His pupils don’t watch in reverent silence as the chef lectures, then demonstrates his art; they don’t find themselves imprisoned in a lonely farmhouse for a week producing dishes for the maestro to turn his nose up at. Learning the art of cuisine from Cédric is fun, and it’s fast.
Got a half-hour to spare at the end of the morning? Log on to the Secrets de Cuisine website at www.secretsdecuisine.fr, see what’s cooking, and sign up. At 12h30 you enter the light and airy cookery school near the big Carrefour at Antibes, tie on the apron you’re given, and get stuck into learning how to cook the best chicken curry of your life. Thirty minutes later you’re done, dish under your arm and ready to amaze your partner with your newfound talent for cookery.
A little more time to spend perfecting a memorable meal? After a one-and-a-half hour evening course you’ll be serving up, say:
Feuilleté of snails with Savoie cheese
Pan-fried scallops with Jerusalem artichokes
Crème brulée with foie gras
Of course, aspiring cooks bring to the classes different levels of expertise. How does Cédric cope with varying speeds of learning?
“We treat each member of the class individually. If for instance we see that someone is very slow and unconfident when working with a knife, we let the others get on with the preparation while one of the team teaches that person the technique they need,” says the 32-year-old, a hunkier version of John Travolta with the same twinkle in his eye.
“We have space in the teaching kitchen to work individually with 12 people. We take it easy, we don’t rush them, we listen to them. Someone might be anxious about plating up, having in the past cooked a good meal only to ruin it in the serving. Another person may be unsure about what cookware to use for best results. In the end we want our ‘pupils’ to feel that they are operating in their own private restaurant; eating the food they prepare on the spot if they want.”
The ingredients of Cédric’s career so far are impressive. He has worked with Yannick Delpech at l’Amphitryon outside Toulouse and with Raymond Blanc at the Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Hampshire. He saw how successful the cookery courses were at Blanc’s famous Great Milton establishment and decided to create his own version in the South of France.
As he was building towards this dream, he cooked on superyachts and then enjoyed great success as a “Chef à Domicile” preparing the finest dishes for many exacting Riviera clients, from celebrities to business people.
Now sharing his passion for cooking with the likes of you and me, Cédric makes a bold pact with his customers. What happens if just one person signs up for a particular session or course? “Then we put on the course just for that person,” says Cédric, who lives in Biot with his Serbian wife Milica and their two children. “They commit to us when they choose a specific course and date on our website, and we in turn commit to them.” So no last-minute course cancellations here.
You get the feeling that a gift voucher from Secrets de Cuisine could be a hit Christmas present this year. They can be used to buy courses or some of the superb kitchenware on display at the school, from Swiss Diamond – the world’s best nonstick pans – to the layered steel knives of De Buyer.
Oh, and if anyone still thinks that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, then forget it. Two-thirds of the aspiring cooks who come through the doors of Secrets de Cuisine are men.