As many of you know, I spend a lot of time in Paris — one of the world’s most beautiful cities—and last year found me there a considerable amount for work. (I can’t complain.)
Everyone knows that France is famous for its cooking — not my forte — and I was tempted to learn some basic French cooking.
It so happens that my Parisian Boss Lady Martha Court (yes, that’s what I lovingly call her) is a very close friend of Pascal Barbot — a three-Michelin-star chef. What I would call a Genius Chef.
Pascal owns the tiny, 22-seater restaurant L’Astrance, which opened on the Rue Beethoven in Paris in 2000. It’s been wildly successful ever since and I was soon to find out why.
It was a Saturday, and Martha assembled a group of eight women, some who flew in from Italy to visit L’Astrance and Chef Pascal.
But it was no ordinary visit. It was a cooking class! And Pascal closed the restaurant just for us!
We crowded around the chef in his small kitchen and he worked slowly, slowly so that we could absorb and take notes on his process for every recipe.
He speaks only French but, ooh-la-la, was so patient. Thank God for my comme-ci, comme-ca French and Martha’s expert translations.
Pascal made a full-course meal: appetizer, entrée and dessert.
The appetizer was razor fish with green-pea puree. To tell the truth, I am not a fan of razor fish, but it had the perfect texture. The combination of the puree added a little something extra. I was sold!
The entrée was a chicken breast with marinated turnips. It was juicier than the usual breast and I learned a special trick on how to coat the chicken in a frying pan so that it doesn’t burn.
The dessert was a crème anglaise with a meringue that sent me over the moon.
I was so rapturous that he brought over the entire anglaise and I ate and ate and ate.
(When I tasted the American version of crème anglaise at a landmark restaurant back in New York, I had to spit it out. I missed Chef Pascal terribly. My palate will never be the same.)
After all, they don’t give you three Michelin stars for being ordinary! The menu was simple, but the flavors will stay with me forever.
After spending 2.5 hours watching Chef Pascal in action, his staff laid out a beautiful table for our lunch. We sat for two hours more, savoring our meal, drinking wine and chatting.
I highly recommend those visiting Paris carve out time for a cooking lesson. Even if it’s learning how to make the best macarons.
What’s your favorite Michelin-star restaurant experience?