Fish & Crustaceans – Another Amazing Week in Gramont

File 25-06-2016, 09 47 18The stunning Lot-et-Garonne region sits in the South West of France and is home to the Gascony Cookery School based in Gramont, run by David and Vikki Chance, and Bernard Corbière. The school runs from ‘Le Petit Feuillant’ chambre d’hote, the French equivalent of a Bed and Breakfast and ‘Le Petit Feuillant’ Auberge, the excellent traditional restaurant run by Bernard.

I had received an email in November 2015, “we are happy to announce that the Gascony Cookery School’s new Fish and Crustacean Course……..”, with only 8 places and two filled I booked straight away. The school is very familiar to me, having attended a course in 2014 and remembering a fantastic time, It was difficult to count down the months until the day came to depart.20160621_111855There is a SERIOUS amount of cooking on this course and it is excellent value for money, preparing and eating local French traditional cuisine, three courses, with local cheese and copious quantities of wine to wash things down twice a day, and don’t forget the breakfast, you don’t go hungry.

A trip to a local market to buy produce for the meals cooked is part of the experience, armed with a shopping list, basket and some euro’s you wander to select the various fresh vegetables and herbs which you use later in the week. A surprise trip to a fantastic vineyard, with an impromptu picnic with stunning scenery finishes off the week, so the experience envelops and immerses you in French country life.20160621_152005There were 8 of us on the course, here we have left to right Julia (From Tasmania!), Elena and her mum Judith, David (the chef/host) and John, in the kitchen were two friends from St. Petersburg (Russia), the attendees come from all over the world, in this case everyone but Elena had attended at least one previous course, some more than one which demonstrates how good the Gascony Cookery School really is. This was a session on gutting, de-scaling and filleting fish, we were all very comfortable and confident by the end of the week.20160622_123937We had a comprehensive agenda starting most days with breakfast at 8:30, and cooking starting at 9:00. The times are really important, there was a lot to get through and we could not afford to get behind as we would not have anything to eat.

Everyone mucks in and helps with clearing down as each dish is finished and the next started. Examples on the menu included Mussell Soup with infused Saffron, Lobster a l’americaine, Scallop Quenelles in Chicken Consommé (yes, we made a Consommé from scratch), Rillettes Of Trout, Bouillabaisse………etc. For desserts our efforts included Millefeuille aux Pommes, Pièce Montée (aka Croquembouche), Almond & Orange Cake (which was so so good) we made about 18 different dishes in total, so you learn ‘A LOT’ of techniques and processes!20160620_131400-1 (1)So would I recommend this school, hell yeah it’s awesome. My second visit was just like the 1st which is difficult to describe as you HAVE to experience it for yourself. Just to be clear, I paid full price and have received no incentives for this review, it’s me, what I think and as good as a description of the experience I can give.20160622_081928The scenery is stunning, the weather was good enough to eat outside several times peaking at 41 deg on one day. It’s a trip for people who want to learn, definitely not one for lazing around so it takes your mind away from the thought of work and within a day, I could not tell you what day it was. The hosts David, Vikki and Bernard make you so welcome it really is like being part of an extended family!20160620_162012A course like this needs excellent ingredients, seafood HAS to be fresh and ours was no exception. The planning that goes into ensuring the right products are available is not easy, especially when the school location is in the middle of nowhere!

We had the most amazing Lobster (alive) and Crab (also alive), the rest of the fish was the same (but not alive!!) with bright eyes and beautiful red gills so the resultant dishes were just sublime. There was no ‘sharing’ of ingredients, it was a Lobster each, a Sea Bass each, a Red Mullet each so we all got the chance to learn and practise the gutting, de-scaling, and filleting several times gaining more and more confidence each time.20160622_125022-1It was not just about preparing Fish and Crustaceans, the stunning Crab Tart required a very delicate ‘Pâte Brisée’, a REALLY short pastry which had to be chilled for a couple of days and was an absolute challenge to get into the tart tin, it was well worth it, the results were outstanding. 20160621_215945Just as difficult, I think even more so was the ‘Pâte Sablée’, a sweet version for the Walnut and Honey tart we made, it was very crumbly and needed a lot of work to line the tart tin properly but the the end result made it well worth it. Add to that making proper multi layered stocks and prepping veg it’s full on at the Gascony Cookery School but really good fun.

If you like cooking and fancy doing something a bit different point you browser at as I did, I will be returning in the future as they also do an advanced week which I have not done yet, and a shorter charcuterie course too.

It’s a fantastic experience, you will learn loads and make new friends with a common interest so give it a go, you will not be disappointed with amazing hosts David, Vikki and Bernard.


………………………..Until next time, L8ers……………………………………




I hope you are hungry – Day 1 at the Gascony Cookery School

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 071Find a village in the middle of nowhere, inhabitants about 10 families, on a hilltop with an ancient Chateau, 1 restaurant (le petit feuillant) owned by the lovely Bernard, and chambres d’hotes run by the wonderful David and Vikki and you have a recipe for a unique and wonderful experience.

