Bouillabaisse Discovery at Provence Gourmet Cooking Classes
Gilles Conchy says it was Provencal food and family ties that tugged him back to Provence after four years in California. Although, he admits that he could still be a “California boy.” The sandy, windswept beaches and seemingly endless sunny days of the southwest U.S. fit like a second skin to someone who grew up in Marseille. It is a place where the Mediterranean and cobalt sky compete in a daily beauty pageant.
Back on native soil, Gilles and his wife chose a modern house in the area that once inspired Paul Cezanne’s landscapes, with the trappings of Aix-en-Provence on their doorstep. Gilles admits that 12-acres of land requires a dedication to gardening activities to ensure that the natural environment does not take over. Every year they plant a large organic potager (vegetable garden) to take advantage of the long growing season.
Ergology and ergonomics may not be the classic educational path for someone who is now sharing his passion for the region through his Provence Gourmet cooking school. Gilles’ love for Provence is clear. He spent a few years guiding visitors to must-see highlights, but it was sharing the local food traditions that called his name.
Provence Gourmet was launched in March 2014. Gilles’ goal is to share the gastronomy of the region with visitors in a convivial environment. He does this through hands-on cooking classes for groups of 2-7 people. The day starts at 9:30 am with a tour of the market in Aix-en-Provence, and wraps-up by 4 pm (16h) when the participants have full bellies and big smiles.
Through Provence Gourmet cooking classes, Gilles shares his childhood memories of two grandmothers’ kitchens. As a boy, Gilles waited quayside for his father and uncles to return to Marseille’s port with that day’s catch.
When he describes bouillabaisse, you enter the door of his grandmother’s kitchen where she created this fisherman’s soup from unsold fish scraps. You can read more about the humble beginnings of this now gourmet Provencal dish here.
Now mostly for children and tourists, the bi-annual transhumance (read more here) of herds of sheep and goats to higher/lower pastures continues to mark spring and autumn in Provence. However, away from the tourist centres, at the foothills of the French Alps in Sisteron, the seasons are truly marked by this pastoral activity. Not much has changed since the time when Gilles would drink-in the aromas of gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb) and potato gratin roasting in his paternal grandmother’s kitchen.
To find out more about Gilles’ Provence Gourmet cooking classes check out his website here. Menus are based around seasonal ingredients and his desire to demystify bouillabaisse.
Image Credits: All photos were provided by and published with the permission of Provence Gourmet