You have to love France’s education system.
When Clément Vandenhove was a three-year old schoolboy in Lille (France’s fourth largest city, near the border with Belgium), he made his first delicacy – yogurt cake.
The recipe called for an empty yogurt container for measuring: flour (three containers-full), sugar (two), oil (one-half), plus baking powder. Bake and…voilà
It’s a long way from Lille to Winnipeg but Clément is currently an instructor and the chef-guide at Alliance Française Manitoba. Housed at 934 Corydon Ave., near Stafford Street, Alliance isn’t far from Wolselely…. just an hour’s walk from the furthest corner of our neighbourhood.
A little piece of France, Alliance Française is a centre for sharing that country’s culture worldwide. This October, it enters its 100th year in Winnipeg.
Since May 2013, Winnipeg’s Alliance Française has offered monthly French-English, hands-on, theme-based cooking classes led by Clément. He sees French Cuisine, as the classes are called, as being "a window into Alliance, the French language and culture."
When asked if cooking is his hobby or passion, he asks, "What’s the difference?"
For him, a hobby is passion.
French Cuisine is open to everyone, but limited to six. A cheque or credit card reserves a spot, first come first served. The cost depends on the ingredients of the day. Wine is served during meal preparation and dining.
January’s Festin d’Hiver ($44) was so popular, a second class was added. The three-course Winter Feast heralded onion soup (Clément’s mother’s recipe where the onions and more are cooked and blended into a fragrant green broth, tucked beneath bread crisps and cheese); chicken en blanquette (enrobed in a veggie-bejeweled white wine cream); and King’s Cake, a traditional round of almond paste-filled puff pastry, topped with a decorative crown to honour the three wise men on Epiphany, the Christian feast celebrated Jan. 6.
February is carnival month. On Friday, Feb. 21, between 5 and 7:30 p.m., in Alliance’s chic Bocuse Kitchen (named for the famous chef from Lyon), the class will roll out the Flavours of Mardi Gras.
Students will have a hand in creating savoury crepes, jambalaya and beignets, the official donut of Louisiana ($39).
At the time of writing, February’s class is fully registered. But a second gastronomical Mardi Gras has been scheduled for Friday, March 7.
And there’ll be another class — Vegetarian Delights (Délices Végéteriens) on March 21.
For more information, phone Alliance Française, (204) 477-1515.
Gail Perry is a community correspondent for Wolseley.