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Lovers' Long Lunch Date

Crab Cakes at L'Atelier des Chefs

My French colleagues indulge themselves to a long leisurely 3 course lunch break at least once a week. In other companies, 2 hour long lunches are the norm. Lunch time in France is when we socialise with our colleagues, have business meetings, negotiate with clients, discuss current affairs: Sarko vs Sego, Does Chirac have 3 or 4 mistresses?, procrastinate about work etc… French colleagues seldom meet at the local pub/ bar for drinks after work or on the weekends. It’s just not done in the French culture. After work, it’s family time.

August, being a slow month… I’ve decided this is my one chance to take a 2 hour long lunch and not feel badly about it. Today, Ben and I take off for lunch together… our first long lunch in the year. (See? What’s not to like about August!) We met halfway at metro Miromesnil in the 8th arrondissement and made lunch for each other at L’Atelier des Chefs (Chefs’ workshop).

Upon arrival, we washed our hands and were given a disposable apron. There were 12 of us in the class and we were divided into 3 work stations. The ingredients: crab meat, onions, condiments, green leafy salad etc. were washed and cleaned for us. Our teacher chef, Philippe Kratz, taught us how to season and shape the crab cakes and led us through the whole cooking process.

Each workstation also had a stove assigned. We took turns to make our own crab cakes. My group was agreeable and we had fun cooking as a team. The class ate together at a long communal dining table. Dessert and wine are an additional EUR3-5.

French-version Crab Cake with Salad

For Crab cake:

  • 500g crab meat
  • 5 thin slices of white bread
  • 25cl milk
  • 1 medium size lemon
  • 1 small white onion
  • ¼ bunch flat leaf parsley
  • ¼ bunch estragon
  • ¼ bunch dill
  • 3cl hazelnut oil
  • 3cl soya sauce
  • 2 eggs

  • For the salad:
  • 800g mesclun or mixed salad
  • 150g cherry tomatoes
  • 10cl olive oil
  • 4cl balsamic vinegar
  • Special tools needed: small round tart rings and baking paper

    Remove all stems from the fresh herbs. Thinly slice them up. Dice the small onions as finely as possible.
    Flip the bread in the milk until slightly soaked. Scrunch into cubes.
    Put all crab cake ingredients together and mix well.

    Cut squares of baking paper; 2 per crab cake (=12). They have to be bigger than your small tart rings.
    Place a small silver ring on each serving plate and place the salad around the ring.

    Heat a non-adhesive frying pan at medium heat. Place a sheet of baking paper on the frying pan. Put the ring on top.
    Fill the ring with crab meat mixture. Press down with spoon to make a compact crab cake.
    Squeeze a little olive oil onto the pan, if you like. Cook for 2 mins.
    Place a second piece of baking paper on top and flip the crab cake over to cook on the other side for an extra 2 mins.

    To serve, place a crab cake ring onto each plate and gently remove the ring. Dress the salad. Enjoy!

    In my opinion, L’atelier des Chefs at Rue Penthiève is what every cooking school should be: clean, modern, hands-on, no fuss, inventive, friendly and most importantly: affordable! Most cooking classes, through institutions like the Ritz Escoffier and Le Cordon Bleu are intense 9-month long classes and cost a fortune for those of us not seeking to be profession chefs. Others like Patricia Wells and Susan Hermann-Loomis are booked for years in advance by tourists who pay EUR2000 to EUR4000 for a 5-day course.

    Kitchen at L'Atelier des Chefs

    Classes at L’atelier des chefs, last between 30mins to 3hours, depending on the type of classes and the cost ranges from EUR15 for my lunch class called L’en Cas to EUR60 for “La Tradition”. There are also specialty classes, such as cocktail, potato, high tea etc.

    I also like the fact that there are teacher chefs from different disciplines and restaurant backgrounds. The teacher chefs are approachable and are open to questions during and after classes. Most of the classes are taught in French, a few are in English. And even if you don’t speak French too well, you will be able to follow the cooking classes by observation and doing what your neighbour does. L’atelier des chefs at Rue Penthiève also has a bookstore and an equipment section.

    Classes at L’atelier des chefs are also available in shopping centres/ malls Galleries Lafayette Maison in the 9th arrondissement and at Le Printemps Nation in the 20th arrondissement. The classes here take place in glass partitioned rooms. I’ve done a class at Galleries Lafayette Maison on a Saturday many moons ago and felt like a big fish in a small aquarium…. There is not much elbow room and we are bound to have some freak outside the aquarium making faces or doing something annoying.

    No one bats an eye when I came back from my 2 hour lunch. Can August please last a little longer?

    L’atelier des chefs
    10 rue de Penthiève
    Paris, 75008
    Métro : Melimontant
    All reservations are made on the website: http://www.atelierdeschefs.com


    Nice writeup on this place to take cooking classes a la carte, lpc! It looks like an interesting and fun way to fit in a lesson here and there as well! So glad to see your beautiful blog.

    hey ginny, i will definitely give it a try some day!!! thanks for the suggestion...


    Nazimah: let me know how you like the classes.

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