Carolyne Kauser-AbbottFrench Cooking ClassesTaste

A Great Cooking Class in Provence and Lunch with Recipes at Atelier Laurel

The six of us were gathered around the island in Stephanie Villegas’ kitchen wearing olive green Laurel aprons. It was time for our group to stop the banter and pay attention to the chef; otherwise, we might not eat lunch. We were at Atelier Laurel for a hands-on cooking class with Stephanie in Fontvieille, a charming village in the Alpilles in Provence.

The Chef

Stephanie Villegas is a San Francisco, California native who switched gears from working on self-driving cars at Google (which she still loves) to culinary pursuits and became a chef. She also met a charming French fellow who convinced her about the benefits of the Provence lifestyle, including ready access to fresh ingredients. Her Laurel cooking school and private chef service launched in 2022.

Atelier Laurel Cooking Class in Provence

The Cooking Class

Our menu for the day included four (4) courses from starter to sweet finish. The ingredients for each dish were seasonal and reflective of the slight tilt towards autumn in Provence. Stephanie explained the menu for the day and the tasks required to get us from raw ingredients to the lunch table. We broke into teams of two and set about peeling, chopping, coring, sautéeing, mixing, rolling and mostly chatting and laughing.

Over the years, my husband and I have been to many cooking classes. While we are far from professional cooks, we are comfortable with most ingredients and culinary techniques. However, there is almost always something you learn in a cooking class. In this case, Stephanie reminded us how to hold a knife, the best way to crack an egg and separate the yolk from the white. However, the aha moment for me was learning about roasting mushrooms in the oven.

After about two hours of “hard” work and plenty of guidance from Stephanie, we sat down for lunch. To accompany the dishes, we enjoyed a bottle (ok two) of white wine from Château de Nages, a family vineyard.

Atelier Laurel Cooking Class in Provence

The Menu

Stephanie works with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Whether in her cooking classes or as a private chef, she tailors the menu to suit the season and available produce while considering her client’s requests. One of your party is vegetarian, so Stephanie chose the following menu. Every course was delicious, satisfying and repeatable at home.

The starter:

Seared Butternut Squash with Roasted Garlic Ricotta and Walnut Crumble
This recipe is easy to prepare and can be served as a starter course, side dish, or a warm salad with some additional greens.
Seared Butternut Squash Recipe with Garlic Ricotta and Walnut Crumble

Seared Butternut Squash with Garlic Ricotta and Walnut Crumble

The main course: Comté Soufflé with sautéed mushrooms aux herbes

Making a souflée is not for the faint of heart, but  Stephanie explained the technique and a few pro tips. There cannot be any drop of yolk in your egg whites, or they won’t stiffen. The whites must be beaten with a stand mixer to a soft peak, not stiff. Once the egg whites reach that consistency, they must be carefully folded into the base ingredients (in this case, a cheese sauce). The souflée pan must be buttered and the sides “painted” so the mixture rises. It was delicious!

Cheese Soufflé Atelier Laurel Cooking Class in Provence

Autumn Greens with a signature vinaigrette

Selection of local cheese

A sweet finish:

Tarte Tatin aux Poires
It is a sweet treat made with fresh pears that is perfect for dessert. This dessert is also fun to make during a cooking class as part of the group can prepare the fruit while the rest make the dough.
Check out this recipe
French Dessert Tarte Tatin Pear Tarte Tatin Atelier Laurel

Pear Tarte Tatin Atelier Laurel

The Wine

Château de Nages (website)
Chemin des Canaux
30132 Caissargues

A vineyard now run by the fifth generation of the Gassier family.


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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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