Gramont is in Gascony, in the southwest corner of France. Served by Toulouse airport, its only  1 hour 45 minutes from Heathrow and a world away from the hustle and bustle of the UK.

We started the morning learning knife skills, each of us had our own professional knife set and steel, used to ‘hone’ the blade before each day. After practicing on a range of vegetable we started work on a number of dishes which added further to our skills.Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 006When you see those chefs on TV, forcefully ‘launch’ Onions and other ingredients in a frying pan and wondered why it does not work for you, then come on this course and you will learn the secret, its not as easy as its looks but when you have a guide like David, a professional trained chef it becomes a lot clearer and you get to practice in the safety of a quality teaching kitchen.Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 026The Onions, once fried were to be a component in the Duck Pizza we were making for lunch, which was quite delicious, we had prepared two lots, one with Chilli the other without. The cutouts from the pastry were used to make the equivalent of ‘Money Pouches’, filled with some of the Onion mixture and some Cheese.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 010Gateau Pithiviers, filled with an Almond cream was the dessert, learning hints and tips on decoration and presentation gave everyone confidence as the morning progressed towards lunch which was taking on the terrace, with spectacular views of the Gascony countryside.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 019We also learnt how to make a PROPER Crepe Suzette sauce, I am not going to tell you how, book the course and you will find out.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 036The afternoon was spent at Bernard’s restaurant to learn some more cooking skills. First we prepared a Cassoulet, layers 0f vegetables, Smoked Bacon Lardons, Sausage, Pigs Trotters (for the Gelatine), Haricot Verts— etc… It cooks for several hours, is allowed to cool, and finished off the next day with Duck Confit.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 050If you are squeamish, then Foie Gras maybe a bit challenging, personally I love it but don’t get to eat it very often (its not cheap!). We learnt how to prepare this delicacy 3 different ways including pain d’epices, stuffed with…….thin slices of Ginger Cake, its delicious as we found out during the evening meal.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 065Flipping Crepes introduced some competition into the afternoon, I am the only bloke on the course, surrounded by 5 competitive ladies, all of them lovely in their own unique way. Two of us on the course are lonesome doves, the other 2 pairs are sisters from the UK and Australia and we are having a blast.

Back to David’s (only a 5 minute walk) and we prepared a sweet pastry that needs to rest for several hours before we can roll it out.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 095This evenings meal extravaganza was AMAZING. Before settling down, we visited a unique Museum Du Vin, underneath the restaurant, which was fascinating, you have to come and see it for yourself. The menu gourmande, Gascony haute cuisine was stunning, 3 versions of Foie Gras (we know how to make that now), beautiful Soup, Rump Steak cooked to perfection, a palate cleanser of Pear Sorbet with Eau De Vie, (I also had the Cheese course, when in France and all that), and finished of with Crepes Suzette which we prepared ourselves, practicing in the kitchen the technique of Flambe!

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 112

So, if I could give 20 out of 10 I would, today has been busy, fun, we’ve learnt loads, eaten loads, drunk loads (the wine seems free flowing!), and I cannot wait for tomorrows adventure.

You have to come here, its AMAZING….

Till next time… L8ers……………..





THE Gascon Cookery School (Adventure)

Firstly an apology, no pictures today. Its been a long one, up at 4:45 a.m., drive to Airport, eat  really poor Bacon sandwich at Heathrow T5, get on Plane, have cup of tea and watch Rick Stein eats the Blues. Picked up at Airport with the lovely Claire and whisked of to Gramont in Gascony, via Concorde, Fighter Plane outside museum, rolling counrtyside and Garlic fields..

We were greeted by the welcoming Vicki and David, amazing hosts. On arrival, and after settling in, lunch was beckoning us at the local Auberge, Le Petit Feuillant, the start of a gastronomic experience. Run by Bernard Corbiere, the 65 cover eatery served tasty amazing food. A delicious Aperitif, Foie Gras, home made Soup (delicious), Chicken (that tasted of Chicken), with superb sauce and vegetables, Quiche (homemade and sublime) and an Apple dessert with Chocolate Mousse, then coffee in the sun, on the terrace.#stuffed

A few hours to chill and start a new book, “A Tourist in the Arab Spring”, by Tom Chesshyre proved a good purchase.

The rest of the foodies arrived and shortly after 7 p.m. we were munching wild Boar canapes on the terrace before sitting down to a fabulous  meal. I already feel part of a multi-cultural family, we covered all manner of topics whilst munching through more Foie Gras, sliced Duck with Potatoes cooked in…….Duck Fat, delicious Cheese, and Pain Perdu, with delicious Coulis and Creme Fraiche.

David and Vicki are wonderful hosts, the wine was free flowing, delicious and generous, the conversation around the table was funny, inclusive and made everyone feel at home.

I’m just finishing a glass of wine before hitting the sack, knife skills tomorrow and I’ve been up for nearly 20 hours so better get some rest!  This feels like its going to be another amazing foodie adventure.

Until next time, L8ers……….