Here is my latest Press Release for the Cookery school in Burgundy – la ferme de la lochere
It’s a beautiful piece and I am absolutely thrilled with the 6 page feature in Living France.
Clive Bozzard Hill has excelled himself yet again with these amazing photos.
Click the link and take a read OR even better, come see me over there soon!
Katherine Frelon loves sharing the gastronomic delights of her adopted homeland at the cookery school she runs in Côte-d’Or, as Anna McKittrick discovers.
Turning a hobby into a business venture is something that many people only dream of, but for Katherine Frelon, running a cookery school in Burgundy is a very definite reality.
A love of food and France was instilled in Katherine from an early age, and she has fond recollections of family holidays across the Channel. “One of the things I remember from coming over to France as a child is going to the fantastic markets in Cannes and La Rochelle. It’s wonderful to see all the colours and smells which evoke childhood memories,” says Katherine, who now gets to share her passion with guests at her Burgundy home La Ferme de la Lochère.
Katherine began offering bespoke cookery workshops from her home in the heart of the region’s Côte-d’Or department in 2007, but her life in France actually began many years earlier. In 1990, she swapped her London lifestyle for rural France where she bought a property in need of conversion. “I was working in London when the last recession hit in the late 80s. I was in my early 20s, and it just seemed crazy to have that kind of lifestyle, so I bought little bakery called Le Four à Pain in the Loire Valley, and planned to go over for a year to get away from London and sort out the house,” remembers Katherine.
Midway through the renovation, Katherine was struck down with appendicitis and after a trip to hospital, she stayed in a local hotel while she convalesced. A chance conversation with the barman resulted in an introduction to one of the locals, Yannick, an electrician who not only helped her with the house but also went on to become her husband.
In the intervening years, Katherine worked as a chef for a hotel/barge company on the canals of France, covering the waterways of Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy and down to the south. It was during her time on the boats that she decided she wanted to set up her own business. “I did cookery at school and I always thought that I would have been a cookery teacher if I’d stayed in the UK. On the hotel/barges, the guests were always fascinated with how things were created, and I used to get people coming into the kitchen so I started doing simple things that they were able to help me with,” describes Katherine, who says she has a natural affinity for cooking and talking simultaneously.
With the idea for the business simmering away, it was a case of finding the right location; somewhere which had both scope for the opportunity that Katherine envisaged, and somewhere that would provide a family home for the couple’s two children, Charlie and Matilda, now 15 and eight respectively.
“I’ve known the Burgundy region for about 15 years, and we finally found La Ferme de la Lochère nine years ago. I knew of the house and the village, Marigny-le-Cahouët, as we used to stay with the owners of the hotel/barging company who lived there,” says Katherine, who spotted the property for sale online only to discover that it had already been sold.
Fortunately for Katherine and Yannick, the sale fell through and the couple went on to purchase the property, a 400-year-old farmhouse in need of complete renovation, in April 2004. But, that was exactly the way that Katherine, who was no stranger to restoration projects, wanted it to be. “If you’re going to pay a premium for something that’s been renovated, and it’s not completely to your taste then there’s no point. You’re better off buying a barn and doing exactly what you want from scratch,” she says.
The couple did the majority of the renovation themselves and also enlisted the help of local artisans to work on more specialist disciplines, including a blacksmith who created the intricate banister that Katherine designed and a stonemason who made the staircase.
It was through working with the stonemason that Katherine and Yannick were able to learn more about the history of the property. “Our stonemason was doing a project on the village and he showed us photographs he found of our property that indicated that some of the pigeon towers are 400 years old. He also gave us some postcards that show the farm in different stages, including when it was connected to the château, which is less than five minutes down the road. All of the farms in our village would have been owned by the château at some stage,” says Katherine.
It took them 18 months to convert the property and get the business up and running, although Katherine says they’re still tweaking their own family living accommodation. The guests’ space includes five en-suite double bedrooms alongside a spacious teaching kitchen and living/dining area that features a beautiful handmade oak table where they can eat the fruits of their labours.
Katherine runs a variety of different programmes at the cookery school, with the basic layout focusing on a repertoire of classic French dishes, as well as a visit to the vibrant food market in Dijon.
“I use the French markets as an example of how easy it is to use seasonal produce to support local producers. France still has, I believe, one of the best examples of markets. You can really tell the difference between what is bought in from the Marché de Rungis in Paris, and what is really local. It’s wonderful when you can see soil on the potatoes and carrots,” enthuses Katherine, who offers tips on what to look for when buying from the market.
“We have just set up a cheese tasting when we go to the market, because there are loads of cheese producers; but if you know the area and know the producers then you’ll discover that some are better than others,” Katherine says.
Once back from the market she shows the students how quick it is to prepare a delicious lunch with market-fresh ingredients.
The itinerary also includes trips to vineyards to discover local vintages and learn about wine and food pairing. Katherine is keen to show both sides of French cookery from bistro classics to haute cuisine. She takes students to Le Charlemagne, a restaurant in the Pernand-Vergelesses wine region that has one Michelin star, where they get to experience the kitchens and gastronomy of fine French dining.
In recent years, Katherine has added to the gamut of culinary experiences she offers at La Ferme de la Lochère, and she now runs specialised courses that focus on specific produce such as charcuterie, making preserves and foraging, along with relaxing ‘Girlfriend Getaway’ packages that combine cookery workshops with spa days.
While Katherine enjoys teaching, she also still loves cooking at home for her family. “My own cooking is very colourful and fragrant, and I use very traditional French recipes, but they will always have a slight angle that makes them adaptable to a modern dinner party. I never go to the frozen section of a supermarket; it just doesn’t even enter my head. I find it interesting when people say they haven’t got the time, because I have no more time than anyone else; but if you plan, it can be really easy. I spend a couple of days a year making store cupboard ingredients such as jams and pickles, and if I’m making pastry, I’ll make extra and freeze it,” says Katherine, who grows an abundance of fruit and vegetables including heirloom tomatoes, beetroot, chard, French beans and squashes in her garden.
Katherine’s love of growing her own extends to her passion for the French markets. “I find the English are still so enthusiastic about France and the markets. I think sometimes the French can be quite complacent that they’ve got fields and fields of fresh vegetables, because in England we’re lacking a bit in terms of space. I really do find that the English clients are paramount to what I do, because they’re the ones who inspire me to do it.”
While the winter season is quieter for business in Burgundy, it’s a busy time for Katherine as she travels to the UK and the US where she cooks for clients. But, she’s always happy when the time comes to return home to La Ferme de la Lochère.
Originally published in Living France.