The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories:

Grand Opening at Santa Monica Place With A Little Something For Everyone

By Chanin Victor - Publisher Santa Monica Macaroni Kid May 25, 2018

"People who love to eat are always the BEST people," said Julia Child, one of the most famous chefs in the world.  Me? I love to eat!  I was born eating!  I’m not exactly as good as Julia in the kitchen though.  I’d like to be, but most of the time I rely on a food service box that’s delivered with ingredients, recipe, and all I have to do is … follow the directions.  

Eating is a necessity, but cooking is an art.  That’s why when my daughter asked me to teach her how to cook, well…I had no words.   Most of my friends and my husband know the three things I can cook well and even then, I screw it up most of the time.  I want my daughter to learn the right techniques, the right ingredients, and the right kitchen lingo (the good kind, not the curse words).  

We did attempt a couple things, which weren’t bad, but I’d say they weren’t Instagram worthy either.  Do putting the toppings on a pizza and juicing veggies count as cooking?  We did also make some rice krispy treats and peanut butter cookies, but that’s not really baking.  These ridiculous endeavors into culinary expertise are just some of the reasons why the idea of cooking classes was so appealing, for all of us. 

The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories offers hands-on cooking for all ages and skill levels using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients.  Their main objective is to educate people on the right techniques and encourage their students to develop a culinary intuition.  They offer baking classes, a professional series for adults, kid’s and teen’s cooking classes, and fascinating technique and food workshops. They also offer private party options for child or adult birthday parties or special events. This awesome culinary institution has been around since 2015, on the 3rd floor of the Santa Monica Place.  Their brand new store has NOW OPENED at the top of the escalator on the 3rd floor, just about 30 yards away, and you will be blown away by all the goodies they have in the new location.  You can check out some photos of the new location on the SM MACKID Instagram page HERE.  

An apron is just a cape on backwards!  This is what I told my daughter so that she would try her best to be a superhero at cooking that day.  Julia Child also said, “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”   Full of excitement, we signed up for our first cooking class, Homemade Breads.  When we arrived, my little chef was feeling slightly intimidated as there were 16 girls and boys, ranging in age from six – twelve, and she didn’t know anyone.  No worries, Head Chef Rose Lawrence, our teacher paired all of the kids with another child and everyone seemed a little more at ease.  Senna was paired with Anya, a very kind eleven year old, who seemed to know her way around a kitchen already and was very helpful.  

Rose, who is currently the Pastry Chef at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, and previously she was the chef at Red Bread in Venice was enthusiastic about cooking and teaching the kids, which was great!  There were two sous chefs, Olivia and Brie, who made sure everyone had all their ingredients and who also cleaned everything up.  I need them in my kitchen.  I swear, they made everything look effortless.  

Making three different breads that day, they had to get started immediately.  On the menu was Rye FocacciaClassic Parker House RollsCheesy Gougeres, and Homemade Butter.  I couldn’t help thinking to myself how they would possible make three different breads in three hours, but a Baker’s gonna bake, bake, bake, and get it done.  Gourmandise also uses a commercial kitchen and provides everything needed with a focus on safety and gaining “chef” confidence.

They started the Rye Focaccia from scratch, as they did all of the breads.  They used a yeast starter to make the dough.  They measured in all the ingredients and kneaded away at the dough until it was a big ball.  My daughter’ s cooking partner was able to help with the more difficult tasks.  Once the dough was made, they set it aside to rise.  

Like a factory, they prepared all the breads one by one.  The next bread was a simple Milk Bread, which they again prepared from scratch with their partners.  My daughter seemed to get the hang of mixing and measuring very quickly.  They were also moving at a fast pace, so there was no time to zone out at all.  All the kids were incredibly focused and interested in what Rose was telling them to do.  

The final bread they made was the coolest because they got to learn how to make a pâte à choux (pronounced “pat a shoe”), and sometimes referred to as choux paste.  It has nothing to do with patting shoes.  This is a paste made of flour, water, butter, and eggs.  It’s slightly thicker than a batter, but not quite as thick as a dough.  “Pâte” in French means paste and “choux” means cabbage.  The name comes from the resemblance to little cabbages when the puffs come out of the oven.  Making pâte à choux is a good thing to know how to do because it is the start of many pastries.  This was also one of the tastiest breads they made.  

Towards the end of the three-hour class, the sous chefs started throwing trays of dough in the oven.  While the breads were baking, the kids were shown how to make sweet homemade butter.  When the loaves of bread started coming out, the whole kitchen smelled incredible.  Some of the kids couldn’t even wait for the bread to cool off before slathering on a hunk of butter and digging into a loaf or gougers.  

Happiness is . . .  the smell of freshly baked bread!

The kids were allowed to try all of the breads, with the butter, and whatever they wanted to take home, they could.  I don’t know how we had any to take home because we couldn’t stop eating it.   In the end, we had two small containers with some bread for an afternoon snack.  I think you could tell the kids were all very proud of themselves and their culinary accomplishments.  The special ingredient they all used was “love”; as the saying goes, “cooking is love made edible”.  

My daughter enjoyed the class so much that we’ve already signed up to take some more.   There are many to choose from sushi, Chinese dumplings, taco truck, cream puffs and éclairs, pasta, pizza, macarons, BBQ, brunch, and how to make a picnic are just some of the amazing curricula they offer.  

Those are a few of the classes offered for ages 6-12.  There is also a Teen Pro Series where they learn many different meals all at once.  Classes start at $75, but sign up on their email list, and you get 15% off your first class.  The Teen Summer Camp is a sell-out every year and one of their most popular programs.  Be sure to check out The Gourmandise School website for details.

It was a great day and my daughter came away from it with a new appreciation for how hard I work in the kitchen.  . . . NAH! But she now loves baking and cooking and would LOVE to be able to do more of it at home with mom (me).  It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn, and The Gourmandise School makes it so interesting and easy.  Hope to see some of you there this summer.

Don’t forget, they do offer birthday parties or special events as well as adult cooking classes (with wine), so it would make a fantastic date night with other couples and some bottles of vino. Wouldn’t it be fun to make your kitchens at home a gathering place for friends and family, where memories are homemade and seasoned with love.  

Nothing brings people together like good food!  

My daughter was given a complimentary cooking class in order to be able to comment on the school.  However, all opinions are my own.