We reflect on Ingredients after visiting Lyon and The Bocuse d’Or

As always, Alison and I made our way to Lyon and what we believe to be the pinnacle of culinary competitions on the international stage, The Bocuse d’Or which is held every second year here in France at the Sirha Food Expedition.

This year it was the USA that walked away with this prestigious trophy for the first time in the history of the competition and well deserved it was. France came away with the Gold and are Pastry Champions of the world.

Over the two days we spent in Lyon we made the effort of eating at restaurants around the city and visiting Les Halles Food Market and the Sunday market in the city centre. Les Halles was as always, a fantastic experience and we were in awe at how the locals were enjoying the fresh oysters with a glass of Champagne for breakfast and doing their food shopping taking their time to choose ingredients and chat to the vendors. It was so evident that this was a weekly ritual and that the importance of Fresh, Local and Seasonal Ingredients was paramount to their decision of what to buy.

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For many years now, the title of best chefs, cuisine and restaurants, belongs to no country as there are great chefs in every country and judging by the rather dubious awards and

listings that are thrown out at us each year by so many self-serving corporate brands,journals, newspapers and guides it is difficult to keep track of who reigns supreme from year to year.

We both are privileged to being able to travel extensively each year and wherever we visit we try to visit the local food markets or supermarkets where locals buy their ingredients. Labelling is always top of our list at scrutinizing what the ingredients are and where the produce originates.

This is where we believe the world can learn from the French as we have ourselves have learnt and observed over the nearly fourteen years we have spent here. It is all about Seasonal, Fresh and most importantly Local ingredients which the French strive to use in their kitchen.

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As a family with young children that had just moved to France from the UK the first thing that struck us was that in the schools that our children attended they had chefs that were following these rules and the fact that our children were enjoying asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce at school when it was Asparagus season was just wonderful.

This is a way of life here in France and it all starts at the infant age that children are educated in the home, at school and are even taken on yearly tours of the local food market where vendors take the time to talk and engage with the children. Three meals a day with very little or no snacking is the norm here.

Great restaurants, wonderful and glossy food magazines, celebrity chefs and star studded Food TV shows are all fine, but not if half our population is denied or unable to afford fresh and healthy ingredients since it is just simply unaffordable for them and they find that the only way they can feed themselves and their families is by buying ingredients and meals from multinational supermarket chains and fast food outlets.

Being able to afford healthy food should be a constitutional right not a privilege and all governments should put this at the top of their agendas.

More finance and effort from all those parties who promote Luxury, Fine Dining and Awards should start surfacing as it is becoming more and more difficult for people around the globe to be able to feed themselves with good and honest food. It is children who are mostly at risk and those in power should ensure that the corporate world is held responsible and that profit does not come before healthy meals and the access of nutritious and affordable ingredients to all!

Farmers Markets have become a fad and it is disheartening to see that ingredients can cost up to if not more, than twice the price as the ingredients sold in Multi National Supermarket.

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Congratulations to Zevenwacht Wine Estate!

A huge congratulations to my friends at Zevenwacht Wine Estate in Cape Town! Their 2015 Chardonnay was recently included on the prestigious wine list at La Promenade in the Loire Valley, France. The South African wine is the first non-French wine ever to be included on the Michelin star restaurant’s list. Read the rest of the details in the press release below.

I became acquainted with Zevenwacht Wine Estate on our African Culinary and Wildlife Adventure through Le Calabash. The estate is host to accommodations and Le Calabash’s teaching kitchen during the culinary portion of the tour. It’s a tour that I highly recommend from personal experience.

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Michelin Star Restaurant La Promenade of France offers the 2015 Chardonnay from Zevenwacht Wine Estate of South Africa on Prestigious Wine List

Zevenwacht Wine Estate of Stellenbosch, South Africa announces that Michelin star restaurant La Promenade Maison Dallais in the Le Petit-Pressigny, France now offers their 2015 Chardonnay as part of the restaurant’s wine list. This is the first non-French produced wine ever included on the 30-year old Loire Valley restaurant’s wine list.

