French Cooking Courses & Culinary Vacations in France – Reviews

Reviews from La Vie Du Château’s TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook pages.

Learning French cooking in a beautiful setting

★★★★★
I convinced a group of friends to acompany me, to celebrate my 50th birthday. Chateau de La Barbée was the perfect setting. Mary and Xavier welcomed us into their home (home for them is a Chateau!), and Mary's program of cooking and sightseeing was the perfect combination of education mixed with touring mixed with relaxation and fun. And the food was fantastic. Can't recommend this more to anyone interested in a very special vacation. The countryside is gorgeous, and off the beaten track, not too touristy. Such a nice change of pace! Highly recommended!
- Nora Mitchell

Perfect end to a perfect trip to France!

★★★★★
After whirlwind trip around France for my 40th, my husband and I paused for a much needed break at Chateau de la Barbee, WHAT a fabulous time we had - everyone back home was so jealous. Mary is great fun and her husband, the 'lord of the manor' is just hilarious - he and my husband got on like a house on fire. Everyday was packed full of cooking and eating and drinking - it was like a gourmet all inclusive. The wine never stopped! We learnt some great recipes and Mary will be proud to hear that we have indeed done most of them since we got home AND I have never used store-bought salad dressing since! The recipes vary from simple to complex so there's something for everyone. It was not as hands-on as we would have liked but the size of the class was perfect, the people were fabulous, and the chateau.....well, wow. What a treat. You stay in a chateau that has been in the family since it was built. We were there for 4 days, 3 nights which was just perfect. Thanks, Mary, for an epic end to our adventures!
- K J Lee

An excellent fun cooking experience!

★★★★★
Mary & Xavier were the most gracious hosts. Not only was the Château beautiful but also the surrounding with the refreshing river close by. Mary made the cooking fun and all the fancy dishes we made seemed easy. I will make them all for sure back home! We really got to see the French country side at its best and I wish to go there again and again and again....
- Erika Badal

A beautiful and incredible place

★★★★★
It's a beautiful and incredible place, I totally recommended for holidays, or a weekend.
- Laura Garcia

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

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

Simply amazing!

★★★★★
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

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

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

Magnifique!

★★★★★
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

Amazing experience

★★★★★
I decided to take my daughter to France and book a cooking school instead of having a 50th Birthday party for me. Well this was the best decision I have made this year. We booked La Vie Du Chateau online. Mary was so easy to communicate with to complete this. My daughter and I traveled to France and then headed down on the Train. Mary met us along with others who had also booked in for the course. Straight away I knew that this was going to be an amazing experience. The food was amazing, the classes were amazing and the company was amazing. Mary's husband Xavier is full of stories ( I believe all true)! This is a great experience.
- Suzanne H

Perfect end to a perfect trip to France!

★★★★★
After whirlwind trip around France for my 40th, my husband and I paused for a much needed break at Chateau de la Barbee, WHAT a fabulous time we had - everyone back home was so jealous. Mary is great fun and her husband, the 'lord of the manor' is just hilarious - he and my husband got on like a house on fire. Everyday was packed full of cooking and eating and drinking - it was like a gourmet all inclusive. The wine never stopped! We learnt some great recipes and Mary will be proud to hear that we have indeed done most of them since we got home AND I have never used store-bought salad dressing since! The recipes vary from simple to complex so there's something for everyone. It was not as hands-on as we would have liked but the size of the class was perfect, the people were fabulous, and the chateau.....well, wow. What a treat. You stay in a chateau that has been in the family since it was built. We were there for 4 days, 3 nights which was just perfect. Thanks, Mary, for an epic end to our adventures!
- kilee789

The Old World meets the New World

★★★★★
Step back a century into the world of Classic French Cooking in a beautiful Chateau with a very modern, delightful franco/american couple Mary and Xavier . Mary's cooking classes were serious, detailed, well organised and most of all fun ! The atmosphere was La Belle France all the way with charming hosts, gorgeous surroundings and delicious food at every meal. Mary is an instinctive chef who has the knack of making complicated things simple with a great sense of humour. Xavier added his flair for putting everyone at ease and sharing his "certain savoir vivre." Everyday was a joy and we were all so happy and sad at the end to say good-bye.
- Betsy B

Magnifique!

★★★★★
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 B

A perfect 4 Days

★★★★★
Our time at Chateau de la Barbee was much more than a cooking class. The chateau is straight out of a movie set in an idyllic setting. The hosts, Mary Pochez, the instructor, and her husband Xavier were fun and caring and gracious. They welcomed us as friends the minute we arrived. We practiced classic French dishes made even more special because we shared them as friends. Our classmates all added to the shared experience and knowledge gained. What a fabulous experience! Not to be missed.
- Wilmette Maja

Aromes de la Cuisine de Château de La Barbée

★★★★☆
From the time I first visited France, it had been a mystery to me how food could taste so much better than what I was normally accustomed to eating at home. I’m recently retired and wanted to embrace a healthier lifestyle, so began my journey of discovering the joy of ‘eating for the pleasure of eating’. Our gracious hosts Mary and Xavier provided us with fascinating insights into French culture, cuisine and history of Château de La Barbée; built by their family at the time of the Revolution in 1790. The six day course was a full and varied program, the tuition both enjoyable and very well-paced as were the excursions. If I may say so, the meals and wine were superb! I’ve learnt a great deal from the course and already impressed my friends with the results All round a great holiday experience! Like so much of the Loir, both the Chateau and Estate resonate with the rich history of France and might be said to have a certain ‘rustic charm’.
- Peter T

