French Cooking Courses in English, authentic Culinary Vacations and the art of French living at Château de La Barbée, in the heart of the Pays de la Loire.
Our French Cooking Courses & Holidays are all-inclusive, with accommodations at the château, all meals and drinks, hands-on cooking classes and fun excursions around the beautiful regional countryside.
We will cook many of our family’s favorite recipes together. We’ll discuss the history of the château, planning a menu, preparing a cheese platter, and wine and food pairing. Our goal is to help you learn the basics of french cookery and master dishes you will be comfortable preparing back in your own kitchen for everything, from weekday family meals to dinner parties.
Cooking classes take place in the family kitchen, covering the basics, shortcuts, and tips for preparing meals when time is limited.
The cookery courses take advantage of seasonal produce and local farm products and we will make regular trips to the markets to select the freshest seasonal ingredients for our classes.
After meals, relax in the Grand Salon or take a walk by the river.
We’ll explore the diverse local culinary culture and the Loire Valley‘s rich history. We will shop town markets for ingredients; visit medieval villages and historic châteaux; and enjoy private tours of the Anjou vineyards, tastings at their wineries and visits to their cellars–some of which are carved into the hills.
Château de La Barbée is one of many private châteaux in the Loire Valley – but few offer an experience like this. We welcome you into our 18th Century home for an authentic “vie du château” experience, where we live, cook, eat, and play.
The most important thing is to have a lot of fun on your cooking vacation in France. We do!
“What a fantastic experience! I had to good fortune to attend a 5 day cooking course at the lovely Chateau de La Barbee this summer. We arrived after lunch, were shown to our beautiful rooms and invited to proceed to the Orangerie for an al fresco wine and cheese tasting and to get acquainted with our hosts, Mary and Xavier, the owner residents of the Chateau. We fell in to an easy daily routine. After a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, croissants, milk from the farm, homemade jams, local honey, the works we hit the kitchen "Aprons on!" around 9. We cooked, tasted, tested and tried lots of recipes all in preparation for our lunches and dinners. One of the things I loved most was Mary's ease in the kitchen. We did not stick strictly to planned menus. On any given day, dependent on what was freshest, most available, etc. we would adjust our menu accordingly. For example, Xavier came home one day with mussels fresh from the sea. He steeped them in a delicious broth and they became the 1st course of our lunch that day. Each day we would go on at least one outing to see and enjoy the local markets and sights. After lunch it was back to the kitchen "Aprons on!" for another lesson and more preparations for our next meal. Evenings would end in one of the many comfortable parlors, a glass of Armagnac in hand listening to Xavier's great stories. The Chateau has been in his family since the days of Napoleon and he is an expert on French history in general and the Chateau and surrounding area in particular. Everything was so special and well run it is hard to pick favorites, but two highlights for me were learning how to make an ice bowl and our final formal dinner in the grand dining room. Mary and Xavier invited 4 friends, we set a beautiful table, dressed for the occasion and feasted on lamb shanks, duck breast and the many dishes and desserts we had prepared earlier. A very rewarding and enjoyable 5 day experience. Completely immersed in the french lifestyle in a fabulous setting with attentive, knowledgeable and gracious hosts. Highly recommend!”
- Becky Indrio
What a fabulous way to celebrate a milestone birthday!
“Never dreamed that I would be celebrating "60" with 5 of my dearest friends in France! We started off in Paris and then headed to the beautiful Loire Valley for our amazing stay at Chateau de La Barbee. When got to the end of the road and entered the driveway we were in awe of the beautiful building with a huge fountain standing before us. This was our "home" for the next 5 days. The adventure started with getting settled in our rooms and then a quick stroll through the rose gardens to the Orangerie where we ate exquisite cheese and drank fine wine. I knew we were in for a treat of a lifetime. Our chateau hosts were Mary (cooking teacher extraordinaire) and Xavier (wine connoisseur) who were so gracious and welcoming that we immediately felt at home. I was a bit nervous about taking a French cooking class (I saw Julie and Julia) but Mary put us at ease from the get go. It was so much fun working together in the kitchen on recipes that I would definitely cook at home. We prepared lunch and dinner courses, shopped in the outdoor market in La Fleche went on a variety of excursions (Abbey of St. Peter, Chateau de Lude, Chateau of Angers and Domaine de la Tuffiere for wine tasting and a picnic). The table was beautifully set each night and our meals were fabulous. In addition to the recipes, we came away with a number of new useful cooking tips. I would go back in a hearbeat!! Merci Mary and Xavier!!!”
