Food learning

Today I had lunch with Paule Caillat in her kitchen near the Place de la Republique. Paule is a cooking teacher and guide who has introduced hundreds of Americans to French cuisine — the real thing, not the stuff served in restaurants. Her Promenades Gourmandes features walks through open-air markets, the kitchens of **** hotels, a famous baker’s shop, and so forth, which inevitably end with a meal in her wonderful kitchen. Using the freshest ingredients, she teaches a contemporary “cuisine bourgeoise,” a precious repertoire of menus that are easy to recreate at home.

Great business, eh? At least it was until the war with Iraq. Now even Americans who like the French are sometimes afraid to admit it. Flights from the U.S. to France are half empty. American visitors call Paule once or twice a week instead of two or three times a day. Her website goes live this week. She wanted to know if eLearning could help out.

After a frittata and roast lamb with fingerling potatoes, a few glasses of Veuve Cliquot and vin rouge, and of course a couple of cheeses, we sat down to explore the opportunity. We watched some video segments Paule had done for a cooking series pilot. We talked about what she does do please her customers. (They love her.) And luckily, a doctor from Minnesota called. He was coming to Paris in a week. The family would like a food tour; the wife would like a cooking lesson; they’d all enjoy lunch. (You can do the same — call Paule at 33 1 48 04 56 84 or email <[email protected].)

We concluded that Paule’s customers don’t want just cooking lessons. They want the entire experience. They want a trusted source of information and food savvy in Paris who can lead them around while speaking fluent English and catering to their needs.

Could elearning help out? asked Paule. I suggested she forget the term eLearning. More important by far is providing the experience of being with Paule virtually. La Paule Virtuelle. This has more to do with connecting than with learning. It might work like this:

    Le diner a la distance

    Le client, most often someone who has experienced one or two days of Paule in Paris, describes a dinner party they want to host by email or phone. Paule provides instructions on shopping, decor, wine selection, and a time-line. Paule answer questions and gives advice. Guests receive formal French invitations. When they arrive, they get a modern French menu. Paule welcomes them in a streamed web video. A personalized, special event that invokes memories of Paris. All for a cost of perhaps $100.

Paule and I talked about culture & food, McDonald’s, le marketing, Chez Panisse, the Berkeley Bowl, and green lentils. Then I wandered down to the Place des Vosges and l’Hotel Sully.

Posted by Jay Cross at March 27, 2003 12:07 PM | TrackBack

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