Chateau de la Barbee , c'est merveilleux

★★★★★
This past summer my friend and I enrolled in the cookery course at Chateau de la Barbee. On arrival we were enchanted by the chateau , made immediately to feel at home by our hosts Mary and her husband Xavier as well as Ella, Mary's very efficient assistant. Our days were spent reviewing French recipes , then to hands on preparation , and cooking. We enjoyed our culinary delights served on dishes and crystal from the early 1800s in this most wonderfully historic and lavish French setting , and , with the accompaniment of the best of wines. Our lovely double room with a small balcony, was on the second floor and decorated in the fashion and period of the chateau. We felt completely immersed in tradition. Xavier was a wealth of knowledge both historical and present. We lacked for nothing. I highly recommend Chateau de la Barbee and thank Mary and Xavier for a wonderful experience.
- TNesbitt51

Merci Beaucoup

★★★★★
Merci Beaucoup A warm thank you to Mary and Xavier (and Ella) for the memorable days at Chateau de la Barbée. It was a dream to cook and converse in such wonderful surroundings. I thoroughly enjoyed myself — loved my chic bedroom; the breakfasts of croissants, homemade jam and filtered coffee; the camaraderie of the kitchen during the cooking classes and the wine pairings that highlighted the memorable meals we made and consumed with such gusto. While is seemed we spent most of our waking hours talking about or preparing food, we also indulged in long walks, gathered eggs from Mary’s chickens, visited a local farmers’ market, a winery and even attended a nearby monastery to hear monks chanting. Experiencing cultural differences — in a chateau, in a foreign country, with others you haven’t met before while sharing your passion sets this experience apart. It was a dream! And it can be yours!
- Eleanor B

What an absolute pleasure

★★★★★
What an absolute pleasure it was to spend 5 days in the French countryside cooking with Mary. Right from the beginning she could not have been more helpful. She sugggested all of the best ways to arrive at the Chateau, and even picked me up from the bus. The Chateau itself was just charming; the real-deal French country house that it appears in the photos. Xavier, Mary and their housekeeper Ella was so incredibly attentive to all of our needs and made our stay so welcoming. We had a lovely few days cooking a wide variety of beautiful sweet and savory dishes, and covered lots of basics like the perfect mayonnaise and vinaigrette. Every meal was a true feast, with all of the amazing food we had cooked, accompanied by locals wines that Xavier was able to give us some real lessons on. Mary was an excellent teacher, and keeping the classes small and fairly relaxed was a great way to help us learn but also make us feel like it was a holiday too! I thoroughly enjoyed my week at Chateau de la Barbee and would recommend it to anyone who loves French food. Mary and Xavier were the most perfect hosts and I hope to be able to go back again one day in the near future!
- Annabelle Chalk

Thank you for teaching me the joie de vivre a la Francaise!

★★★★★
La Vie du Chateau cooking classes were AMAZING! I took a 5 day cooking class and was so impressed by the beauty of my surroundings, the hospitality of the hosts, Mary Pochez, chef and cooking instructor par excellence and her very well mannered and humorous husband, Xavier, a true French gentleman. The Cookery Course was the perfect balance between the professionalism of the instructions, with the creation of the meals to the artistry and beauty of its presentation, to the conviviality of the hosts and my fellow classmates. Not only did I learn how to cook great dishes, and desserts, but we were also educated on cheeses and wine pairing. Each meal was a feast and a joy. The culinary experience would not have been complete without the three course meals, all prepared by us and all truly gastronomic served on exquisitely laid tables where we shared laughter and conversation about every topic imaginable. In addition to the cooking courses, we had extra curricular activities including a wine tasting, a tour of the local market, visits to historical sites, beautiful towns and their monuments, museums, a meal at a local restaurant, all of which contributed to the overall enjoyment and educational experience.
- Christine Brooks

A Perfect Trifecta

★★★★★
Cooking school with Mary Pochez at Château de La Barbée was a wonderful introduction to life in Europe. After moving from the U.S. to France, I spent several days with Mary learning some French cooking techniques. I love to cook and have used my new skills frequently. As a history teacher, I have also used Xavier's stories of his family, their beautiful chateau, and the people who influenced their area - including the impact of WWII on their home and the area. A wonderful time, recollected often, to be repeated soon. Many thanks Mary and Xavier and Château del La Barbée.
- Kirsten Russell

Wonderful experience at Chateau de La Barbee

★★★★★
We had a wonderful time at Chateau de La Barbee in October this year. We cooked some amazing meals and toured nearby sites. I have used the skills I learned to cook some of the French meals when I got home and my family was very impressed. Mary and Xavier were great hosts! We also enjoyed some superb French wines every evening thanks to Xavier. Merci, Mary et Xavier!
- Jackie B

Wonderful French hospitality!

★★★★★
We just got done with a five day cooking course. Mary was gracious enough to have us in the winter during her off season! The Château is lovely, the cooking classes were informative, the food was delicious, the wine and spirits were flowing, the excursions were interesting and unique, AND to top it all off...wonderful French hospitality! Could not recommend La Vie du Château enough!
- Jill Geering Matheson

Memorable experience cooking and staying at Chateau de La Barbee

★★★★★
We loved our stay at Chateau de La Barbee. Even though January is not the usual time for traveling, Mary took extra effort to make sure we all had a great time! We learned some great French recipes that we can’t wait to try out on our friends back home. Xavier pulled out some great wines (and plenty of it!) to compliment the fabulous food. Thank you so much!
- Julie O

Cooking Courses Reviews
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