After a move to Australia in the early 2010s, Stephane Nguyen started to seek out the flavours and dishes of his native country, France. This exploration took him down an unexpected path that now sees him, and his partner, in life and business, Kate Blenkiron, as the powerhouses behind the French Cooking Academy.
Since 2019, the online cooking school has garnered over 750K followers on YouTube, tens of thousands on their social platforms and they’ve just released their first cookbook.
“I decided to teach myself cooking from scratch,” says Stephane, “I bought a culinary school textbook, the one they use in France and thought I’d teach myself.”
He uploaded his classes on YouTube in 2015, “I started sharing the basics, and it snowballed from there,” he says.
What was a hobby turned into a business. Stephane and Kate toured France for a year in 2019 for research and – luckily (in hindsight) – set up an online cooking school just before Covid hit.
Through his exploration, combined with Kate’s knowledge as a ‘local’, Stephane discovered Mt Zero products so we couldn’t help but ask them both to be our Mount Zero Heroes this month.
With Covid, lockdowns and a hungry audience (pun intended), the courses grew rapidly.
Stephane puts much of the success down to the fact that he is self-taught. “I worked through techniques, exploring my own cuisine and found ways to explain what may be perceived as complex, in easy terms.”
This ability to demystify an often complex cuisine has created an ease and confidence in his followers.
Using local ingredients also matters to Kate and Stephane - they use our olive oils in their kitchen. “We use a lot of olive oil in the south of France,” says Stephane, “they use butter in the north but oil in the south.”
And, he and Kate love our lentils, “People don’t use Du Puy lentils here as much as we may do in France, and the Mount Zero French-style Green Lentils are just so good,” he says. “We use them all the time and recommend them, too.”
This love has seen Stephane share his recipe for a Farmhouse Lentil Salad, dressed in our red wine vinegar, Pink Lake salt, and utilising our Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is a lush and hearty salad that Stephane says is the perfect time of year to enjoy - "it’s fresh, versatile and there are so many options to adapt it to the season.”
This is one of the dishes they enjoy at home, too. Kate – who is the photographer and creative director of The Academy – loves our Biodynamic Soup Mix and often uses our Organic Falafel Mix for lunch on busy days, with greens and cucumbers from their kitchen garden.
You’ll also find Pink Lake salt in the pantry, our olives when entertaining and they use our lentils in Indian-style curry dishes, too.
To see some of Stephane's fantastic recipe videos, which put our olive oils to great use, see below!
The Fast Five
- If you weren't running a cooking academy, what would you be doing?
Running a French cookware store
- Last place you dined out?
Noi Vietnamese Eatery in Adelaide.
3. What's your favourite Victorian restaurant?
Chin Chin for fusion and France-Soir for classic French food.
4. Favourite season/s of the year for produce?
Autumn, when stone fruits are at their best.
5. Do you have any special projects scheduled for this year or beyond?
Stepping out from behind the screen and organizing more face-to-face events.
Article by Hilary McNevin