Interview with Valentine Kitamura, French Cooking Instructor at Tartine and Maple

tartine and maple

Featured on Vancity Buzz as one of the Best Cooking Classes in Vancouver, Tartine and Maple has established a reputation for teaching French home cooking that has benefitted many.

“I love seeing people at the end of my classes feeling confident that they can do it again.” Valentine Kitamura, the chef instructor and owner of Tartine and Maple,  encourages her students to take pride in making it from scratch and use quality products.

tartine and maple

tartine and maple

Vancouver Foodie Pulse has recently chatted with Valentine and we get to know more about the stories of her and behind the business.

Valentine Kitamura

Valentine Kitamura

How did you end up moving to Vancouver to become a cooking instructor?

I moved to Vancouver from Toronto just because my husband and I wanted to be on the coast. I was working in the hotel industry at the time. I became a cooking instructor years after we moved, but I believe Vancouver was the right place to start this adventure. People are very connected to food here, and always willing to try new things.

Why is the name Tartine & Maple?

Tartine is my long-time childhood nickname! A Tartine is a bread on which you lay whatever food you want… I know it’s weird, but there’s a joke behind it… When I was looking for a name, I picked Maple because I thought it was complementing the “bread” perfectly ha-ha! And it sounds half French half Canadian, and rather delicious!

What do you want your students to take away from your classes?

The goal in my classes is first for students to have a fun time while they are here, socialize, share stories and adventure in the kitchen. I really strive to make the demonstration as easy as possible, so they leave confident that they can make it again at home! I want them to see that cooking, and mostly French cuisine, which is often intimidating, is way easier that it appears to be!

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What are other services and products that you offer at Tartine & Maple?

I offer Cooking Classes in a public or private setting. If you want to share the experience with a group of friends, for a special occasion or anytime, we can arrange that either at the Uncommon Café, or any other place if you have the kitchen and space! I also offer Private Chef services for small events, and Catering Services (specialized in pastry and baking).

What did you love to cook as a Teenager?

Cake! My love for baking started early! That was my thing, to make desserts for any occasions… I wasn’t really cooking anything else back then!

What are your Favourite Ingredients to cook with?

Butter! I rarely do without it… It must be a French thing! I love everything that is in the season, you can’t beat the taste of freshly picked fruits and veggies! I favour unusual meats such as veal, lamb, rabbit, duck… reminds me of home. And specialities such as Cassoulet, Pates & Terrines, Boeuf Bourguignon… I fall for all kinds of meaty dishes!

How is the fresh produce here in Vancouver different from in Europe?

Everything is big here lol! It’s always something I hear when I have visitors from France, that the produce is bigger! I tempt to not notice anymore because I have been here for so long… I think in Vancouver there is a real effort been made to get fresh quality produce more than anywhere else I visited outside of Europe. But Europe has very strict rules when it comes to food production and the mentality of producers and consumers reflects care for what is on their plate. The produce is smaller but tastier. If it’s not in season, people don’t reach for imported produces as much as here in Canada… French rather let time bring them the best!

What are your favourite restaurants in Vancouver?

Being a busy entrepreneur, employee and mum does not leave me too much time to go out dining! But I do love Les Faux Bourgeois when I crave for typical French food. I just recently tried Los Santos in New Westminster and it was amazing! Authentic Mexican food with a full Tequila bar!

What are the typical dishes you cook for your family on the weekend?

Roasted chicken is a favourite of ours. It’s simple and it reminds me of home when we used to gather the whole family for Sunday lunch and my grandma would cook her famous chicken! All kinds of stews, barbeque and lots of baking!

Which ones are your favourite French wines?

I am from the Champagne region, so I do like my Champagne above all! My favourite champagne, Ruinart, is unfortunately very hard to find in Vancouver. For reds, I like St Julien wines and anything from the Malbec (Bordeaux) region. In the summer, nothing beats a Rosé wine from Côtes de Provence! I drink that all summer!

What is your favourite dessert?

That would be hard to pick if I had only one choice! I do fall for a good Paris-Brest! it’s a Choux Pastry based desert with a hazelnut praline cream filling… I love chocolate but I usually won’t favour chocolate desserts. I love anything with lemon and raspberry!

What is your favourite travel destination and why?

Anywhere where I haven’t been yet! I usually try to go to various places every time, to keep discovering. Unless it’s to visit family in Toronto or France, anywhere where it’s hot and sunny is my pick! Of course, if there is a great food to eat, it goes at the top of the list! Corsica (island south of France), is probably one of my favourite places if I should go back anywhere. It checks it all: sun, beaches, amazing food and great people!

What do you like to do in your off time?

Off time? What is that? Lol! I rarely have time to myself, but if I do I love gardening, skiing, sailing (even though I rarely do sail anymore) or just sit in the sun with a good book! When the weather is nice, I take the kids on a little hike anywhere around here, we go to lakes, beaches, explore markets and historic sites, there’s always so much to see!

Tell me a bit about your family?

My husband is from Toronto and his parents were Japanese. If you wonder about my last name, there it is! We met in New Orleans out of all places! We have 2 beautiful kids; my son is 9 and my daughter is 7. It’s funny because we really see ourselves in our kids; my son is like husband and my daughter just like me! She loves being in the kitchen, baking, I can’t cook at home without her! She’s my little sous-chef!

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