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Saturday market under Montparnasse tower


1.jpgUnder the Parisian scyscraper Montparnasse at the Edgar Quinet market on sunny Saturday morning of the first autumn day we are welcomed by the 2011 champion of France in amateur cooking, Yvon Reyss. As is usual for France this charming man is a professional in his knowledge that he hands over to the others with passion and enthusiasm.

During the introduction he explains that besides the cooking classes for the City of Paris (Mairie de Paris), which are organized free for the public, he is often a chef in various prestigeous Parisian restaurants and he offers his services as a chef at home, when even the hosts can feel and be served at their home as in a fancy restaurant.

The program of our class is „tartine niçoise“ (the Nice toasts), in front of2.jpg us on working desk there are big knives, loaves of bread, fresh sardines, black olives, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, goat cheese from Bourgogne and a lot of spices and herbs.

We find out that in our small group, besides my Slovak origin, my Greek friend and a French couple, there are also several young American girls, for whom our chef switches at some moments to a fluent English.

My Greek friend can be proud of her seaside origin with her skillful movements of opening and cleaning the sardines, separating the head an3.jpgd even finding and taking out the small back bone. While putting the sardines on the hot pan we learn that the fish has to be always put on the pan first with the side which will be presented on the plate and that the spices and herbs get revealed with the heat so should be always added at the beginning of cooking and not at the end.

During the whole cooking lesson, the chef gives us advice which can serve also as a life philosophy: „When you peal the skin of a tomato, you cannot think of anything else. Be careful how you move the knife when cutting the tomato so that you do not squash it, otherwise it will loose its vitamins. When cooking, clean your working desk all the time and measure the time permanently“.

Even the simplest gestures, such as cutting the bread, onion, or removing the tomato skin have their „astuces“ (special advices), exact „know-how“.

An elderly lady stops by and asks how she can register for such a class, to her remark that she does not have an internet, the chef’s assistent Pascal looks at her like if she just has fallen from another planet.

While doing the last decorations and seasoning of the „tartines niçoises“, t4.jpghe chef remarks: „Remember the two most important things in the kitchen: Regulating the fire and regulating the quantity of salt and pepper“. Do not salt with your fingers but make generous clouds of salt. When showing this by covering the ground with the salt like if it was snow, we forget to close our mouths. Good quality food is based on fresh ingredients and short cooking time without grease“.

The objective of these cooking classes organized by the city of Paris is to democratize the cooking, to prove that even outside in the street, on the market you can make simple things full of good tastes and smells. As Yvon Reyss says „it is a luxury to come back to the things we like“.

The French even at cooking and the art table enjoy using a sophisticated vocabulary, with the expressions such as „explosion des saveurs“ (explosion of tastes), „produits noba.jpgles“ (noble products), „parfums“ (parfumes in the sense of smells), „moments de bonheur“ (moments of happiness).

A curious information: Do you know the term „camion qui fume“ (smoking truck)? It is truck crossing Paris, inside of which a real cook is cooking, and in front of which are long queues of people waiting for a hamburger which costs 15 euro (but there is a quality behind the cost). 

Maria Dopjerova-Danthine, Paristep