Travel Wisconsin: L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School

The L`ecole de la Maison Cooking School in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin

The L`ecole de la Maison Cooking School in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin

Travel Wisconsin: The L`ecole de la Maison Cooking School in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin

By Hazel Freeman

Does the thought of spending the day tucked away in a glistening, state-of-the-art kitchen preparing a half-dozen gourmet dishes under the tutelage of a professionally trained chef, and then sitting down to savor each, and every bite of the delicious meal you’ve prepared, sound like cooking heaven? Well, you might want to pack your bags and head for the L`ecole de la Maison Cooking School at the Osthoff Resort in the quaint and beautiful town of Elkhart Lake (resident population around 1,000), in Wisconsin. I had the pleasure of just such a culinary indulgence last fall and what a decadent and delicious experience it was.

Located about an hour north of Milwaukee, less than two hours from Madison and about three hours from Chicago, the Osthoff Resort has earned the coveted AAA Four Diamond Resort rating for nineteen consecutive years. Only properties that deliver premier guest experiences, with superior personal service, first-class amenities, and impressive surroundings are given this prestigious award. Only three percent of AAA-rated lodging and restaurant properties in the nation receive the Four Diamond Award if that tells you just how special the Osthoff is.

Osthoff Resort at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Osthoff Resort at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Launched in 2008, the French cooking school attracts not only foodies and novice cooks wanting to hone their cooking skills but those just wishing to enjoy an entirely new experience. With the current popularity of food-based travel, and farm to table cuisine, the Osthoff seems to have hit on the perfect time to offer guests an exceptional culinary experience. The classes at L`ecole de la Maison are hands-on classes, no sitting back and watching here. The excitement was palpable as our group of eager students entered our classroom for the day and donned our aprons. Like wide-eyed kids we took in our surroundings of shiny stainless-steel appliances, glossy marble counter tops, hanging racks full of pots and pans of all shapes and sizes, stoves, ovens and sinks a plenty.

L`ecole Class Kitchen

L`ecole Class Kitchen

The expanse of beautiful marble countertop at the heart of the kitchen was lined with workstations brimming with enticing ingredients of fresh fruits and vegetables, huge blocks of chocolate, containers of flavorful herbs and spices, and the makings for a Fougasse Bread infused with rosemary and olives.

L`ecole de la Maison

L`ecole de la Maison Cooking School Ingredients

Our chef instructor for the day was Chef Benjamin Sommerfeldt. Chef Benjamin has been part of the award-winning culinary team of Lola’s on the Lake Restaurant & Lounge at The Osthoff Resort since 2012, he blends French cooking techniques, sustainability, and menus created using locally grown products and items from The Osthoff’s 2-acre onsite vegetable garden, and the resorts several herb gardens.

Chef Benjamin Sommerfeldt

Chef Benjamin Sommerfeldt

The class I donned my apron for was called, “Wisconsin Roots.” This is a popular class that is often filled quickly with eager students. The class focuses on Wisconsin rich food traditions that explore foods Wisconsin is known for, such as those international award-winning cheeses, specifically cheddars, one of my favorite types of cheese. I love a cheddar with a tongue, tingling bite to it.

Menu:

  • French Five Onion Soup with special finishing touches of Gruyère Cheese and Croutons. This flavor-rich soup includes red and white onions, leeks, shallots, and scallions.
  • Organic Baby Spinach Salad, Neuskies Bacon (a Wisconsin favorite), with pickled mushrooms and onions, toasted almonds, and a Dijon vinaigrette
  • Potato Crusted Walleye with a fennel and tomato salad finished with a Pernod butter sauce
  • Slow Roasted Tenderloin of Beef
  • Bacon and Cheddar Twice Baked Potato
  • Broccolini Rabe finished with a Natural Pan Jus Lie
  • Fougasse Bread Infused with Rosemary and Olives
  • Hazelnut Praline Crunch with milk chocolate caramel ganache
  • Last but not least, we learned how to make the most requested drink in Wisconsin; the Brandy Old Fashioned Cocktail. This must be the reason Wisconsin consumes more brandy than any other state.

Chef Benjamin welcomed all his eager students to the class and began by giving us instructions on the importance of proper hand washing hands for food preparation, and how to properly use a chef’s knife and a few other kitchen guidelines. Helping Chef Benjamin was his intern Christy from the Philippines. Christy expressed her good fortune at being able to perform her internship at the cooking school. All during the class, she quietly whisked dirty kitchen gadgets, utensils, and dishes into the sink for washing, replenished supplies, fetched items for Chef Benjamin and answered our many questions.

Teamed up in pairs, we prepared our recipes under the watchful eye of Chef Benjamin. We went through our assigned recipes step-by-step while also peeking over the shoulders of fellow students to see what they were making. Chef Benjamin would occasionally call our attention to a specific task on which he wanted to instruct the entire class. Our cooking, baking and sautéing filled the kitchen with heavenly smells and we couldn’t wait to sit down and indulge in the tasting of all our creations.

Walleye Place Setting

Walleye Place Setting

Just as we were finishing the last steps of our gourmet creations, Chef Benjamin gave a demonstration of the proper way to make Wisconsin’s most requested cocktail, a Brandy Old Fashioned. This recipe is a ‘sweet’ Old Fashioned. In a short tumbler, drop one orange slice, a sugar cube or two depending on how sweet you might like your drink, five shakes of Angostura bitters, one maraschino cherry, and a splash of sprite or 7-up. Muddle (mash or grind) ingredients until sugar cubes are dissolved, and orange and cherry are in small pieces. Fill glass with ice, pour in a shot (1 1/2 ounce) of brandy and finish filling with the sprite or 7-up. Garnish with another orange slice and another cherry. Oh, so good!

Brandy Old Fashioned

Brandy Old Fashioned

Our four hours of class time seemed to fly by, and before we knew it, we were sitting down to enjoy all our hard work. Every dish was a taste sensation garnering many oohs and ahhs, from the student chefs. This was an educational and fun experience, and I can see anyone who loves to cook or eat enjoying it.

 

IF YOU GO

Other classes offered by the school in addition to the Wisconsin Roots class are: Casually Italian, Lola’s on the Lake Secret Recipes, German Heritage, French Christmas, European Breakfast Cookery, French Fare, Osthoff Garden-Farm to Table, and Traditional Thanksgiving. They are continually adding new and exciting courses. The school also offers a variety of two-hour workshops. Classes are currently only in session on the weekends so keep that in mind when planning your trip. For the 2018 calendar click on: At A Glance 2018 class schedule. Classes without a time noted begin at 10 AM, hands-on instruction, 4–5 hours long. $185 per person, plus tax. Limited to 12 people. Two-hour workshops begin at 10 AM, and 2PM.and are $85 per person, plus tax (includes a glass of wine/cocktail). Limited to 16 people.

For more information or to register, call 888.789.2811, or visit: www. cookingschoolatosthoff.com. They ask that you call ahead 48-hours in advance for reservations. Should you cancel less than 48 hours, you’ll lose your cooking class deposit. Call to confirm your choice of class, the time and the date. For more information on visiting the Osthoff Resort or Elkhart Lake click on either.

 

NOTE: My opportunity to enjoy the L`ecole de la Maison cooking school at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake was sponsored by Elkhart Lake Tourism.

BIO

Hazel Freeman is a freelance travel and outdoor writer from Ohio. She is an award winning member of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio. Hazel loves travel and outdoor adventure, and enjoys sharing those experiences with others through her writing. Take a look at her website: www.hazelfreeman.com.

 

Leave a Reply

CONNECT WITH US