A Culinary Tour of a Lifetime!

Join BRET’S TABLE for an experience of a lifetime in the south of France. Revel in the extraordinary beauty of Provence, while relaxing with an aperitif on the terrace of La Pitchoune, the former residence of Julia and Paul Child. Julia and Simone (Simca) Beck worked together on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II when she and Paul lived here for extended periods of time.

The home is a classic Provençal-style farmhouse with a red tiled roof and beautifully painted shutters. It sits just up the hill from Domaine de Bramafam, the former home of Simca. The kitchen of La Pitchoune is the only remaining, intact working space, that Julia used during her extraordinary life. The house has three bedrooms, each with two twin beds and a private bath. It is situated on a hillside among olive and cypress trees, wild flowers and vineyards overlooking Grasse and the village of Placassier.

Kathie Alex, the current owner and director of the property, will take us through a week long culinary tour of cooking classes, market tours, and dining in some of the area’s finest restaurants.

Kathie Alex’s love of French cooking and culture began in 1979 when she attended Simca Beck’s cooking school in Provence. Once she experienced life in Provence, Ms. Alex knew she would not be able to return to her career as an accountant, so she began her training as a chef.

With the help of her mentor, Simca Beck, Ms. Alex was able to train at Roger Verge’s restaurant, Le Moulin de Mougins. She also attended Lenotre’s Professional Cooking School outside of Paris, as well as La Varenne, Le Cordon Bleu, and Marie-Blanche de Broglie in Paris. Through her association with the Great Chefs Cooking School at Robert Mondavi Winery in California, she had the opportunity to work with many prominent American culinary figures including Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, Alice Waters, and Bradley Ogden. Ms Alex also developed recipes for Michel Richard’s cookbook, Home Cooking with a French Accent.

Bret Bannon, a self-professed Francophile and longtime cooking instructor at Cooks of Crocus Hill in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota will lead the tour and has already sought out adventures to maximize this once in a lifetime experience.

Bret Bannon has spent a lifetime cooking and learning from others along the way. He was very fortunate to have staged at the Park Avenue Café in New York with then-pastry chef Dan Budd and with award-winning Chocolatier BT McElrath, whose headquarters are in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

During the past 20 years or so, while at the cooking school of Cooks of Crocus Hill in Saint Paul, Minnesota, he has worked with many notable chefs and cookbook authors including Suvir Saran, Marcus Samuelson, Anne Willian, Kathie Alex, Jeffrey Alford and Zoë François.

He has shared his passion for the table for more than six years by teaching at Cooks of Crocus Hill in Saint Paul, Minnesota and most recently at The Chef’s Gallery in Stillwater, Minnesota. His cooking segments have aired on the mid-morning program of KARE 11 called Showcase Minnesota and he has consulted for General Mills, Inc. His recipes and food styling have also been featured in the “Savvy Host” section of Midwest Home magazine and Cooking Pleasures magazine.

Cooking Classes and Meals
Guests arrive on Sunday afternoon and begin their cultural immersion with a casual dinner to meet the other students. Continental breakfasts are served every morning. There will be three cooking classes at La Pitchoune where we’ll prepare a 5-course lunch together. Afterwards, we will sit down and enjoy the feast.

Another day will find us visiting the markets in Cannes and enjoying a behind the scenes kitchen tour at a 2-Star Michelin restaurant, before our aperitifs and lunch overlooking the Cote d’Azur.

Our last day might be a cooking class taught by a notable chef from the area or an in-restaurant class followed by lunch as we take in the view of the yachts in the harbor of Antibes or an in-restaurant class and lunch at one of Alan Ducasses’ properties south of Avignon.  Each week’s itinerary and menus focus on what is available and in season and the chef’s availability during a particular time of year.

Evening meals are on our own, but oftentimes students will have impromptu gatherings at La Pitchoune enjoying the abundance of goodies from our afternoon shopping excursions! The class size is limited to six people so, typically by the end of the week, everyone has become fast friends.

Tours around Provence
As Kathie says, “In addition to meeting, working, and dining with local residents and chefs, students truly get to know their surroundings as I guide them through the bargains of the markets and specialty boutiques on what literally is a cook’s tour of Provence. This is so much more than a cooking school. I want to give people a real experience of the French people, food, and local color.”

Past Morning Excursions:

  • Forville, the beautiful outdoor food and flower market of Cannes. Everything from produce, flowers, Provençal house items, to a butcher shop are at the markets.
  • Lunch at a Michelin two-star restaurant in Cannes, including a ‘behind the scenes tour’ where Kathie will share with us the keys to a well-designed professional kitchen.
  • An in-kitchen class at another Michelin two-star restaurant followed by a multi-course lunch.

Possible Afternoon Excursions:
After our day of class, you are free to roam the countryside or sign up for the afternoon tours with Bret, starting at 3:00pm daily.

  • Fragonard, a parfumerie in Grasse, which began creating perfumes in 1926
  • A family-owned confectionary where for example, organic rose petals are turned into a delicious and ethereal jam. A spoonful is delightful in a glass of champagne as the petals unfurl and the hint of roses turn the champagne into an aperitif.
  • A trip to the hill town of Saint Paul de Vence or the old City of Nice, where we’ll wander the streets.
  • Watch the glass blowers and visit the pottery shops in and around Biot.
  • If you prefer during your free time, the bright lights of Monte Carlo and the beaches of the Cote d’Azur may beckon, as they are only 30 to 60 minutes away.

We can also assist you with options prior to or after our tour to Paris or other destinations.