“The Zevenwacht Chardonnay is a refreshing change to the Chardonnays we have on our wine list – it is subtly woodsy, crisp, and delicately fruity,” says Xavier Fortin, sommelier at La Promenade. “It’s an excellent choice to go with our ‘Racan’ Chicken dish as well as a great choice with a white fish dish. The wine would even pair well with a chocolate or pear dish from La Promenade’s dessert menu.”

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“We at Zevenwacht are ecstatic with this result. Being the only non-French wine on the list makes it so much more of an achievement,” says Denise Johnson, Director of Zevenwacht Wine Estate.

The wine is produced from 100% Chardonnay grapes that were hand harvested in January of 2015, a month earlier than normal. The grapes come from two different vineyards on the historic Zevenwacht Wine Estate in the Polkadraai Hills of Stellenbosch, South Africa. The winemaker planted both vineyards in 2005 on southwest facing slopes between 200-320 meters above sea level. The elevated slopes lend a natural acidity to the wine, which results in a pleasant pungency and longevity. The open canopies of the vineyards help produce a wine that is rich and full-bodied, and the decomposed granite soil adds a flinty minerality. The Chardonnay was finished in oak barrels at a blend of 20% first fill, 60% second fill, and 20% third fill in French oak barrels.

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Le Calabash Petit Conservatoire de la Cuisine, located in Yzeures-sur-Creuse, France, partners with both La Promenade and Zevenwacht on its culinary tourism programs. La Promenade hosts the farewell dinner for Le Calabash’s French Culinary Adventure. Le Calabash also offers an African Culinary and Wildlife Adventure in South Africa and utilizes Zevenwacht for both accommodations and the site of Le Calabash’s teaching kitchen.

Chef Sidney Bond of Le Calabash is excited to see La Promenade and Zevenwacht work together. “Both the chef and the sommelier at La Promenade are highly respected in the Loire Valley, and the fact that they have chosen this wine is really important to us at Le Calabash as we just opened our cookery school at Zevenwacht Wine Estate. There is a lot of interest in Cape Town’s wines and food now. As a friend and fellow South African, I am proud of Jacques Viljoen, the cellar master and wine maker, and of Zevenwacht Wine Estate.”

Bryan Richards is a craft beer, food, and travel writer. When he’s not following his taste buds around the globe, he enjoys exploring the local craft beer scene in Charlotte, experimenting in the kitchen with his wife, and spending time with his one-year old son. His writing has appeared in Craft Beer, TripIt, and Charlotte Parent. The Wandering Gourmand provides a behind the scenes look at his craft beer and food explorations.

A French Culinary Adventure

On a French Culinary Adventure with le Calabash you will embark on a second to none Culinary Adventure, including hands on cooking classes with Alison and Sidney, two professional award-winning chefs.
You will go behind the scenes, meet the local producers and discover their secrets and stories, including cheese, wine and the local markets. You will also discover many of the Loire Valley’s most renowned sites, such as the Châteaux de la Loire and the historical city of Tours.

Book now on our website www.lecalabash.com

An African Culinary, Wildlife and Fly-in Safari Adventure with le Calabash

On this incredible trip, you will embark on a Culinary and Wildlife experience second to none with two award-winning chefs, Alison and Sidney.

Discover the breath-taking beauty of Cape Town, visit some of the finest wine estates in Stellenbosch, Franschoek and enjoy traditional Cape Malay Cuisine. Experience hands on cooking classes in our new kitchen on the award winning ‘Zevenwacht Wine Estate’ near Cape Town. Home to soaring Table Mountain, golden beaches and bountiful vineyards, Cape Town is sure to capture your heart.

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We fly into the wonder of Namibia where we stay at prime wildlife locations at some of the world’s finest game reserves where we will enjoy game drives and have the opportunity to see many of Africa’s incredible animals including, The Big Five. You will track cheetah on foot, cook under the African stars with local chefs and meet local tribes. You will be staying in luxurious lodge accommodation.

If you are eager for an even deeper and exhilarating experience, come on our extended trip and enjoy the additional Fly-In Safari that focuses on the Namib Desert, one of the oldest deserts in the world. This scenic flight in Namibia guarantees to be one of the highlights of your trip ! No part of the desert is more stunning than Sossusvlei, with its monumentally high dunes, their sinuous crests and warm colours changing as the day waxes and wanes. You will be mesmerised by the incredible views.

