Pastry chef Clemence Gossett is a tour de force at the Wednesday farmers market. The Paris native and Santa Monica resident expertly weaves through the crowd to familiar stands where the farmers and bakers know her by name. Recently, a small group followed her path, eagerly listening as she picked up a loaf of bread and described its journey from seed to slice.
The half dozen aspiring cooks following Gossett were students at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories, which teaches everything from how to crack an egg to how to transform a cocoa bean into a chocolate bar. In a town full of self-described foodies, Gossett is on a mission to elevate the conversation surrounding food. Gossett’s classes emphasize using the best ingredients: local, fresh and organic when possible.
“Explaining to people where the food comes from, how it affects us economically and environmentally and showing the difference in flavor and texture is really a big part of it,” Gossett said leaning over a stainless steel counter in the school’s current location. Soon the school inside Santa Monica Place will quadruple in size, as Gossett and her business partner Sabrina Ironside make room for more courses, private classes and summer camps for teenagers.
Gossett, a pastry chef, opened the Gourmandise (which means a craving for sweets in French) in 2011, emphasizing cooking technique over recipes. A glance at the course calendar reveals the phrase “waiting list” under a variety of options: the basics of baking, exploring regional cuisines and kids baking: cream puffs and eclairs. The business partners say the nearby Expo line has been a boon for business but they also get students from all over the West Coast, including Canada and Mexico. Their team of instructors has helped countless students who represent the full spectrum of home cooks – from the delivery dependent to Food Network know-it-alls.
“It’s a really interesting time in food,” Ironside said. “There’s so much convenience now that people simply don’t know what to do in the kitchen anymore but they are starting to understand that it’s healthier to cook your own meals and cheaper.”
Ironside came to the business with a background in entertainment marketing and little experience in the culinary arts. Together, the two women have grown the school from a few classes a week to a dessert, dinner and jam-packed schedule. A single class usually lasts a few hours and costs upwards of $100 but students are encouraged to bring their own take-home containers for the copious amount of food they will cook. (The Gourmandise invited this reporter to take a class and I took home four boxes of dinners and knowledge of how to properly prepare, season, sear, braze and fry chicken.)
“We just want people to enjoy the process,” Ironside said. “Bring your own wine and enjoy yourself. It doesn’t matter what skill level you’re at.”
The new space will include two kitchens giving the duo an opportunity to run two classes simultaneously. It will also launch the school’s new partnership with KitchenAid, which supplied the tools and equipment for the expansion.
Locals who want to learn more about what the Gourmandise is all about can follow them on social media or check out their website at thegourmandiseschool.com where Gossett posts free recipes and baking advice. The school even runs a “baking hotline” for home cooks in a pinch: (310) 656-8800.