UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 4 | Apr. 3, 2003

UBC Serves up its First Cooking Class

Reporter tangles with duck

By Michelle Cook

Fifteen minutes into my first French cooking class, I learned that de-boning a raw duck is a lot harder than it looks.

Mine slid off my cutting board when I tried to slice through its wing joints, leaving a bloody skidmark down the stainless steel countertop. I hurried to wipe up the evidence before Chef Eric came over to inspect my progress, but I was still a little reluctant to get a firmer grip on my bird.

“Allez, you have to get your hands dirty,” Chef Eric coaxed.

Half an hour earlier, I had arrived at Cyrano Restaurant, not far from campus, to begin an unusual UBC course. The Culture and Traditions of French Regional Cuisine is the first cooking class offered by UBC Continuing Studies and to teach it, they hired professional chef Eric Arrouzé, an expert on French cuisine.

Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, Arrouzé spent 19 years working his way up the kitchen hierarchy in some of Europe’s top resorts, eventually becoming executive chef at a five-star hotel on the French Riviera where he cooked for the likes of Catherine Deneuve and the band U2. After coming to Canada and leaving the restaurant business, Arrouzé got his B.C. Instructor Diploma and has been teaching culinary arts for five years.

At Cyrano, Arrouzé greeted me and nine other students warmly, then quickly launched into his first lesson with a mouth-watering run-down of all the dishes from Bordeaux that we would be preparing and eating every Monday night for the next six weeks -- pan-seared duck confit with Madeiran wine sauce, potatoes sautéed with black truffles, terrine of fois gras with Cognac, poached pears in Bordeaux, and apple tart with Cognac and almond cream to name a few.

Arrouzé then led us into Cyrano’s narrow kitchen, where he issued each of us a white apron, a cutting board, a pair of sharp knives and a whole raw duck. Lined up elbow-to-elbow with the other would-be cooks, I watched Chef Eric rapidly slice the legs, breasts and wings off a fowl, leaving behind a cleanly stripped carcass.

“You can de-bone a duck very easily and quickly,” said Chef Eric, tossing a leg onto a huge metal tray. “Okay, now you do it.”

Over the next two hours, I managed, somewhat clumsily, to carve up my bird. I deglazed onions, chopped parsley, and then chopped it some more at Eric’s command. (“Finer, finer. It must be very fine!”). Throughout the evening, Chef Eric peppered his instructions with his own hilarious recollections of ruined omelets, spilled cream, family dinners, and harsh mentors to add an authentic dash of French culinary life to the lesson, and introduce us to the significance of the dishes to the Bordeaux region.

By the time the class was over, my fellow students and I -- under Chef Eric’s watchful eye -- had produced an impressive first meal of typical dishes from the Bordeaux region: duck rillettes au torchon, oysters gratinées with Champagne, salmon tartar Dijonaise and roasted marinated Portobello mushroon salad. We promptly devoured it.

In the weeks to follow, Chef Eric taught me how to de-vein a goose liver, make pastry and cook with shocking amounts of duck fat. I also learned that, in French cooking at least, there are eight ways to chop vegetables, and that you should never -- ever -- be cheap with your seasonings. And while I picked up some amazing new culinary skills, what stays with me -- aside from the five pounds I gained -- are the tastes and culture of Bordeaux.

And this pleases Chef Eric and Judith Plessis.

Plessis is the director of UBC Continuing Studies’ Languages, Cultures and Travel Division. She worked with Arrouze to develop the Bordeaux course and one that followed it on Provençal cuisine. She says they weren’t designed to be simple culinary arts classes.

“They are really for people to be able to access an aspect of the culture with an expert, through the eyes of that expert,” Plessis says.

Plessis also helped develop a course on the regional cuisines of China, and partnered with the Agricultural Science faculty’s Wine Research Centre (WRC) to offer two wine courses. Some of the proceeds from the wine courses go to WRC graduate student scholarships.

The idea of offering food and wine appreciation courses grew out of requests from students in Continuing Studies language classes.

“One of the reasons people take language courses is because they’re interested in wine regions, and everybody likes food, so we always thought people would be interested in culinary arts courses,” Plessis says. “The limiting thing was that offering cooking in a native language would require a professional chef and a professional language teacher.”

The solution was to develop a package of culinary arts and wine appreciation classes, and other culture-related classes, offered in English, to complement the language courses. The concept is a new one and UBC is one of the few universities in Canada doing it.

As a result, Plessis says, all the wine and culinary arts courses are firmly framed in an academic and cultural context. This posed a challenge to Arrouzé who dug into his own family’s recipes to develop an authentic course. He also researched the history and origins of some famous dishes such as Cassoulet.

It was his suggestion to offer the French cooking courses by region so that students would not only learn to taste the food, but to understand it.

“When they think of Bordeaux, I want them to think about the crispiness of the duck or the texture of the foie gras and to discover, or for those who have been there, to re-discover the aromas, textures, and cooking techniques of that region.”

UBC Continuing Studies plans to add more courses on French and Italian cuisine to its curriculum. The Provençal cuisine course will be offered again in May and the Bordeaux course will be one of over 20 intensive programs featured at this year’s Summer Institutes. For more information on these and other Continuing Studies courses visit www.cstudies.ubc.ca.

- - -  

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.