So you want to be a chalet host and cook?
Well this is the course for you…
What a fun experience I had this summer attending a Snow Cooks course for a week with Mel in the most gorgeous alpine village of Peisey Nancroix. We stayed in a lovely restored large village house that is over 200 years old, within walking distance of the local amenities. This village has easy access to several local ski resorts and wonderful hiking areas, as well as a bus service to Bourg St. Maurice.
The week is set up to recreate a working week in a catered chalet. A great introduction to chalet life. Mel really delves deeply and give a fantastic insight into working as a seasonnaire in a catered chalet in the Alps. This comprehensive course covers the hosting skills required, time management, cleaning a chalet effectively and running a chalet efficiently, as well as providing you with a full week of menus to re-create perfect 3 course meals every night and bake great cakes for afternoon tea. All this can be achieved and you’ll still have time to ski!
Chalet hosting can be very rewarding and huge amounts of fun, but Mel covers the pitfalls and trouble shoots some of the realities of living away from home and working in an alpine resort too.
Learning to be a Chalet Host and Cook
Whilst this course is aimed at chalet hosting and cooking, with any group of like-minded friends this would also be a really great week away discovering this alpine region with a cooking course included! The set-up of the day gives plenty of free time in the afternoons for some great hiking, lake swimming and visiting local sights and towns.
We prepared and served breakfast daily. Each morning Mel covered a topic relating to chalet hosting and then we got on with preparing the 3 course dinner and making the cake for afternoon tea. Each day we planned a vegetarian/vegan dish and learned to understand other food allergies and dietary requirements. Planning and prepping ahead helped develop good time management skills to help you get out on the piste!
The evenings were convivial as the pair for the day finished the prep and served dinner the rest of the group could relax in the large vaulted ceiling open plan sitting room (after mucking in and helping). One large dining table ensure a great atmosphere over dinner to share stories, gain more insights from Mel and plan the next day.
I asked Mel a few questions about herself and the courses:
How long have you lived in the French Alps?
- I did my first ski season in 1987/88 but didn’t settle here all year until I discovered Peisey in 1995
What do you love about living in this region of France?
- I never tire of looking at the mountains! The summer is equally as beautiful as the winter. It is a healthy way of life with fabulous walks right on your doorstep and of course the skiing in the winter.
Can you give a brief description of the Snow Cooks courses
- The course is very hands on with students cooking a typical chalet menu, learning how to create dishes, food waste management, cooking at altitude, hygiene in the kitchen and of course hosting for a large group. They work in pairs generally so one can learn from the other.
We also cover other aspects of working in a chalet including guest management, changeover day, budgeting, taking care in resort…
The course is meant to give students a full understanding of what they will be expected to do as a chalet cook/host and the confidence to do it.
What was your inspiration for Snow Cooks
- After running a catered chalet business for 25 years and training my staff every year, it felt like a natural progression. We sold up in 2018, but I still wanted to be involved especially on the cooking side.
What’s the best advice you can give a potential chalet host/cook
- Get some hospitality experience either in a café, bar, catering company or restaurant! It will give you an insight into the hard work you will be doing but also looks great on the CV.
Also, cook and bake as much as you can for family and friends – it will make the course and job so much easier.
What are the three kitchen tools you can’t do without?
- A good sharp knife (everyone has their favourite)
- A microplane
- A plastic spatula
What is your signature dish?
- I have quite a few after cooking for so long and they change with the times! If I am to choose one, then the Goats cheese and honey filo purses ….although the Asian Pulled pork is a good one too!!
What is your favourite restaurant in the area you live in?
- Le Petit Hibou in Pont Baudin, Peisey
Would you share a recipe here?
Here’s a Vegetarian favourite
Goats cheese and tomato crumble – serves 4
Goats cheese and tomato crumble
- 1 kg ripe tomatoes – mixture of big and cherry
- 200 g goats cheese – soft type is better for this
- 4 tbsp Olive Oil
- 50 g pine nuts
- 100 g white breadcrumbs
- 50 g parmesan
- Basil leaves
- Salt and Pepper for seasoning
- Preheat oven to 190C or 170 fan oven.
- Chop tomatoes, keeping cherry tomatoes whole.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add chopped tomatoes, season and cook 10 mins until softened, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and stir in cherry tomatoes and ripped basil leaves.
- Spoon half mixture into a baking dish (or 4 x ramekins) and crumble half goat’s cheese on then repeat.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil and lightly fry pine nuts and breadcrumbs, then remove from heat and add parmesan.
- Scatter over the tomato mixture and bake for 20 – 25 mins until golden.
Things to do around Peisey Nancroix
On your afternoons off there are many different things to do and experiences to enjoy. The stand up open televillage/telebenne, locally known as the lobster pots, take you up to Peisey-Vallandry and the Vanoise Express.
This is the largest cable car in the world with the longest span across the valley of Peisey Nancroix. It links Peisey-Vallandry to La Plagne. Definitely worth a trip on to see the far reaching views across the valley and beyond.
From Peisey Vallandry you can walk to Les Arcs 1800 – an easy gentle uphill 20 minute walk. There you will find plenty to occupy an afternoon, an outdoor swimming pool, a golf course, go karts, mountain biking, The famous Folie Douce (closed Mondays in the summer) and plenty of local shops and restaurants.
One afternoon we embarked on a big hike up to Lac La Plagne and oh my this was worth the effort. There is a bus to the start of the walk or parking at Rosuel. This was about a 2 hour walk and just over 7.1km with around 920m of climbing. On our descent (which was much quicker) we were rewarded with marmotte sightings!
If you are a chalet owner looking for chalet cooks/hosts then this course is a really good introduction and apprentissage. During the week we had some guest speakers join us from Chalet companies, a professional chalet cook and an experienced chalet host. Mel does run courses for specific chalet companies too. During the winter months, Mel offers a private catering service and meal delivery service