· 31 December 2011
Three gourmet tour specialists raise the ante for culinary vacations by providing customised itineraries, which can include anything from cooking in a chateau in Normandy to exploring the culinary landscape in India.
After four years “searching the length and breadth of France”, Jane Webster, an Aussie Francophile who uprooted from Melbourne, found her dream property, Chateau Bosgouet, in Normandy in 2004. Built in 1860, the red and white brick-lined chateau is modelled after the grand Place des Vosges in Paris’ Marais district, and also sits in a verdant park.
Being a passionate cook, Webster became smitten with Normandy’s gourmet culture. “Normandy is rich in classic French cuisine,” she says. “I love the fresh seasonal produce—cheeses, apples, pork, and the best seafood—available at the markets on a daily basis. Such ingredients don’t require a lot of fiddly preparations to bring out their pure flavours.” Inspired, she created week-long Normandy cuisine themed vacations (prices start from A$7,500 per person for a twin share in the chateau, and each group is limited to eight people), conducting cooking classes in the huge commercial kitchen located in the chateau’s basement. Webster’s epicurean offerings go beyond the chateau as well. She takes her guests to gourmet spots in the region, such as auberges (traditional inns) for lunch; the two Michelin-starred Restaurant Gill, where chef Gilles Tournadre works with seasonal Normandy produce; and a farmers’ market in Deauville. There are also sightseeing treats along the way, like a visit to a Bec Abbey in Le Bec-Hellouin, the ancient home of Benedictine monks; and Claude Monet’s garden at Giverney. Her love for Normandy’s way of life is also captured her book, At My French Table, which was published in 2008. For more information, visit www.thefrenchtable.com.au
Excerpt from the January issue of epicure.