mustard — and that’s only for dinner. For dessert, I’d give a overview “quiz” on gluten, the Maillard response and emulsions as we benefit from the objects we baked collectively like a raspberry-style fraisier cake (from raspberries we hand-picked), Breton butter sablé cookies and financiers made with the native hazelnut flour.
Moreover the chance to take part in the course, I recruit ICE alumni from Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts and Well being-Supportive Culinary Arts to work for full room and board on the Mill for a novel resume alternative. (There’s additionally a necessity for FOH assist, so I might positively “take” an Hospitality graduate.) This yr, seven ICE alumni will probably be at Le Moulin Brégeon for the visitor season, which usually runs from April to October. In the event you’re in working in France, please contact me at [email protected]
Annually I come again from the Loire Valley Cooking course in France having realized one thing new and impressed by the expertise. The world is gorgeous, our hosts are charming and everybody we meet is keen to show and share their information. We’re reserving now for 2023!
See what’s cooking @loirevalleycooking, and View the complete itinerary of the subsequent Loire Valley Cooking course right here. The journey is open to all ICE alumni in addition to these from most of the people or associates and relations who recognize meals, cooking and wine.
Observe Chef Kathryn’s cooking adventures.