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Food & Wine

At Atelier des Chefs, overcoming your fear is the first ingredient

“When they come here they know they are going to learn from a working chef."

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Atelier des Chefs

Tucked into the ground floor of a 15th-arrondissement apartment building, the Atelier des Chefs is a welcoming haven for those looking to learn about —and enjoy — French cuisine.

A chalkboard hangs on the far wall of the small room. Risotto de gambas au paprika fumé. Pavé de boeuf, écrasé de pommes de terre au lait de coco. Tataki de thon aux herbes. Each week, the menu at the Atelier des Chefs changes, but the idea remains the same: “What we really want is for people to not fear cooking,” says Sidonie Bompoil, a longtime consultant in the luxury restaurant business.

Menu items that might seem intimidating at first are made eminently understandable at the Atelier des Chefs. The cooking school was founded in 2004 by two brothers, Nicolas and Francois Bergerault, who felt the French were retreating too far from the kitchen. Now with nine locations across the country, they’re seeing their efforts at restoring a love for cooking in their compatriots rewarded. 

Bompoil walks through the natural-light-filled kitchen of the 15th arrondissement branch, pointing out the various amenities: stoves, chopping boards and knives of different sizes, industrial tables, and saucepans of every size. Bompoil knows a thing or two about French cuisine: formerly a fine dining consultant at Ducasse Paris, and now the manager of her own firm, she has seen some of the top chefs in the world in action. The key, she says, is becoming comfortable with some very basic techniques. For example, knowing the right consistency for the egg whites in macarons, or to always boil potatoes from a start in cold water. 

Being in an evocative, warm space with good company helps, too. The original location on the rue de Penthièvre in the eight arrondissement still serves as a model. Every kitchen has a skylight (important for the wellness of the staff) and uses fresh, farm-to-table ingredients (for the wellness of the diners). 

A diverse array of chefs, who are all at the top of their field and each bring their own specialty to the table, completes the recipe. 

“When they come here they know they are going to learn from a working chef,” she says. “It’s important to have good products, but also to have the confidence to be able to cook.”

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