French cooking adventure with Marlene van der Westhuizen in Charroux

Join celebrated South African chef and author Marlene van der Westhuizen on a 6-day cooking adventure in the 12th century French medieval village of Charroux, Allier. Set in the rugged Auvergne region deep in the heart of Bourbonnais near Vichy, the Van der Westhuizens’ charming 15th century home, Bagatelle, is now the setting of immersive […]

Join celebrated South African chef and author Marlene van der Westhuizen on a 6-day cooking adventure in the 12th century French medieval village of Charroux, Allier. Set in the rugged Auvergne region deep in the heart of Bourbonnais near Vichy, the Van der Westhuizens’ charming 15th century home, Bagatelle, is now the setting of immersive French cooking experiences that include long early morning walks, gentle bicycle rides, the odd picnic, visits to local food markets and antique dealers, communal cooking and, of course, long, lingering lunches and dinners with plenty of local wine.

Highlights

  • Convivial, small-group culinary experience in a drop-dead gorgeous location
  • Cooking classes at the hand of one of South Africa’s best-loved chefs
  • Visits to fresh food markets to gather ingredients
  • Lovely lunches & dinners around the huge hard pear table in Bagatelle’s kitchen
  • Foodie outings to local producers and places of interest
  • An immersive introduction to the French way of life

Duration

6 full days (not including travel to and from Charroux)

Schedule

Tour 1 – 06 June – 12 June 2017

The Basil & Peach Summer Course

Summer in Charroux is all about lingering candle-lit dinners under the bay leaf tree, friendly games of boules with icy Bellini’s in hand and strolls along the cobblestones as dusk descends. We glean the bounty of the fresh food markets and return home to transform swathes of basil, fresh trout and other summer staples into mouth-watering meals, and toast la belle vie with glasses of perfectly chilled champagne from the 12 century cellar below the house.

Tour 2 – 26 September – 02 October 2017

The Chestnut & Sage Early-Autumn Course

When the leaves begin to turn in Charroux, we wrap up warm, stoke the fire and head out for fragrant mushrooms and chestnuts to make warming soups served with a golden drop of truffle oil. We revel in the singular autumnal delights of sweet figs and perfectly ripe apples and gather fallen walnuts on our afternoon walks. But mostly we meet in the kitchen to create delicious things that celebrate this season of quiet change and reflection.

Price

€2250 per person.

Overview

As a truly passionate gourmand with an unquenchable yen for travelling, Marlene van der Westhuizen has spent the larger part of three decades cooking her way around the world, with a particular emphasis on France and its exceptional cuisine. What started as food demonstrations and gatherings around her kitchen table in Cape Town, soon turned into guided tours to an ancient village in the middle of the Auvergne, where she introduces spellbound audiences to the essence of French cooking.

The Van der Westhuizens bought Bagatelle, their charming 15th century home in Charroux, near the French spa town of Vichy, in 2004 as a place to spend family holidays. It didn’t take long for Marlene to fall head over heels for the medieval town and move her French kitchen to Bagatelle, where her huge old chef’s cauldron now steams away in front of the window facing the ancient mustard shop in Rue de la Poulaillerie.

Naturally, small-group cooking tours to Charroux weren’t far behind. “Charroux, at heart, is a food destination,” says Marlene. “The town only has about 350 permanent residents, many of whom are artisanal producers. We have a mustard man, walnut oil purveyor, chocolatier, jam maker, deli proprietor and the best foie gras chef in all of France. I simply couldn’t keep this bounty all to myself!” And so, it was decided to throw open the doors to Bagatelle to welcome adventurous cooks who want to experience the true allure of French cuisine as part of an immersive travelling experience.

Each tour is wholly unique and makes the most of the season. For six days, Marlene’s guests get to experience life as it truly is in the French countryside. She lifts the corner of the metaphorical tablecloth to allow a glimpse into the beating heart of this fascinating region and it’s many foodie charms. This includes everything from tastings at secret little wineries and forays to fresh food markets, to antiquing, picnics, strolls along the ancient cobbled streets of Charroux and, of course, lots and lots of cooking around the kitchen table. Every day is an opportunity to revel in the singular pleasures of this gorgeous destination and there are plenty of delightful surprises along the way.

With only two of these wonderful tours scheduled for 2017, it’s highly recommended that you book your spot ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Go ahead, we know you want to!

What’s included

  • Lunch & dinner throughout your stay
  • Wine & all liquid refreshments
  • All road transport during the Cook’s Tour
  • Cost & entry to all included excursions
  • Cooking classes & demonstrations

What’s not included

  • Air- and road travel to Vichy, France from your home country
  • Accommodation in Charroux – Marlene recommends certain nearby B&Bs, but the arrangements are yours to make

Important Information

  • A 50% deposit is required upon confirmation of your booking (10% of which is non-refundable); the remaining balance is to be paid 8 weeks prior to departure for Charroux
  • Guests are encouraged to bring Euros in small denominations as spending money – traveller’s cheques are not accepted and small business owners do not take the larger notes
  • When it comes to packing, do so lightly – there are so many delicious things to take back home!
  • No more than eight participants per tour

 

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Photography: Deryck van Steenderen | Writing: Anna-Bet Stemmet