There are many things you can do for the Residential section of your Gold Duke of Edinburgh. You can do a Corde en Bleu cookery course in a fancy hotel in Oxford for the week, you can work on a kids camp in Scotland. You could even take a barge up and down the river in Kent and carry out conservation work for the British Wetland Society. OR, you can join the Snow Crazy Chalet Host Cookery Course in La Rosier, France for a few weeks and learn how to be a ski Chalet Host. Well, why not?
Off I went to learn how to cook daily varied, healthy and filling meals for a chalet of up to 12 hungry skiers. Challenge accepted! But this wasn’t any old cookery course, this was the our cookery ‘instructor’ was an ex-Ivy head chef, her husband was a ski instructor and we were frequently left in the capable hands of two chalet hosts – Tony and Chris – who were both English and in charge of showing us how to party, at work!
After a heavily delayed flight to Geneva we were collected by Tony, who on the winding bus journey up to the chalet, screeching around hair pin bends up the mountain side, briefed us in our tasks and duties for the forthcoming weeks. It turned out that we would, in essence, be running the chalet. Upon arrival we were shown our rooms and given our manuals for the course – basic cooking methods, cooking at altitude, health and safety, nutrition information, budget guides, 7-day meal plans effective for feeding up a hungry chalet of skiers, ensuring they had the correct balance of nutrients and enough protein and energy for a days skiing, each day, every day.
On the fifth day we did our weekly shopping and had to stick religiously to the shopping list we had planned out meticulously in accordance with our budget the night before, over a bottle, or two, of bubbly (we had just received 11/10 for our meal that night so it was call for a little celebration).
It was in the local La Rosier supermarket that I first discovered Mont D’Or cheese. Packaged in a cylindrical wooden box was a reasonably sized ‘wheel of cheese’ tucked up carefully in grease-proof paper. The instructions suggested to make several incisions in the top of the cheese with a kitchen knife, then to insert slivers of raw garlic and sprigs of rosemary in an alternating pattern and finish off by covering it in a shot of white wine before baking in the oven for 15 minutes. I think these are some of the best instructions I have ever read on the back of a wooden box of cheese!
We passed the first week with flying colours and soon sped into the second. On the last night we were each presented with certificates of our achievements and an award each. Then it was time to celebrate and sip bubbly in the hot tub under a glorious canopy of stars as we speculated over our future guests! It had been an epic two weeks, and I couldn’t wait to put my new found culinary skills to use!