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Suffolk teacher launches online French cookery classes

PUBLISHED: 19:30 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:40 17 September 2020

Catherine Godet, who has been teaching her students how to cook authentic French cuisine during lockdown over Zoom Picture: Catherine Godet

Catherine Godet, who has been teaching her students how to cook authentic French cuisine during lockdown over Zoom Picture: Catherine Godet

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Catherine Godet has been giving culinary masterclasses in lockdown - and now you can join her

A finished tarte aux pommes - one of the traditional French dishes Catherine has taught her students to bake over Zoom Picture: Catherine GodetA finished tarte aux pommes - one of the traditional French dishes Catherine has taught her students to bake over Zoom Picture: Catherine Godet

As lockdown approaches the six-month mark, it’s no surprise that people up and down the country have taken up new hobbies to help pass the time. Whether that’s been gardening, playing music or cooking – there’s certainly been a surge in people learning new skills over the past year.

Carlton Colville resident Catherine Godet has been sharing her skills and has spent lockdown teaching her culinary students how to perfect the art of French cuisine.

Originally from France, Catherine now lives in Suffolk and works as a teacher. Prior to that, Catherine – who speaks French, English and German - previously worked in the wine industry and as a French cook in her pub kitchen in Norfolk.

“I became a teacher in 2002 and have been teaching ever since. I did adult education, and more recently, because I’m working towards retiring in a few years, my time is split. Three days a week are spent teaching languages in a primary school in Ipswich, and the other two days, I am my own free agent so I do cooking lessons, private tuition and translation as well.

Madelines baking in the oven Picture: Catherine GodetMadelines baking in the oven Picture: Catherine Godet

“The cooking came up as I wanted to do more with Coastal Leisure Learning, as I’ve worked with them in the past. Then a couple of years ago, I started doing a Saturday culinary workshop.”

Taking her workshops across Suffolk, Catherine began teaching classes in Stradbroke, Woodbridge and Framlingham, before starting her own class in Reydon last September.

However, when lockdown struck, Catherine was left unable to teach her students due to social distancing restrictions – but still owed them one more session.

“What my students usually do is book three or four sessions, so they know in advance what recipes we’re going to do. When Covid happened, we still had one workshop to finish, and I didn’t think that was fair to not teach them. I had an idea and said to them ‘If you’d be interested, we could do a pilot where I meet with two or three of you beforehand and do a trial before we do our final class.

Finished madeleines Picture: Catherine GodetFinished madeleines Picture: Catherine Godet

“Even though I’m computer-literate, I’d never used Zoom before and never would have thought to do my lessons online, but thought to myself ‘Well this going to last, and I need something positive to focus on. My students were of a certain age, and were all shielding, so it would be nice to have something to look forward to.”

Besides giving people the invaluable skill of cooking fine food from their own homes, Catherine’s sessions also provided attendees with a much-needed escape – and the chance to form new friendships.

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“We never talked about Covid in the classes - we kept it sociable, and it built a community that was not there before. For example, I had people in the workshop who were from Framlingham, Saxmundham, Dunwich and a couple of ladies from Southwold. I even had a reverend from Eye, and all of these people would not have come together otherwise. They really enjoyed our sessions and they said to me ‘Could we carry this on?’ - so that’s where we are. The pilot sessions allowed me to refine the concept for online, and now I know I’ve got something that works.”

Pictued right is Jeanne, Catherine's grandmother, who has been an inspiration to her throughout lockdown. Next to her is Catherine's father as a child Picture: Catherine GodetPictued right is Jeanne, Catherine's grandmother, who has been an inspiration to her throughout lockdown. Next to her is Catherine's father as a child Picture: Catherine Godet

With Catherine taking bookings for classes up until December, she has an array of traditional French dishes up her sleeve, including Soupe à l’oignon (onion soup), Crêpes Suzette, Quiche Lorraine, coq au vin, beef bourguignon and mousse au chocolat. But where exactly do her recipes stem from, and how does she manage to keep her dishes so authentic?

“My grandmother Jeanne used to have this battered book, and I remember she’d use it to write her recipes in. In those days in France, if you went somewhere and they baked a cake, you’d ask for the recipe, so they would take the time to write it down, and then you’d write it in yours. So she had a collection of different recipes. While I don’t have the book itself, we cooked together so much that I remember the recipes.”

Catherine therefore decided to call her course Les Recettes de ma grandmère – which translates to ‘my grandmother’s recipes’ - in honour of Jeanne.

Jeanne, who lived through the Second World War, was left to run a farm and raise a child by herself after her husband was taken as a prisoner of war in Austria. “My late grandmother has been a bit of an inspiration for me during the pandemic - that woman could do anything. Even when I was a teenager, I remember that she would bake, wallpaper, embroider, mix cement, repair a glass pane - she could do anything, and she was amazing. I was brought up next to her and she’s my all-time hero.

A selection of freshly picked vegetables from Catherine's garden - which she uses in her cooking Picture: Catherine GodetA selection of freshly picked vegetables from Catherine's garden - which she uses in her cooking Picture: Catherine Godet

“She had a big garden as well so grew all of her own vegetables. She also raised her own chickens and rabbits so we could eat. She made her own jam, and preserved her own food – and it’s all things I can do now. I’ve gone back to growing my own veg and making lots of jam, so it’s been a time of reflection and learning. This summer, I’ve been busy growing my own garlic, cabbage, green beans, tomatoes, courgettes, lettuce and strawberries.”

As well as going back to basics and harnessing the power of homegrown ingredients, Catherine also teaches her students the important of French cuisine, and how much of an influence it has on English cooking. “A lot of the sauces you use in England are based on French recipes, so I’ll be teaching my students how to do a Hollandaise sauce and a beurre blanc, which are two of my favourites.

Catherine, who tends to keep her Zoom sessions to six participants at a time, wants to give her students a breadth of knowledge and experience. She does this by teaching them four types of dishes over the sessions – a starter, a fish or meat main, a vegetarian option and a dessert.

“I email all of my student the list of what they need to buy the week before, and if I need them to prepare something beforehand such as chopping onions then I’ll tell them. Firstly, we catch up and introduce ourselves, so people can breathe a little bit and relax before they start.

Coq au vin - a French dish that consists of chicken, wine and mushrooms Picture: Catherine GodetCoq au vin - a French dish that consists of chicken, wine and mushrooms Picture: Catherine Godet

“Then I demonstrate and do the step-by-steps before they have a go. I then Zoom each of the students individually to see how they’re doing, and give them feedback. They really value the fact they get personal feedback on what they’re doing. The students have also said they really enjoy being in their own kitchens, as they know where everything is, whereas when you’re in a workshop elsewhere, it takes you a while to get used to where everything is.”

As Catherine hopes to grow her virtual cooking classes far and wide, and share her grandmother’s legacy, she’s keen to show the people of Suffolk (and beyond) that French food doesn’t need to be difficult – it can be comforting, nostalgic and delicious for all the family.

“I’ve found that people don’t want avant-garde French food - they just want something traditional. I think it often reminds people of holidays they might have had in France when they were younger.”

To find out more about Les Recettes de ma grandmère, contact Catherine on 07599 200 207.


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