Last summer we were invited to a press event at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. In the first demonstration, we learned all about salads — basic dressings and quick tips on variations to a simple salad. It was eye opening, to say the least. During the second half of the evening we had a cookie class taught by Clémence Gossett — owner of the school. She showed us the freshly ground flour they use and the made-from scratch chocolate created on site. She gave us a few tips for preparing the batter and put them in the oven. We waited in anticipation for the cookies to bake. 12 minutes later we bit into THE. BEST. COOKIE. EVER. Just the right ratio of dough to chocolate, perfect gooey texture, the newly milled flour had a consistency we have never eaten before.
After the class, we approached Clémence and asked her if she'd be willing to do an interview for The Passionistas Project. It was clear from the 20-minute demonstration that she had a passion for cooking and locally sourced, sustainable ingredients that was perfect for the podcast. Plus, we needed to get more of those cookies!!
It took a while to set up the interview because running a cooking school, sourcing ingredients and raising a seven-year-old takes up most of her time. But we did finally get to sit one-on-one with her. Little did we know that her heart was as warm as those fresh-from-the-oven cookies. From talking about her childhood, to her years working in the film industry, to creating the Gourmandise School, to helping out firefighters during the California wildfires, the word that kept recurring was kindness. Clémenece clearly cares much more about baking the perfect pie or loaf of rustic artisan bread. She cares about spreading joy, connecting with others and being kind to everyone around her.
Oh... and we left the interview with a box full of cookies!
Read some excerpts from Clemence's interview below and listen to the whole podcast here.
Passionistas: What makes this school different than other cooking schools?
Clémence: Every cooking school has their defining qualities. For us the most important thing is for people to make these things at home and to teach without judgment and with a lot of kindness and really great skill. We have three-hour classes, our classes are a minimum of three hours. They're all hands-on. And you're never sort of sharing the station with more than one person. And everybody here makes everything on the menu. So instead of saying this group gets to a make salad and this group will make dessert, we have a smaller menu — four to six dishes — and a three-hour period where everybody makes every, every meal. So then we sit down at the end and have a meal and answer questions.
Passionistas: You use a lot of locally sourced ingredients. Why is that important to you?
Clémence: We primarily use the Santa Monica Farmer's Market for all our produce. Some of our proteins and a lot of our grains. So the reason we picked this location to begin with seven years ago is that it's a stone's throw and a walking distance to the Wednesday and Saturday Santa Monica markets.
I have always had a very close relationship with a lot of the farmers. We visit the farms often and we send our kids up there they send their kids to us. There's a great symbiotic relationship between the needs of chefs and cooking schools and restaurants and what the growers grow. And having that connection is really helped to buoy a lot of these industries and a lot of these new agricultural products such as grains.
So we have this little mill and we test out grains the different farmers are growing and we'll hit one that we love like a variety of corn that makes an awesome cookie or a hard red wheat that makes a fantastic bread and then we can go back and say next season can you plant this amount more. Because we think we can sell it.
Passionistas: So why do you think it's important to inspire people to think about what they're cooking?
Clémence: It's so important for people to learn how to cook, number one because it's a skill everyone should have. It saves money. It creates connections. It can help decompress you if you sort of learn to not be afraid of the process. But knowing where your ingredients come from and being an active part of your economy is so important. So it's deeper than just shop at a farmers market. It's about what do you want your food system to look like?
In this country not only do you have a voice and you're able to vote without too many boundaries. But this is the one country in the world where your dollar and the way that you spend it speaks volumes. So I can think of another place where it's more important to make. Everyday purchasing decisions to mirror what you want your home to look like and that can be in your community. It can mean your state. It can be the federal government. It doesn't matter. We are all responsible for how we want our country to be run. And when you make purchasing decisions that is a vote for a particular economy. It is a vote for a food system.
So we talk a lot about policy and not politics here. We have some lecture classes that have to do with trade routes, geography, history, where does your food come from, meet the farmer, that sort of thing. But what we really want to inspire people to think beyond his is just organic in a plastic package at the grocery store. What does that mean? If it was triple washed lettuce it's being washed with chemicals whether it's organic or not. You probably don't want in your lettuce that's being packed in a factory that may not have very responsible or ethical practices regarding their employees. So, It's about thinking one step beyond not just taking things at face value that presented to you but to go one step further.