HYDE PARK — Joseph Johnston, 11, had been to Europe last year and loved the French food.
So he jumped at a chance to learn more about cooking it when his aunt, Griselle Martinez, offered to take him to the first of a planned series of French cooking classes.
“Hmm ... it’s very creamy — and you can tell the garlic and onion in it,” said Johnston, as he and 24 others attending the class ate cups of asparagus Vichyssoise (a cold soup) recently.
The classes are offered by The Piquant, an eight-month-old bakery and cafe in Hyde Park. It is owned by two chefs, Ricardo Castro and Roasan Rivera, who had separate catering businesses for several years.
The classes, which began Sept. 11 and are planned monthly, include demonstrations of creating an appetizer and three courses. Throughout the presentation, attendees sample the dishes, which have been prepared in the cafe’s kitchen and served by restaurant staff. Each course is paired with wine samplings and attendees receive printed copies of the recipes.
The Sept. 11 menu was salmon mousse vol-au-vent, asparagus vichyssoise, boeuf bourguignon with pommes de Terra Anna, and crème brulee.
Rivera oversaw the food preparation in the kitchen. Castro gave the demonstration, offering various tips relating to the dishes or the ingredients such as choosing potatoes that have “hard, tight skin.”
“Crème brulee is the best representation of a French dessert that has become almost American,” Castro said.
Castro told the guests about his own cooking methods: “No matter what I am doing, I like to add a bit of butter at the end.”
With each course, the guests applauded and yelled “delicious,” “fabulous” and “terrific.” The chef also answered questions as she demonstrated each dish.
Rivera said they plan to have 20 people per class but had several walk-ups for the first session. The chefs also offer private lessons for two people at a time where the participants cook with the chefs and then all sit down to dinner.
For the Sept. 11 class, there were more women than men but all guests crossed a wide range of ages.
Jolene Fabricant, 67, of Harbour Island and Eunice Nieves, 38, of South Tampa were among the attendees.
“I love the food they have here; it is such a nice environment and I am inspired by them,” Fabricant said.
Lisa Jacobson, 54, of South Tampa, attended with friend Susan Smith, 58, also of South Tampa.
“I always loved cooking but it so good to learn something from an expert,” Jackson said, prior to the class.
At the end of the class, she said, “Everything is so good.”
And she had just one question for Castro: “Are you married?” she asked to a room of laughter.