- Julie Parker
I ALMOST MISSED OUT!!!!
“Girlfriends were going to France for five days of French cooking classes at Mary and Xavier's chateau out in the Loire Valley. I mean, why would I want to go? I really dislike cooking. Hate is a strong word but yeah, I hate cooking. I reluctantly agreed and then wished I hadn't committed. The next thing you know, I'm boarding a plane, heading for France. Friends who know how I feel about cooking kept asking me what was I thinking. My taking French cooking classes evoked laughter from everyone. Well the trip is over and let me just say: FABULOUS, AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL, FUN-FILLED ... THE BEST TRIP EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even I came home, anxious to try out some of the amazing dishes we prepared. It was shocking to me to see how my attitude changed as our week of cooking progressed. I guess when I realized how fun it was to prepare food with ingredients that we picked up at the local farmer's market, all of us with our matching aprons on, laughing and having a great time in the kitchen while putting together fabulous meals that even I could appreciate for how beautiful they were and how great they tasted -- well, it was just an amazing experience, is all I can say. I'm as shocked as anyone by my transformation. Imagine what the trip would be like if you liked to cook!!!! The women I traveled with, they love to cook so of course they had a fabulous time ... no question. I can't even believe I'm saying all this but it's true: It was an amazing, never-to-be-forgotten trip and I almost missed out. Thank you, Becky, for convincing me to go. Life is short. Step out of your comfort zone and go for it. I did and I'm sooooo glad I did! Mary and Xavier, warm and friendly -- the best host and hostess ever! Thank you again for everything ... je t'aime ... au revoir, Kelly”
- Kelly McDonald
“Simply amazing! From the chateau, the food, the excursions and incredible wines, everything was just beautiful. But above all, the hospitality and chateau-life experience is priceless. We'll remember this trip forever & definitely be back. Thank you Mary, Xavier & Ella!”
- Dina Wirz
Best trip ever!
“I recently spent a totally delightful stay at the Chateau de La Barbee, cooking, eating, and sightseeing under the wonderful direction of Mary Pochez. We were a group of 6 women friends celebrating the 60th birthday of one with a 2-day stay in Paris and a 5-night stay at the chateau. The chateau itself is incredibly beautiful and charming, filled with antiques and lovely art and portraits, but also very lived in and comfortable. You don't feel that you are in a museum, but rather in a home that has been loved and cared for by many generations of Mary's husband's family. Xavier is a very charming co-host with lots of knowledge about French history, the chateau, and local wines. Everywhere you look, both inside and out the windows, you see beauty. The French cooking classes were fantastic- so much fun and so well taught. Mary is a very knowledgeable and casual cook and makes you feel that you can make the dishes with ease. She instills confidence along with all her recipes and tips. Every single dish we prepared (and ate!) was mouth watering delicious, from the fish baked in salt to the beef Bourguignon to the cheese souffle to the potato dishes to the baked peaches and chocolate cake. We all had fun cooking in her wonderful kitchen with walls of copper pots and and fresh cut flowers and produce everywhere. We learned a lot of dishes and loved them all! And the program of excursions was wonderful too- the drives through the charming villages to visit other chateaux, the evening at an ancient abbey listening to monks sing Gregorian chants, the local farmers' market, the 14th century tapestries displayed in the chateau in Angers. This is a trip I will remember, in detail, my whole life. It was educational, fun, and lovely in every way. Get together a group of friends and go! Or go with your partner! You will love it too! THANK YOU for sharing your home and your vast knowledge of all things French, Mary and Xavier!”
- Catherine Rosenfeld
Cooking direction was superb
“I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a night here over the weekend before Thanksgiving with a group of other American exchange students currently living in Angers, France and I can't think of a more rewarding and special way that we could have spent that time! Mary was amazing and her cooking direction was superb - our food for both lunch and dinner was absolutely mouthwatering! I loved being able to stay in her château, and the culture and history surrounding me was absolutely phenomenal. If you have the chance before you leave, I absolutely suggest walking the grounds of her château if you get the chance - her rose gardens and the back path are absolutely gorgeous! And her pets are pretty cute too!”
- Danica Andersen
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Château de La Barbée is an ideal setting to host Corporate Parties and Events