Traveling with the CIA to France
France, April 2018. 25 students, 11 days, 2 cities…an unforgettable adventure of international cuisine and culture.
Regal cathedrals boast the richness of French history all across the country. From the style of the spire to the faces and carvings adorning the outside, each component carries meaning.
A beautiful morning walk through Paris led us to the Seine River, where we boarded a boat for some serious chocolate lessons. The majority of the boat was comprised of one large professional-grade kitchen. After a generous offering of croissants, pain au chocolat, and freshly squeezed orange juice, the four-hour interactive class began under the instruction of Chef Jérôme Chaucesse MOF (Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, a very prestigious award whose name translates to “one of the best workers in France”). During the course of the class, we made four types of chocolate ganache and watched Chef Chaucesse demonstrate chocolate mousse cake.
At the end, we enjoyed a buffet of various macarons, mousse cake, and chocolates on the deck.
The Chateau of Versailles is absolutely stunning. The palace boasts 700 rooms and is adorned with gold scrollwork, painted ceilings, chandeliers, and a hall of mirrors. After an audio tour through the picturesque halls of the palace, we roamed the gardens behind. Its quadrants house a variety of statues, fields, and fountains that beg for exploration.
This lovely tapioca dessert was one of four courses served at Restaurant Le 7, a Michelin-recommended restaurant in La Cité du Vin, an interactive wine museum in Bordeaux. The circular dining room was bordered by 360 degrees of windows overlooking the city, which made the delicious meal even more magical.
Saint-Émilion is a charming fairytale town composed of green rolling hills, cobblestone streets, and shop-filled paths. We settled down for an outdoor lunch at Le Clos du Roy, a restaurant run by Chef Nikhola Lavie-Cambot, a trainee of Chef Paul Bocuse. Chef Cambot’s mother plays an integral role at the restaurant as well; she offered us a warm welcome and paid careful attention throughout the three-course meal. Sweet potato hummus with almond milk foam was followed by roasted duck and crispy potato triangles. Dessert was a mojito spin on the traditional French baba.
Throughout the duration of the trip, we visited a total of three wineries, each with its own character. Pictured above is Château Siran in the Bordeaux region of France. The growers and tour guides at each establishment were consistently willing to take us into their vineyards and explain their processes. Each winery offered a tasting as well.
In the middle of the French countryside lies hidden treasure…truffles, that is. Upon arrival at this truffle plantation, we were welcomed into the lovely and cozy home of the owner and his wife. These perfect strangers treated us like family, cooking and serving a four-course meal centered on truffles. At the end of the meal, we trekked out to the hillside bordering their home with the owner and his beloved dog and found some truffles of our own.
Our last night in France offered dinner at a Michelin two-star restaurant, Hostellerie de Plaisance.
The evening began with cocktail hour overlooking the countryside of Saint-Émilion. The food was divine, served with attentive service and thoughtful wine pairings. Fine dining in France really is an experience worth having.
Studying abroad with The Culinary Institute of America is truly a culmination of the entire course of education. It ties together language, history, food, and more to create an experience that aids in students’ understanding of other people and cultures. When traveling as part of a group, especially from a culinary school, unique opportunities abound. After countless plated meals, wine tastings, and opportunities for exploration, we left France with broader worldviews and bigger stomachs.
By Jennifer Knepper