WHAT IT’S LIKE
In the heart of the picturesque Old Town of Nice, a 17th-century alleyway winds past the threshold of Rosa Jackson’s cookery school. The door is often open, allowing passers-by to peek inside the spacious, modern, well-equipped room.
Canadian-born Rosa is bilingual and followed her dream of opening an English-language cookery school in France after more than a decade of working as a food writer in Paris. She runs Les Petits Farcis with the help of a part-time assistant and the focus is on Niçois dishes, although there are occasional classes in choux pastry and macarons, as well as in vegetarian and organic cooking.
WHAT I LEARNED
Our small group (class numbers are seldom more than seven) met at 9.30am at a pavement café in the Cours Saleya, the food market in the Old Town, not far from the waterfront. Rosa’s expertise was apparent as she used produce from the market stalls to illustrate the distinctive history of Nice, which has led to a cuisine that’s notably different from neighbouring Provence or Italy.
We were surprised to learn that seafood wasn’t a big part of traditional Niçois cooking, as villagers and townsfolk looked to the hills for their food. Vegetables, by contrast, are central; local delicacy les petits farcis – stuffed vegetables – is the school’s namesake dish. Having satisfied our curiosity with courgette-like gourds, purple artichokes and a score of other local specialities, we strolled back to the school to set about making our lunch. Four dishes were prepared at a steady, even pace; the instructions were clear, with plenty of time for questions and conversation.
The menu changes daily, but on our visit it comprised socca, the Niçois version of a chickpea flour flatbread; an authentic salade Niçoise (different from the many versions found elsewhere – the real one contains no potatoes or green beans); a flavourful chicken stew with bouillabaisse-like flavours; and a lemon tart made with an unusual olive oil pastry. After enjoying some local wine, things wrapped up by around 3pm.
If you want to immerse yourself in a truly Niçois experience and have a good time while you’re at it, Les Petits Farcis is the place to do it. It’s easy to make friends on this course. Rosa’s expertise is incomparable and the recipes we cooked were a treat to eat. There’s time to ask questions about anything from culinary technique to the context of Niçois cuisine, and Rosa provides you with a detailed list of recommended local eateries (plus requisite map) – a bonus.