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Fresh, French and Farmed Locally: Karen Gros' Recipe for Great Meals
Karen Gros may be Eureka Springs' Julia Child, but she's also a tour guide spreading her love of French culture
Gros admits when she married her husband Patrice 20 years ago, she didn’t cook much; in fact, he was the one who put in the kitchen time when they hosted dinner parties.
But as she spent more time with her husband and his family in France, she said she was captivated by the food, the culture and lifestyle, which she characterized as being centered around family life, mealtime, and preparation of fresh ingredients purchased at outdoor markets.
Although she had taken a cooking class in the years before she married and had been charmed by the teacher and her kitchen garden, Gros said it never occurred to her that someday she might want to do the same.
In France, though, she learned to cook while being in the kitchen with her in-laws, and she began to attend cooking classes, including master classes in Paris. Gros said that despite the classroom hours, she is still mostly self-taught, and her emphasis is on seasonal menus from scratch, inspired by the French culinary traditions and highlighting locally grown foods. She also incorporates health and nutrition tips into her classes, stressing, she noted, “an avoidance of processed and denatured foods, and focusing on whole foods grown and raised as cleanly and as naturally as possible.”
She lives with husband Patrice Gros and their two children at Foundation Farm, where Patrice, a certified organic vegetable farmer and gardening consultant, raises crops that provide her with many of the ingredients she uses in her cooking.
Her French tours are a natural extension of her love for that country. Gros said she was inspired by Angelo Yao, professional dancer, drummer and police officer in Eureka Springs, who came to this country from Ivory Coast, West Africa. Yao has been taking groups of people to Africa for month-long tours for several years.
Gros said, “I thought, if Angelo can take people to Africa for a month, then surely I can take people to Paris for a week.”
Over time, she has added new itineraries, and she said she loves being a bridge between two cultures. And by necessity, she added, her French has gotten quite good.
Gros also acts as a personal chef for private dinners or cooking parties, as well as a facilitator for cooking events. She gives talks on the subject of cooking with fresh and dried herbs, and making stocks and sauces. She also offers cooking classes in her home once a month; May’s class will be a chance to learn how to create Spanikopita, a Greek cheese and spinach pastry.
She will be leading tours in France during June and July, so cooking classes resume in August, with that month’s class featuring Individual ratatouille tartlets with goat cheese on puff pastry and clafouti with fresh seasonal fruit.
Fall offerings include classes on soufflés, French onion soup, pistachio cake and buttercream frosting, cassoulet and duck confit, and Julia Child’s chocolate almond cake with chocolate glazing (gluten and sugar free version).
For more information, or to register for a class or a tour, visit www.cuisinekaren.com.