Experience the new French Culinary Adventure, by Bryan Richards

As Chef Sidney Bond of Le Calabash often says when talking about current affairs, “It’s a mad world that we live in.” With terrorist events stretching from Brussels to California to Bangladesh, I couldn’t agree with him more. Yet, as I sat in Le Calabash’s authentic French country kitchen getting ready to enjoy A French Culinary Adventure’s welcome dinner, a Taste of the Loire Valley, I couldn’t feel further away from that madness.

Le Calabash continues to improve their world renowned culinary programs. Take a look at what’s in store on their new French Culinary Adventure itinerary!

On the first day of the tour, my group gathered in the “old stable,” the 380-year-old converted barn that now houses Le Calabash’s modern country teaching kitchen.

Chefs Alison and Sidney Bond greeted us with a sparkling wine cocktail of Clermont de Loire with a local cassis as we went through the customary introductions. Nerves were high as strangers stated their names and hometowns. My particular group consisted of students hailing from the United States, Dubai, England, and South Africa.

We then descended into the dining room of the “Old Stable,” where the long wooden table, with enough seating for us plus our hosts, was covered with classic French country dishes ready to introduce us to what Le Calabash had in store over the coming week. With the assistance of locally produced wine, our group became better acquainted as we discussed the dishes and our backgrounds.

Much like everyone in our group, each dish and ingredient came with its own story. The mushrooms were foraged from woods not far from Le Calabash’s hamlet, the St Maure goat cheese was locally produced under the same methods for centuries, and a selection of charcuterie like rillettes and pâtés came from local producers.

Le Calabash continues to improve their world renowned culinary programs. Take a look at what’s in store on their new French Culinary Adventure itinerary!

The next morning, we continued the culinary journey with our first lesson in the kitchen.

One of the changes to the 2016 itinerary is a deeper focus on cooking with seasonal ingredients that can be replicated in our own homes. The lesson begins with a tutorial on butchering and cooking poultry. The French approach cooking poultry as an art, from selecting the proper breed to the final preparation. The outcome of the lesson is Le Calabash’s Gold Medal dish, Chicken Supreme with an Herb Farcé, Confit Leg, Pomme Fondant, and a Jus Roti.

Le Calabash continues to improve their world renowned culinary programs. Take a look at what’s in store on their new French Culinary Adventure itinerary!

Having attended several similar culinary vacations in the past, I liked how Le Calabash’s lessons covered both proper techniques and specific meal preparation. The takeaway was more than a dish to impress your friends back home, but lessons on how to improve general kitchen skills. For example, you don’t just learn how to cook a bourgignon style turbot with baby onions and a red wine sauce served over wilted spinach, you also learn how to identify whether or not the fish from your market is indeed fresh.

Le Calabash continues to improve their world renowned culinary programs. Take a look at what’s in store on their new French Culinary Adventure itinerary!

The challenges in the kitchen seem to grow each day, culminating with Alison’s take on the classic le Vacherin. Creating the multi-layered dessert is a team effort and aids in the self-confidence building process and cultural exchange. You’ll find yourselves celebrating successes or laughing if the dish doesn’t turn out quite right like mine did (I don’t do desserts).

Le Calabash continues to improve their world renowned culinary programs. Take a look at what’s in store on their new French Culinary Adventure itinerary!

There is also plenty of adventure outside of the kitchen.

While the main focus of a French Culinary Adventure is inside the kitchen, a good portion of the learning takes place in the surrounding region. The Loire Valley is considered the breadbasket of France – a country rich in culinary traditions.

The Loire Valley is home to the finest goat cheeses in the world, France’s second largest truffle region, the country’s largest supplier of fresh water fish, La Géline de Touraine chickens, and the largest wine region of France.  Much of that bounty can be seen on the trip to the Tours Farmers Market, one of the finest in France. Other culinary related excursions include a trip to a goat cheese farm and a vineyard in Chinon.

Outside of the culinary related field trips mentioned above, the tour visits a few historic sites. After the market visit in Tours, Sidney then leads the group on a tour of some of the city’s historic sites including the Basilique de St-Martin, a stop on the great pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and the Cathédrale St-Gatien, where Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne’s two children are buried.

