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Cooking and Cocktails at Atelier & Saveurs

Posted by Amie / June 6, 2012

Atelier-et-saveurs-9Chef Rodolpho and the entire staff at the old Montreal cooking school, Atelier et Saveurs, have enthusiasm in spades. The night I went my cooking class tried to make five-spiced beef tataki with gremolata and Parmesan; fois gras torchon on caramelized onions on choux pastry; salmon tartar with caramelized onions, cornichons, and white truffle oil; simple chocolate mousse; and deconstructed lemon meringue pie sans pastry, all in 2 hours. In most participants' opinions, this was ridiculous, but Rodolpho sashayed his way from stove to counter unperturbed. Besides, he would finish up whatever we had left to do while us guests made a very girly Blue Azure cocktail with white rum, blue curacao, white grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and almond syrup, and then did some wine tasting. We started at 6:30pm and ate at 9:30pm, meaning everyone was drunk (and happy) by dinner.

Atelier-et-saveursRodolpho moving so fast he's blurry. I couldn't get a single stationary photo...which says more about my lacklustre photography skills than it does about Rodolpho

Atelier et Saveurs is a family business that has been around for awhile, with a new branch opening in Quebec City in June, and another in the works for Montreal's south shore. It's run with love, and about 80% of our workshop members were charmed by Rodolpho and the rest of the team's enthusiasm. The rest were a little taken aback...and hungry.

What the school lacks in deep, drishti breathing, it makes up for in variety of classes. It offers 4 daily, from $20 "rushed gourmet" lunches of paella with chorizo and mussels (and networking for the Old Port business types looking for some education with their well-priced meal) to $75 gourmet evenings of steak with cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and truffled potatoes, salmon tartar with yogurt, basil, and lime zest, and exotic fruit cups ("verrine" is such a prettier word for it...) with lime, olive oil, and vanilla rum sabayon (fancy words for egg yolk whipped dessert, usually with sweet wine). They also do theme nights, such as sushi and after-work tapas and cocktail classes. Last week's Alsatian wine intro sold out way in advance, did their mojitos and cosmos class last Friday. All the sunny, remodeled old building needs is a terrasse. Fortunately the mojito class will come again and again.

Atelier-et-saveursThe ingredients: Salmon and a whole lot of fois gras

So we're in the spacious kitchen with Rodolpho mixing cups and cups of room temperature butter with flour and sugar for a crumble topping for that deconstructed lemon meringue pie, and slicing unsustainable Atlantic salmon for the tartar.

atelier-et-saveurs-16Salmon tartar and fois gras

He's adamant about toasting pine nuts in the oven, not in a skillet, because they'll brown more evenly, and I'm very impressed he pulls everything out of the oven at the exact right time without a kitchen timer. But he's a pro. Me, an amateur. He was probably making his Spanish-influenced version of gremolata with almonds when he was 3.

Gremolata with almonds on beef tataki with Parmesan

Atelier-et-saveursAnybody can do this kind of cooking; I'm stuck cutting squares out of pre-made pastry ("Nobody makes their own pastry," says Rodolpho, except Kouign Amann bakery on avenue Mont Royal. We thus spend 5 minutes daydreaming about their butter and flour creations). I want to be slicing unsustainable salmon fillets (frozen to kill parasites and facilitate straight cutting, not that there are so many parasites in farmed Atlantic salmon. Besides, the freezing doesn't get rid of the multiple types of antibiotics in their feed).

Atelier-et-saveurs-7I'd even settle for stirring the chocolate as it melts, or pouring the melted butter over the cookie crumbs.

Atelier-et-saveurs-8Seriously, if you think you're an oaf in the kitchen, this is about the best cooking class for your ego. You might even learn to chop chives without bruising them, by rocking forward instead of hacking through the tender green stems.

"It's about having fun," says co-owner and chef Éric Gauthier. Basically it's a place to go to get pumped about cooking. It's not intimidating. The crowds will mostly be mid-twenties to mid-fifties, but they probably get all ages on the weekends, for brunches and theme events.

Atelier-et-saveurs-12The wine pairing classes with cheese make the whole sniff and swirl thing pretty accessible. Even the cocktail class is relaxed. You're supposed to dance while you shake over your shoulder. You count seconds to measure ounces instead of using shot glasses. But there's no pretension about chilling the cocktail glass before pouring in the mixed drink.

Atelier-et-saveursThe cocktail workshop


But it's not all about having fun...Atelier-et-saveurs-11"One of these things is not like the other one..."

A little later, in the cocktail class I get a dirty look when my Blue Azure doesn't come out blue. Apparently Fanny, the mixologist who has her own highly informative blog of Montreal bar reviews, frowns on leaving out the bitter orange-flavoured, blue-died curacao liqueur.

Atelier-et-saveursI just happen to like almond syrup and lemon juice more than chemical-dyed alcohol. So I'm a booze snob, though I'll admit when I first saw the blue cocktail my reaction was to reach out for a glass and give it a try, stopping only when I remembered the headache I'd get from no food + lots of liquor.

They even have some "Follow the the market!" and other seasonally-themed classes, e.g. asparagus: cream of asparagus soup with goat cheese, salmon and asparagus pastry with lemon-butter sauce and arugula, and asparagus risotto with lemon zest and smoked salmon. It's not organic and it's not all local, but if it were the classes would cost a lot extra, and then a lot fewer people would go. It's about the same quality as a lot of old Montreal restaurants, but you get to participate, meet people, and pick up a few chef-y tricks.

So all in all, it's a fun way to spend a lunch, 5 à 7, evening, weekend, or brunch when you've got a little energy, or need a little of Rodolpho's, who I'm sure would be more than willing to share.

Atelier et Saveurs
Where: 444 rue Saint Francois-Xavier
When: Quick lunches, 5 à 7, 6pm-9pm, weekends
How Much: $20-$75



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