Professional Chef Offers Culinary Classes in Eaton Rapids
By Kate Polesnak
The State News
Tucked away on a hill amid farmland and trees in an old English-style home, a pot of creamy red soup bubbles on the stove as bright lights illuminate steaks grilling nearby.
This is the home and workplace of Denene Vincent, a professional chef who offers culinary classes to everyday cooks. Le Chat Gourmet Culinary Arts, outside of Eaton Rapids, offers a unique experience for food connoisseurs at any level, with a kitchen reflecting the style of a Tuscan cottage that’s fully equipped with every cooking gadget imaginable.
Despite traveling the world and meeting famous chefs like Food Network stars Rachael Ray and Alton Brown, Vincent is most comfortable in her chef hat when she’s surrounded by fellow food fanatics.
“I’m fortunate because I get to share my passion with others,” she said.
But teaching culinary classes wasn’t always Vincent’s plan.
After an injury, she gave up her job as the pastry chef at The English Inn in Eaton Rapids. The stress of a full-time food service job was difficult, so she progressed to teaching classes in her own kitchen.
“It was a very humbling experience,” Vincent said. “Everything happens for a reason.”
And her work isn’t limited to just teaching. With about 40 different classes per quarter and about six recipes per class, Vincent has a lot of experimenting to do beforehand.
“There’s a lot of recipe development,” she said. “It’s constant. It’s the same as painters or any other artist.”
To develop new dishes, Vincent writes a recipe and carries it out exactly as written, making adjustments along the way. About 80 percent of her recipes are new every quarter, and most of the recipes she uses aren’t repeated in classes for at least a year.
Creating new tastes doesn’t put her in a tizzy, though.
She said there’s always something that sparks an idea for a meal. On Friday night, Vincent offered French Bistro Favorites, a class featuring grilled entrecote steak with Parisian béarnaise café butter, pommes Anna, creamy tomato soup with puff pastry crust and a classic French apple custard tart.
For Brian and Judy Moran of East Lansing and their neighbors, Mitch and Jeanne Tomlinson, a bottle of wine paired with the French dinner class was a perfect double date. All four like to cook but vary in the kinds of dishes they make and how they make them. For Judy Moran, cooking has been part of her family history, as her grandmother was once the head chef for Chrysler.
“When I was in my 20s, I realized all of (my grandmother’s) recipes were in her head,” Judy Moran said. “My cousin and I would cook with her — one would cook and the other would write down increments. That totally ignited my love of it.”
Like family traditions, Vincent’s kitchen allows people to bond as they prepare meals as a group rather than individually. When the chopping, grilling and stirring is finished, the chefs unite around the dinner table to dig in.
“I love how it kind of becomes our kitchen,” said Karen Willson of Delta Township. “She’s like, ‘Go get this, go get that.’”
People gather in Vincent’s kitchen to hone their cooking skills, learn new recipes or just enjoy a night out with friends.
“It’s fun,” Willson said of her third class. “You learn new recipes. You really get addicted to this.” This time, she treated her younger sister, Sarah Little, of Lansing, for her birthday.
Vincent has been addicted to it since she was a child.
“I would always cook when I was little,” she said. “I would come up with recipes, and my mom was good and would buy groceries if I made up a list.”
Now, the brick walls of her kitchen house a table and carts holding olive oil, sugar and fresh vegetables as well as a large, stocked wine rack. Her shiny appliances and utensils came from years of traveling to the culinary corners of the world, where she and her husband, Michael Vincent, got a sneak peek at famous restaurant kitchens and met other renowned chefs.
“We’re pretty fortunate because when we do travel, we end up in a lot of kitchens,” she said. “When you meet people that are really passionate, you help each other out. When I travel, I rent a place for at least a week. I go to the markets, talk to farmers and explore.”
Published on Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Le Chat Gourmet Culinary Arts
The culinary school, 11874 Bunker Highway in Eaton Rapids,
offers classes to everyday cooks, including wine dinners, baking and technique courses
For more information, call (517) 663-7322 or visit www.lechatgourmet.com
Source: Le Chat Gourmet Culinary Arts