France is the land of baguettes, croissants, cakes and pastries, it’s certainly not known for its gluten free approach to gastronomy. Indeed it is as difficult to find a doctor who will test for intolerance as it is to find a restaurant that caters to those who need to avoid gluten. But that is all changing and Provencal chef Nadia Sammut is a big part of that change.
Nadia, who is a celiac sufferer herself, teaches cooking classes in the kitchens of a restaurant-hotel called La Fenière close to Lourmarin in the Vaucluse department of Provence. She has a passion for creating tasty dishes leaving out elements that are the main culprits for those who suffer food issues. She is the go to guide for coaching other chefs on what gluten-free means and is also re-writing the rule book on French recipes (leaving out gluten).She does though admit with a wry smile, that a gluten-free croissant might be “a way off yet”.
Nadia’s tireless campaigning to bring gluten issues out into the public domain in France has resulted in her working with the government. She has been advising on why it’s important to ensure consumers know what they’re buying. And, she’s very happy with the result since it is anticipated that a new law will come into force ensuring that food products must list fourteen of the most common ingredients that cause problems – including gluten.
Gluten Free Cookery Courses
Watching Nadia work in the kitchen of La Fenière and enjoying a lesson in which you learn to make delicious and very French dishes sans gluten is an inspiring experience. Her enthusiasm is infectious and no matter what level you’re at when it comes to cooking (and believe me, I’m on the bottom rung of the ladder, my French friends call me “Flop Chef Not Top Chef”), she somehow manages to coax her pupils to produce something outstanding.
“It’s not about gluten-free” she insists “it’s about taste. Just because you’re gluten intolerant doesn’t mean you can’t have scrumptious food”. Naturally the restaurant menu offers lots of gluten-free choices.
Nadia sources products from around the world as well as from local markets and companies like Bastide du Laval, an organic olive farm just down the road. Here French couple Carine and Roland Coupat make the most exquisite olive oil. After 15 years spent in Los Angeles in the tourism business, they returned to France and bought an old vineyard only to find the vines were past their sell-by date. Undaunted, they planted 4000 olive trees and have won awards for their olive oil which you can buy in the farm shop. While you’re there, take a walk around their orchard and admire the trees which in the summer months vibrate to an orchestra of cicadas, the ever present, ever noisy southern French cricket-like insects.
There’s not much that beats arriving somewhere and being offered a glass of cherry juice from just picked cherries in the enchanting garden. Well actually, yes there is! Being show to your hotel room which is exquisitely decorated and looks over a cool pool! Or perhaps it’s the utterly delicious food that’s served here, or the magnificent gardens. And, if you take a cookery lesson with Nadia or her mother Samut, a Michelin star chef – then that might just be the best part about a stay here.
Whatever it is that you seek, a taste of gluten free France, beauty, tranquility, truly delicious food, La Fenière is authentic and gorgeous. It’s a hotel that makes you feel a bit as if you are staying with very stylish friends who have the best taste, it’s everything you imagine Provence to be and it’s a place that inspires.
More on Provence:
Visit Lourmarin for a taste of Provence
Roussillon, the red rock town of Provence
Lavender fields of the Vaucluse
Markets of Provence