Switzerland is home to the Alimentarium, the world’s first food-themed museum. In addition to its permanent and temporary exhibitions, it also offers hands-on cooking classes for children and adults. I was recently invited to attend one of these classes: “Les cuisines des artisans.” Our instructor took us into some of Vevey’s local markets to purchase ingredients for the dinner we prepared back in the museum’s classroom kitchen.
Visiting the Alimentarium
Located in the former home of the management offices of Nestlé, the Alimentarium first opened its doors in 1985. After closing for a period of time and undergoing an extensive renovation, the museum reopened in 2016. The new permanent collection follows the theme, “Food – the Essence of Life,” which examines, among other topics, the interaction between food, society and the human body. My children especially enjoyed the games about digestion!
The museum also houses a café, restaurant and, when the weather permits, an outdoor terrace. I have eaten at the restaurant with my family since the museum reopened. It has the feel of an upscale cafeteria, with menus that change by the season, and I was impressed with the quality of the meal (CHF 18 for the daily special, CHF 15 for a vegetarian option). The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 12:00 to 1:30 PM.
Cooking Workshops at the Alimentarium
At the Alimentarium, you will find cooking workshops in both English and French. The audience for these workshops include adults, children, families and school or other groups. The topics covered vary as well, from cooking with fresh produce collected from the museum’s garden in “Garden plot to gourmet palate,” to seasonal themes — like how to make an “Ethical foie gras terrine.”
When I arrived at the Alimentarium for one of the weekend workshops, “Les Cuisines des Artisans,” I was greeted warmly by our instructor, Jean-Louis Boverat. There were about eight of us altogether, and after the initial introductions, we took to the streets of Vevey to collect the ingredients we needed to prepare our meal. The focus of our class was to prepare “La Chasse,” a menu featuring wild game and its traditional side dishes.
For our first stop on the tour, we went to Boucherie Daniel Ruchet & Fils and talked with the butchers there. If you are looking for local meat products from the canton of Vaud, like Saucisson Vaudois, I highly recommend that you visit this shop. These butchers know their products and can help you find exactly what you need. During our visit, we sampled thin slices of “Jambon maison,” and Jean-Louis bought two products to bring back to the Alimentarium’s kitchen: sausage made with venison and pork, and a terrine, also made with deer meat.
Following our visit to the local butcher, we took a short walk to Ratatouille, a small fruit and vegetable market on a side street in Vevey. We admired all the fresh produce, both inside and outside of the store, and talked briefly with the storekeeper. It was an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the many varieties of squash on display. Jean-Louis purchased a spaghetti squash and a Bleu de Hongrie (a blue-skinned squash), and we headed back to the Alimentarium.
Upon our return to the Alimentarium, Jean-Louis set up several stations where we could help prepare different parts of the meal. The instructions were clear, everyone was very helpful, and we all worked well together to use the ingredients we purchased from the local businesses.
Personally, one of the highlights for me was making Malakoffs, a Swiss dish I have been wanting to try for a long time. These cheese beignets are a Vaud specialty. I loved having the chance to finally make them for myself, and with the help of a very knowledgeable instructor. And, of course, they were delicious. How can you go wrong with fried cheese?
When we finished all of our tasks, we sat down and shared a wonderful meal together with wines from the region. Here’s all that we made and tasted:
- Apéro: Malakoffs, Terrine du cousin and a small salad
- Dinner: Gnocchi made with Bleu de Hongrie squash, candied chestnuts, venison and pork sausage with a special sauce for “La Chasse,” lingonberries and pears poached in red wine.
- Dessert: Glace aux marrons (chestnuts) with caramelized figs
At CHF 80, I found this 3-hour class at the Alimentarium, which included dinner and wine, to be a good value. I learned a few tips and tricks that I have already used at home for my first attempt at La Chasse.
If you are interested in “La Cuisine des Artisans” or other workshops at this museum, here’s where you can find more information and an upcoming schedule:
Alimentarium, Quai Perdonnet 25, 1800 Vevey, +41 (0)21 924 41 11.