Paule Caillat is a French cook extraordinaire, very skillful and talented, and generous with her cooking experience. She teaches cooking classes and leads market tours in Paris, and I was lucky enough to join one last week. The food was fabulous, the markets a treat. But her kitchen was what truly took my breath away. Here's a peek inside Paule's Marais district kitchen, and a taste or two of what we cooked that afternoon.
Paule Caillat lives in the Marais district with her husband Olivier, a documentary filmmaker. She has had a varied and interesting food career — teaching classes, writing a blog, catering and hosting parties. So of course she needed a flexible and special place to locate all this cooking. She found such a place in an old factory and warehouse that was renovated into apartments.
The space is marvelously open and light, and very spacious, for a Paris kitchen. She was able to tear down walls and expose the dining room to the light streaming into the kitchen, and she even has a little office tucked away at one end behind French doors. Paule calls this kitchen her "miracle kitchen," since she had only three months in which to finish it — and her Polish contractor worked in a miracle in getting it all just right!
Paule herself is a petite, very chic woman who also happens to be an authoritative cook with a stream of fascinating tidbits about food and cooking in Paris, and a viewpoint on all things French cuisine. She is extremely charming, and a marvelous hostess. She never seemed to stand still — stirring one pot, then patting out tart crust, instructing us on how to clean and cut fresh mushrooms, laying out a beautiful table.
I was so inspired by Paule and her kitchen; it's a place of nourishment but also of beauty! Everything was beautiful — the meat, the cheese, the tart, the table. Everything was delicious, too — and we made her amazing, unusual tart crust, which calls for the butter mixture to be boiled in the oven! You can find the recipe at David Lebovitz's blog:
• French Tart Dough…à la française - By Paule Caillat, published by David Lebovitz
I asked Paule a few questions about her kitchen, and about her favorite tools. Here are her answers. (And look for her three-cheese soufflé recipe a little later! It was such a treat.)
11 Questions for Paule Caillat & Her Kitchen
1. What's your cooking style?
I would say "natural" — seasonal, not too complicated, varied. I like to try new recipes, to explore new ingredients. Savory is my preference, but I like making desserts that are not too sweet. I like variety. Something new, something that is a challenge! I want to try cooking more Asian food — Asian with a French twist. I want to try Vietnamese spring rolls.
2. What inspires your kitchen?
The weather, the light, the mood of the day.
3. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I need everything — but perhaps the "girafe," the handheld stick blender. Also, I love my SodaStream soda maker.
4. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Prepare in advance as much as you can.
5. Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Turning around the island. It is too close to the other countertops; it is hard for more than one person to move through between them.
6. Biggest indulgence:
The Lacanche stove.
7. Dream tool or splurge:
An ice cream maker, like David [Lebovitz]. Also, I would like an induction stove or burner.
8. What would you do differently or change about your kitchen?
The grey ceramic tile. It is noisy and hard to clean. I should have put in parquet floors instead.
9. What are you cooking this week?
Cheese soufflés, mushrooms, pintade.
10. What cookbook and cooks have inspired you the most?
Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, and my idols: The Soeurs Scotto — especially Gourmande et pressée, des Soeurs Scotto.
11. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
For Christmas: Terrine de foie gras, gigue de chevreuil, pommes Dauphines, Paris Brest.
A Few of Paule's Favorite Kitchen Tools
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(Images: Faith Durand; Paule Caillat)