Already a well-kept secret among Americans traveling to Paris for his off-the-tourist-path city excursions, tour guide and former caterer and pastry chef Richard Nahem has recently paired with chef Charlotte Puckette to design French cooking classes for English-speaking travelers. (Nahem is from New York, and although Puckette has been in Paris for over 20 years, she still calls Charleston, S.C., home.)
Unlike so many other cooking classes offered throughout Paris, Chef Puckette’s menu is designed around classic French food with an ethnic twist. No stranger to the subject, Puckette’s best-selling The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (co-author Olivia Kiang-Snaije; DK Publishing; $30) is an exploration of the many cultures that have historically—and currently—influence what we think of as Parisian food: coquilles dressed up Japanese style with sake and soy, for example, or, as my fiancé Josh and I (above) sliced up in class, a salmon tartar, which we mixed with Lebanese Kibbeh nayye, a hearty bulgar wheat. To be clear, chef Puckette doesn’t just dream these combinations up; she’s well versed in the city’s Middle Eastern, African, and Asian influences, largely shaped by immigrant and ex-pat communities.
Groups—which are capped at eight people—tag along on Nahem and Puckett’s farmers market trips and then head back to Puckett’s beautiful family home and kitchen, right off of Rue Claire, for hands-on instruction. In addition to the Kibbeh nayyeh, made with both fresh and smoked salmon, our group of five also cooked duck breast with roasted peaches, and finished off with an almond macaroon galette with strawberries and crème fraiche.
Though cooking skills in the class were mixed (one 15-year-old chef-to-be seemed to have a better handle on her knife skills than the rest of us), Puckette expertly guided us through food preparation, filling in any time lags (when the duck was in the oven, say, or while we uncorked bottles of southern French wine) with neighborhood restaurant recommendations, and tips on where to buy the best pots and pans and to vacuum seal spices and cheeses for travel, as well as fascinating tidbits of Paris’s ethnic food history (the never ending love affair between Japanese and Parisian chefs and their food was one favorite topic).
The friendly, relaxed environment was a much-needed break from endless walking tours, and the small, intimate group size and late-afternoon conversation made the experience one to remember. $240 for five hours, including all food and wine. Contact Richard Nahem, 33-63/112-8620; email@example.com; eyepreferparistours.com to sign up, or for more information.
Stirling Kelso is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.