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French 201: Appreciation of French Cuisine


"Food is an art in itself, and must be understood in order to fully appreciate it—the history, the ingredients.” So begins professor of French language Dr. Michael Johnson

When I ask him about the Appreciation of French Cuisine class, new to Central this fall. The class is offered online, and students are guided through assignments by Dr. Johnson’s bearded Bitmoji. It’s an unusual online class because along with the usual reading assignments and quizzes, half the course grade is based on experiential assignments: watching an episode of Chef’s Table, making your own how-to recipe video, going to a French restaurant, or attending a food tasting in downtown Ellensburg. Students are encouraged to work together; you can submit pictures of yourself munching with classmates for extra credit.


Looking at the course menu I was surprised to see dishes not only from France but also from Vietnam, North Africa, and the Caribbean, lands once (some still) colonized by the French empire. Dr. Johnson explains, “I look at French cuisine from a global perspective, because in terms of influence French cuisine touched the world. Even here in America, the culinary schools teach French style and techniques.”

If you live in the city, there’s a list of suggested restaurants and bakeries that you can visit to fulfil your assignments. If you’re in Ellensburg, a town sadly deficient in terms of French eateries, you can attend two food tasting sessions at Gallery One. The first was a gastronomic voyage with dishes from the many regions of France and French-speaking lands, the second a journey through time with an array of medieval dishes. The food is meant to be experienced in detail: attendees were prompted to think about the progression of its flavors, the source of the ingredients, and the methods of preparation. The second tasting included a spice rack, where tasters could pick out the particular aromas of the spices used in the dishes and learn about the historical significance of spices in the medieval world.


“I’m very very excited about this class because in a previous life I was a kitchen manager,” says Dr. Johnson, “and this blends my two careers.”


This class is 5 credits, and counts toward the Creative Expression section of the new Gen Ed requirements or as an elective for a French degree. To learn more about the course please email


Article Credit - Eva Stoumbos

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