French Cooking Demonstration with Bret Bannon

Bret Bannon French cooking

Bret Bannon teaching the class how to peel tomatoes

I haven’t felt very inspired lately.  The lack of recent blog posts probably makes that incredibly obvious (sorry, folks!).  But now I’m here to tell you, I think I’m gettin’ my groove back!  Not only are the temperatures increasing (FINALLY!) but tonight Piyush and I attended a French cooking demonstration given by fellow blogger, Bret Bannon (Check out his blog, Bret’s Table, HERE).

It was my first time meeting Bret and I’ve got to tell you, he’s fantastic!  Not only is he incredibly knowledgeable about food–especially French–but he’s also a wonderful teacher.

Oh! And as if blogging and teaching weren’t enough, Bret also offers culinary tours (read about them HERE) to different regions of France, including cooking classes at Julia’s (yes, that Julia!) former home: La Pitchoune!  How cool is that?!


The menu tonight was wonderful.  Once I get copies of the recipes–assuming Bret will give me his permission–I would love to make a couple to share with you all!


Bret chopping tomatoes after peeling them for the puff pastry tart

The demonstration was done here, in Rochester, at Zzest.  I loved the class and learned quite a few new things.  I just wish Zzest was more spacious.  I know, it’s really not that big of a deal and they can’t really fix it, but in my opinion, it’s just too crowded.

Although Bret did a wonderful job explaining how each dish came together, we didn’t really get to see how the dishes were made.  Instead, the chef at Zzest (I think his name is John) prepared everything while Bret talked.  I was a little sad about that, but I’ve had food prepared by that chef many times before…so I knew it’d be good.  He’s a fabulous chef and I think he’s one of Zzest’s best assets.


We started the evening with some bread.  Fleur de sel was featured along with a really rich butter to top the slices.  I just ate half a piece of bread–I’m still on my “diet”–but It took every ounce of willpower in my body to not stuff my face with more of that butter!  Man, it was good.


Sit back and enjoy the wine!

We were also served some red wine to enjoy with our meal.  I’m not sure exactly what wine they served, the server didn’t show me the bottle and I forgot to ask before leaving.  I didn’t really enjoy the wine all that much, which is weird because I love dry reds. Oh well.  You win some. You lose some.

The aperitif for the evening was a really flavorful Tuna Rilette (quite similar to a tuna salad, just much fancier!).  I believe it included scallions, fresh coriander and cream and it was served on a cracker.  I didn’t like the cracker very much, but the tuna was incredible!  I was so excited to dig in that I didn’t even snap a photo!  Sorry.

First course was a beautiful puff pastry tart topped with chevre (seriously…goat cheese makes me happy!) and roasted tomatoes with greens.  This reminded me a lot of my Mushroom Puff Pastry Tart.  It was rustic, satisfying and incredibly simple!  But then again, the best things often are…


Chevre and Roasted Tomato Puff Pastry Tart with Greens

Next, came the star of the evening.  The black olive crusted striped bass served on top of garlic mashed potatoes was excellent.  I wouldn’t have thought to serve fish atop mashed potatoes.  To me it doesn’t seem like an obvious pairing, but it really worked! I can’t wait to re-create this recipe in my own kitchen.


Black Olive Crusted Striped Bass with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Tapenade


Lastly, we were served a lovely slice of citrus tart.  The crust was made with puff pastry and the filling was light and lemony.  Topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream, this is the stuff dreams are made of…

lemon citrus tart

 I’m stoked that Rochester is finally beginning to develop a “food scene”…it’s about time!  I’m excited to see it continue and hopefully even expand!


7 thoughts on “French Cooking Demonstration with Bret Bannon

  1. Bret Bannon

    Hi Shari – It was great meeting you and Piyush. Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed the class. You are the reason I enjoy sharing my passion for the table so much. I look forward to our next visit either in Rochester or in the Twin Cities.

  2. Carolyn

    So glad you were able to experience Bret’s teaching and superb cooking–he is a master…! I’ve known him for years and so glad others outside the metro are having the opportunity to learn from him….If you are thinking about going with him to France–do it! It’s an adventure of a lifetime and I’ve been blessed enough to do it twice!

    1. Shari Post author

      Thank you for the comment, Carolyn! The class was really fun, and I think going to France for a cooking lesson would be incredible! I’m hoping we’ll be able to swing it next spring.


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