Looking for a Brisbane cooking class? Master chef Bruno Loubet loves sharing his recipes at Willow Vale Cooking School at Perseverance near Ravensbourne National Park where he holds group cooking classes for food lovers.
Cooking class with Bruno Loubet at Willow Vale Cooking School
It’s been 25 years since Bruno Loubet sat down at the wide and well-used family dining table to enjoy his mother’s cooking.
Yet with one sip of her Prawn à l’Armoricaine (prawn bisque), made to precisely the same recipe, he is transported back to that noisy dining scene surrounded by his six siblings in Bordeaux in south-west France. The soup recipe is perfect in the eyes of this Michelin-starred chef who, after 40 years heading up kitchens in France, London and Australia, now calls Australia home.
Bruno Loubet is a Michelin-starred chef. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Gold Coast cooking classes
When Bruno and wife Catherine fell in love with a colonial-style house set on 3.4 hectares in the backblocks of the Gold Coast hinterland 18 months ago their plan to open a Willow Vale Cooking School suddenly became a reality.
The school is the sort of place where you may rub shoulders around the table with celebrated French chef Raymond Blanc, Melbourne foodies or Loubet’s Willow Vale neighbours. They are all keen to see how Bruno’s garden grows and share his culinary secrets. With a maximum of six students at a time, everyone can also taste the experience which finishes with a sumptuous three-course lunch. This is a satisfying group cooking class for Brisbane people too.
Willow Vale Cooking School has a large vegetable garden managed by Bruno Loubet. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Baking, cooking and farming are the ingredients for My Mother’s Special Recipes, a workshop Bruno runs based around the food cooked with much care by his mother to delight guests on special occasions.
My Mother’s Special Recipes is one of a wide selection of classes at Willow Vale. If you are looking for group cooking classes in Brisbane, put this on your list. Check out their class list here.
The property has a dam. Photo: Kerry Heaney
First cooking class job
The cooking class invitation comes with a clear instruction to wear walking shoes as the first job is to inspect the vegetable garden and meet the Loubet’s menagerie. There’s the Baby Doll Southdown sheep, royally named Archie and Alice which Catherine cheerfully admits to paying a king’s fortune to acquire.
Further down the hill is rescue Shetland pony Leo and his frisky miniature horse girlfriend Polly, a flock of ducks, some very impressive roosters and their hens and two much-loved horses.
The extensive biodynamic vegetable garden, filled with a wide variety of disease-resistant heritage breed plants, provides a constant source of fresh produce for the family and cooking school. It backs the Loubets’ philosophy of eating a plant-based diet supplemented by high quality, ethically sourced protein.
The miniature horse is always ready for a pat. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Step by step tuition
Back at the top of the hill and gathered around the central kitchen bench in the cooking school, Bruno explains the cooking processes for the day’s menu step by step, injecting plenty of humour along the way. There is one sight I won’t easily forget – this highly acclaimed chef chopping vegetables one-handed standing on one leg to demonstrate his cooking speed.
Bruno deftly makes a shortcrust pastry for the tart while delicious aromas mount as ingredients sauté and simmer for Prawn à l’Armoricaine (prawns cooked in a bisque sauce with small diced vegetables then infused with bay leaf and cognac).
I learned how to trim, and wood roast a duck breast to serve with green peppercorns accompanied by turnip and prune dauphinoise (see the recipe below). Tenderly treated, the turnips, braised celery and cabbage revealed surprising flavour depths.
The lunch highlight for me was the brown butter and almond pear tart with a low sugar salted caramel ice cream. The soft, buttery pastry and browned pears made light and satisfying but not overly filling dessert.
Another bonus of this Brisbane group cooking class is that you eat what you make!
Cooking class tips
What made this two and a half-hour workshop extra special were the professional tips gathered from years in commercial kitchens that Bruno shared along the way.
I left with a goodie back stuffed full of Willow Vale Cooking School honey and recipes but also with the confidence that the moment I don my stylish flax coloured linen apron, I will be able to make these recipes for my own family feast.
Here’s one of the dishes we cooked on the day at this Gold Coast cooking class.
Wood Roast Duck Breast, green peppercorn, turnips and prune Dauphinoise, braised celery and cabbage
- 8 duck breasts
- 1tbsp of green peppercorns
- Salt and pepper
The duck is cooked on the skin side only in a pan at low heat then finished on the BBQ with the green peppercorn. Make sure you rest it before slicing.
- 200ml chicken stock
- 3tbsp of duck fat
- Salt and pepper
- 1 celery bunch
- 1 chopped onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Salt and pepper PM
Method – Braised celery and cabbage
Cut the celery in wedges then pan-fry in duck fat to give a golden colour, add the onions and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken stock. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for about 20mns or until soft. In the meantime, wilt the cabbage in duck fat with seasoning.
- 800g turnips
- 100g prunes
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Salt and pepper PM
- 3 pinches of nutmeg
- 500ml of cream
- 1tsp of tapioca flour
- 100g Ementhal cheese grated
Method – Gratin
Peel the turnips then slice about 2mm thick. Boil the cream with the garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg. In a small container, dissolve the tapioca with 2tbsp of water then whisk in the cream. In a large bowl, pour the cream over the turnips then mix well with the chopped prunes and 50g of the cheese. Pour in a gratin dish; level the top then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place in the oven at 175c for about 40mns.
When ready to serve, add the cabbage to the celery and heat it up. Slice the duck and place on the plates with the celery and cabbage, then serve the gratin at the table. If you like the gratin can be cooked in individual dishes.
Willow Vale Cooking School is at Perseverance close to Ravensbourne National Park.
Disclaimer: Eat drink and be Kerry was a guest of Willow Vale Cooking School.