Join Us On Our France Cooking Retreat 2020

For all details and full itinerary, download the full brochure here.

Summer and Autumn 2020 Retreat Dates

Summer Retreat
June 16 – 23
with Julie Francis, Donna
Covrett, Maria de la Torre

Arrive: Tuesday June 16
Depart: Tuesday June 23

Autumn Retreat
September 15 – 22
with Renee Schuler, Donna
Covrett, Maria de la Torre

Arrive: Tuesday September 15
Depart: Tuesday September 22

This will be my third trip to visit my friends, Tim and Maria, in St. Clément, a small Medieval town in Southern France. The first one was to learn Persian cuisine, with Chef Azam, at their intimate cooking school, Le Petit Conservatoire des Saveurs. We explored the exotic ingredients of Persian food; saffron, rose water, candied orange, and made dishes using local and seasonal French ingredients like the quince from the vineyard next door, and the figs from the trees that lined the village streets.

The second year, I traveled with my friend Donna, a pastry chef, and we led a trip focused on shopping and cooking from the markets with Chef Maria. We arrived in mid-September, and were there at the perfect time to experience the harvest – wine, produce, olive oil, fruits, local meats and fish all at their peak. It was such a beautiful bounty; I had a very hard time deciding what to cook.

This year, I’m returning in June. I am excited to cook with late Spring ingredients in the sweet small kitchen with Maria and Donna, and linger over 3-hour dinners in the garden with friends, new and old.

I’m thinking about the last trip I took with my parents to France, in May of 2013. My father was struggling with Parkinson’s, and we knew it would be his last trip. Food, wine, and museums were the focus. They took eating and drinking very seriously, and it was really their only “hobby”. Traveling to France to eat was very special to them, and I’m so thankful I was able to experience this with them. I’m so lucky to be able to continue the tradition, and to experience the sensual pleasure of food and wine in France.

A Week in the South of France

Join us in the enchanting region of Languedoc-Roussillon and be seduced by the succulence of the local specialties as we explore the cuisine du terroir, shopping at nearby village markets, meeting local food artisans, touring wineries and the cobblestone streets of medieval villages, as well as cooking and dining together. Enjoy a slow-paced food retreat under the gorgeous blue Mediterranean sky, experience the flavors and traditions that make France resonant with good living and are sure to inspire your own home kitchen. From the excellent local cheeses and wines to the historical and architectural interests, plus cooking and yoga classes and market- fresh meals in the garden, we guarantee ‘l’art de vivre’!

Where: Saint-Clément, Gard, France

Saint-Clément is a small historic village of 400 residents in the Gard department and Languedoc-Roussillon region (now part of the Occitanie region), in the south of France, approximately 17 miles northeast of Montpellier, and 356 miles south of Paris. Saint-Clément is located at the foot of a small mountain, and is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and sheep farms. In addition to beautiful landscapes, the 800 year-old village boasts winding streets, beautiful architecture, and a popular winery, Domaine de Trépaloup.

Our hosts are Maria de la Torre and Tim Fallen-Bailey, proprietors of Sugar and Saffron Cooking School, 45 Rue du Moulin d’ Huile. Guests reside in comfortable rooms in a shared house across the street from the school. From Paris, travel is a short flight to Montpellier (one hour-plus), or by train to Nîmes or Montpellier (approximately 3-plus hours). Flying into Barcelona and taking a train (3 hours) to Montpellier is also an option. From there, Maria and Tim provide transportation to Saint-Clément.



Chef Julie Francis, a Cincinnati (USA) native, has fond memories of her trips to Paris with her family to experience the markets and the amazing small chef owned bistros that they loved. In her professional career as an acclaimed Cincinnati restauranteur and chef of Aioli and Nectar restaurants, (2001-2017) she promoted seasonal and local sourcing before it became popular. During her career, Julie was proud to participate in many Cincinnati culinary events like 1 Night 12 Kitchens, Cincinnati Food and Wine Classic, Luminosity, and Zoofari. She was honored to be invited to cook at The James Beard House with other esteemed Cincinnati Chefs in 2014. Julie was drawn to start her personal chef business, Nectar Personal Chef Services, after seeing the enjoyment that families and individuals experienced with her in home cooking, and how providing delicious, healthy food made people happy, and let them relax at home.


After 20 years in the culinary industry in the USA as a pastry chef and restaurateur, Donna moved behind the scenes into food journalism—five years with an alt-weekly publication and eight years as the food and dining editor for Cincinnati Magazine. In 2014 she co-authored a cookbook for Chef Dan Wright’s popular restaurant SENATE, and launched Cincinnati Food and Wine Classic, a festival featuring local and national chefs, food artisans, brewers, winemakers, and storytellers showcasing their talents through demos, seminars, competitions, and tastings. Along with a storied career in the culinary industry, Donna has long-held an equally passionate career in the healing arts teaching yoga, mindful movement, and meditation in public classrooms and workplace environments, as well as working individually with clients to provide tools for optimal mobility.


Originally from Colombia, Chef Maria has been cooking for some 30 years, earning a Cordon Bleu diploma along the way. In recent years she has specialized in spices and sugarcraft, giving courses in UK, France, USA, and Colombia. To widen her spice knowledge, Maria has taken courses in India and Thailand, and often invites chefs from other countries to teach in her cooking school, Sugar and Saffron. Fluent in English, French, and Spanish, Maria regularly teaches in all 3 languages. The school moved into custom premises in the south of France in 2018, with its own herb and spice garden. Maria has also started a non-profit, the Little Conservatory of Flavors, to collect, video, and teach old recipes that are not being passed on to today’s microwave generation.


Chef Renee Schuler, owner of Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts, is known for her beautiful seasonal food, hospitable service, and creative presentation. As a premier caterer, Eat Well serves many of the region’s exclusive events taking place in iconic venues, homes, and workplace including Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Major League Baseball—and can count famous faces such as Martha Stewart and Mark Zuckerberg among her clients. Outside of running her business, Renee loves to travel, counting the regions and food culture of southern France as one of her favorites.

Booking and Information

For all details and full itinerary, download the full brochure here.

Contact: Tim Fallen-Bailey

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