Celebrating the Everyday Pleasures of Cooking
C’est Bon Cooking School
Andrée Riffou may be a Cordon Bleutrained master chef, but her approach to teaching is simple: to reacquaint people with the everyday pleasures of preparing and eating tasty, homegrown food.
“I want to show people how easy it is once they have the basic techniques,” says Riffou, who owns the Sandy Hill cooking school, C’est Bon Cooking. “When you know the result, it gives you the confidence that you can repeat it. That’s a real ‘aha!’ moment.”
In her fully-equipped, state-of-the-art home kitchen, students prepare simple Frenchinspired dishes, while learning classic techniques for chopping and slicing, making stocks and sauces, braising, sautéing and caramelizing meats and other culinary arts. Just as important: they have fun doing it and leave her classes motivated to try more challenging dishes at home.
Riffou teaches all her students about the value of local, sustainably produced food. She sources most of her ingredients from area suppliers and emphasizes the importance of knowing the people who produce your food. One of her specialties is leading culinary tours within the Ottawa area that showcase food markets, chefs and food artisans in neighbourhoods such as the By- Ward Market, Preston Street, Chinatown, Wellington West, the Glebe and Eddy Street in old Gatineau.
She herself learned to cook as a child growing up in Gaspé and Northern Québec. Although she began her career as an economist (and still runs her own management consultancy), it was her lifelong dream to attend Le Cordon Bleu. After studying at the institute’s Ottawa and Paris schools, she attained Le Cordon Bleu’s highest qualification — Le Grand Diplôme de cuisine et de pâtisserie — and opened C’est Bon Cooking in 2008.
As a teacher, Riffou loves seeing adults and kids grow more confident in the kitchen. For example, in a crêpe-making class for Girl Guides, she noticed the children move from very cautiously handling the lumps of dough to getting excited as they watched the crêpes form in their fry pans. “They saw for themselves that the process worked,” she says. “Right away they wanted to experiment and make the crêpes bigger or smaller.”
To help older teens develop the food skills they’ll need when they leave home, Riffou offers a week-long cooking camp either at March break or during the summer. Kids leave knowing how to prepare soup stock, assemble a quiche from scratch, roast a chicken, make a stew and steam fish, among other things. They also learn how to store food safely and what to stock in a starter pantry.
“I encourage all my students to really engage with food, to touch it, to smell it, to taste things they may never have tried before and to have fun doing it,” she explains. “Cooking is all about stimulating the senses and celebrating the extraordinary gift of food.”
C’est Bon Cooking