Tips for beginner cooks from a French chef

We recently sat down with Marlene, one of our chefs in France, to chat about her cookery school and her top tips for beginner cooks hoping to improve their skills.

Chef Marlene teaches all levels of chefs in the Lot-et-Garonne region, just one hour from Bordeaux, at her French farmhouse, where she happily covers everything from French pastry baking to cooking with local ingredients (and meeting the producers!).

Because of her location in rural France, she loves to create fresh, locally-sourced dishes using produce from the area. So it makes sense that the very first skill she teaches in all of her cooking courses is how to select seasonal ingredients during visits to the local markets.

Then, using recipes passed down for generations, she shows her guests how to get the most out of those fresh items during preparation, and later in the cooking method. For all levels, this is supplemented by visits to local producers, which can include a:

  • local butcher,
  • pâtisserie,
  • winery,
  • fish farm,
  • artisan chocolaterie
  • duck farm,
  • cheese maker,
  • game farm, &
  • prune producer

As a former wine buyer, Marlene knows the ins and outs of subtle tastes and pure ingredients. When asked if there is a dish that everyone should learn or know how to cook, she simply replied, “Everyone should know how to braise meat properly.”

Which, of course, is something she teaches in her week-long cooking holiday.

Finally, we delved into the top mistake she sees beginner cooks making, and how they can fix it. She said:

“[Beginners] throw themselves into cooking from a recipe without understanding the why’s. Everyone has to think of the logic behind a cooking method. Most of the time, asking themselves the right questions pretty much answers them instantly.”

Well said, Marlene. Stay tuned for more on Chef Marlene, her cooking courses and why they are ideal for single travellers. For now, you can check out her cookery holidays for day-by-day itineraries and more about her corner of rural France.

Oh, and in case your mouth isn’t watering yet thinking about French cuisine, here’s some tempting photos of her creations.