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On Food: Colorado Springs gets new French culinary center

May 24, 2017 Updated: May 24, 2017 at 11:17 am
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Blandine Brutel, owner of The French Kitchen Cooking Classes, continues to amaze in her quest to educate about all things French.

My introduction to this French-born lady was in 2008 when she operated Chez Blandine, a personal chef business until 2009. In 2010, she and a partner opened Wholly Crepe, a small eatery specializing in sweet and savory crepes in The Citadel mall. That short-lived endeavor lasted four months. Soon after Wholly Crepe closed, her husband's work took them and their three young daughters back to France.

When she returned to the Springs in 2012, she opened The French Kitchen Cooking Classes, limited to about six students, and taught in her home kitchen. She since has developed a large fan base, and her classes fill almost as soon as she posts new ones.

Business has been so good that, in 2016, she hired Kristi Tutt as a chef and the kids program director, a position that has her teaching children's classes, camps and "quick lunch" classes.

Tutt, who grew up in Louisiana, graduated from Louisiana State University in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in nutrition. She moved to Colorado and in 2011 earned a culinary arts degree from the Art Institute of Colorado. After working at a few Denver cafes and eateries, she joined Brutel's team.

I've had a blast at Tutt's quick lunch classes. She is picking up French cooking skills from Brutel, while Brutel is gaining knowledge from Tutt about American ways to speed up recipe steps. One of my favorite take-aways from Tutt's class on cooking steak is how to reheat a cold steak.

"Wrap the cold steak in a damp paper towel," she said. "Microwave on low for a minute or two, depending on the size of the leftover steak. The damp towel will keep the meat moist during the heating, and it will taste as good as when it was first cooked."

It works. I've used the technique several times with tasty results.

But I digress. With the addition of Tutt, Brutel's class schedule exploded to the point where she came up with a plan to expand her business substantially. She leased a much larger place to establish a new four-in-one culinary center, which will have a cafe, bakery, boutique and, of course, the cooking school.

"Unlike other cooking schools, we will have a unique place in which you can learn to cook and bake, but also (can) eat, shop or even have parties," she said.

The bakery allows Brutel to accomplish another of her goals: to sell true French bread and sweets. That meant she would need to hire a French baker and pastry chef. Meet Sebastien Mulebrouck, who moved to Colorado Springs in 2000 from a small village near Valence, France. He started his career as a baking apprentice at Boulangerie Dufou when he was 15 and spent two years there perfecting artisan breads and croissants. He moved on to apprentice at Patisserie Dagand, where he polished his French pastry skills. After arriving in Colorado Springs, he worked at several restaurants before being hired at The French Kitchen.

The new culinary center, at 4771 N. Academy Blvd., will have a soft opening June 6. But you'll want to add June 23 to 25 to your calendar for the grand opening. There will be food and drink samples, cooking demos, a photo booth by the enormous Eiffel Tower look-alike, a 15 percent discount on classes and boutique items, up to 40 percent off on some specials, raffle prizes and the opportunity to meet the culinary team. Hours those days will be 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. June 23 and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 24 and 25.

Details: 528-6295, tfkcc.com.

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