In addition, you’ll have a chance to visit the Château of Villandry, a world heritage site. The Château is steeped in French history. It’s where King Philip II of France and King Richard I of England brokered a peace deal. It’s also where Napoleon’s brother Jérôme lived during the French Revolution. Today it stands as a beautiful artifact from the past with luscious green gardens that beg exploration.

There is also some downtime scheduled to either relax on the grounds of Château Valcreuse, your accommodations for the trip, or to bike into the nearby village of La Roche Posay. The château offers plenty to do from strolls along the river to a game of boules in the garden or a dip in the sparkling pool, and La Roche Posay boasts a world-renowned spa and plenty of quaint shops to browse.

Le Calabash continues to improve their world renowned culinary programs. Take a look at what’s in store on their new French Culinary Adventure itinerary!

The trip wraps up with a certificate presentation and sparkling champagne at Le Calabash.

It’s always a teary-eyed event as students say farewell to new friends and celebrate all they accomplished over the previous week from learning new skills in the kitchen to understanding and experiencing a new way of life. A way of life that is foreign to so many of us in our fast-paced lifestyles but necessary to experience and incorporate into our routines for our well-being.

After the ceremony, the group celebrates one last dinner together at Michelin stared La Promenade Restaurant. As you linger over every last bite of exquisite French cuisine, you’ll look around the room at friendships formed over diverse backgrounds and long for the slow country lifestyle and fine eating to continue forever.

Le Calabash continues to improve their world renowned culinary programs. Take a look at what’s in store on their new French Culinary Adventure itinerary!

Yes, we may live in a mad world, but the experience of learning through camaraderie and food breaks down those barriers. The immersion into the French way of life and the experience of working with others across diverse cultures teaches you that the world isn’t quite so mad after all. You all of a sudden find comfort in traveling and food. At least this is how I felt when I completed my French Culinary Adventure.

Bryan Richards is a food, travel, and craft beer writer. He has a passion for exploring regional food and drink and enjoys encouraging readers to discover new places and tastes in a way that inspires curiosity and motivation.  For more info, please visit The Wandering Gourmand.

The Loire Valley and ‘le Calabash’ an outstanding culinary destination.

Finesse rather than fireworks marks the gastronomy of this gentle, lovely region, known for exceptional white wines, delicate fish, and France’s most bountiful fruits and vegetables. At le Calabash we are always asked, why have you chosen this area to setup ‘le Calabash’ and our answer is simply, it is Europe’s most unspoilt, undiscovered and fastest moving Culinary Destination. Putting aside some of the most beautiful countryside, architecture and history, we have so much to offer the Culinary Adventurer. The Loire boasts of the finest wines and sparkling wines in the world. Truffle and Saffron production is on an astronomic increase. Poultry, Pork, Beef and now Lamb is of the best in Europe. As the Loire valley borders the Atlantic, we have some of the finest Oysters and Mussels to be found on the continent. The Loire Valley is known as France’s Bread Basket, and this is evident throughout the year with wonderful Asparagus, Berries, Fruit, Vegetables and our Cheese Production is second to none.

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What we have to offer our guests is an opportunity to enjoy and experience cooking in a Culinary environment second to none !

A Jewel of the Loire Valley ; Château Villandry

In our new French Culinary Adventure le Calabash take you to the stunning Château of Villandry, the last of the great Châteaux of the Loire built during the Renaissance. The sober elegance of its architecture combined with the charm of its outstanding gardens make this one of the Jewels of World Heritage.

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The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Colombier until the 17th century. Acquired in the early 16th century by Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francis I, a new château was constructed around the original 14th-century keep where King Philip II of France once met Richard I of England to discuss peace.
During the French Revolution the property was confiscated and in the early 19th century, Emperor Napoleon acquired it for his brother Jérôme Bonaparte.

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Its famous Renaissance gardens include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens. The gardens are laid out in formal patterns created with low box hedges. In 1934, Château de Villandry was designated a Monument historique. Like all the other Châteaux of the Loire Valley, it is a World Heritage Site.

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bonds@lecalabash.fr | http://www.lecalabash.com