Mar 9

A Weekend With Tartelette

in News, Tips & Tricks

This past weekend is without question going to rank as one of the highlights of my year.  It was the result of months of hard work and planning.  It was the weekend where Helene (Tartelette) finally came to Southern California to give a group of lucky people a crash course in macaron making, food styling, and food photography.  I got ready, dropped the kids off at a wonderful friend’s house, and then drove out to L.A. on Friday afternoon to meet up with Jenny and Helene for lunch and then go out to the location to get set up for the first class.  (L.A. is only an hour away, by the way, but when you have kids, it doesn’t matter if something is only 15 minutes away, it’s still like you’re planning to leave the country.)  We had a macaron class Friday night, followed by a macaron class Saturday morning, and finished up with a food styling and food photography class Saturday afternoon.  Although the weekend was not without glitches (read this hilarious post by Jenny about how NOT to host the Tartelette), it was still fabulous, and I hope that all of our attendees had as much fun and learned as much as I did.

If you have been reading LFM for a while, then you know it is no secret how much I adore Helene and her talent.  She has been putting up with me for a long time—long before I was a food blogger (poor girl).  So you know that she has to be an incredibly patient and sweet person to agree to come to L.A. of her own free will and be subjected to spending a weekend with me.  Luckily she was also surrounded by Jenny, Gaby, and all of the other wonderful people who attended the classes.  Helene was as sweet, wonderful, and amazing as she appears to be online.  If you ever have the chance to meet her or take a class from her—DO NOT MISS OUT.

The classes were held at the Academy of Culinary Education in Woodland Hills.  What a fabulous place!

(Prepped and ready to go for the first class.)

Class prepped & ready to go

A huge thank you to the owner Chef Cecilia de Castro for her warm hospitality and letting us use her wonderful space.  The location definitely made the classes extra special.

(That’s the amazing Cecilia in the background there. Hi Cecilia!)

Cecilia of ACE

Because I’m guessing there will be several posts about the classes from other attendees, I’m just going to highlight some of my favorite moments and things that I learned from the weekend.  One of the things that stood out to me specifically was that Helene emphasized “Time on tool.”  As we learned the wrong way and the right way to use a pastry bag, she explained that spending time with this tool and practicing often, would increase our proficiency and hone our skill.

(Helene explaining the right way to hold a pastry bag.)

Helen demonstrating how NOT to hold a pastry bag

The same goes for the macaronnage (the folding of the meringue, confectioners’ sugar, and almond flour together to make the final macaron batter), or any other step of macaron making.  She also emphasized the same concept during the food photography/styling class.  Spend time with your camera.  Play with the settings.  Play with the light you have to work with.  Play with your angles.  Play with your setup.  Get to know your tools.  This sounds obvious, but how many of us have learned one setting on our camera and then just stuck with that one setting because we are comfortable with it?  I know I’ve been guilty of that one!

Another point that stood out for me was Helene’s emphasis on doing what works for you.  She explained that all too often we get stuck in the trap of thinking something has to be done a certain way.  For example, just because Chef So-and-so says that a certain kind of dark chocolate is the best, and that you’d be a fool to use anything else, doesn’t mean that it’s true.  She explained that you should use the chocolate that you love, that works for you, and is in your budget.  She explained that of course she’d like to use the expensive stuff all of the time, but that for the amount of baking she does, it is just not economical.  She admitted to having no problem with using Hershey’s chocolate, and that with the climate she lives in (humid Charleston, South Carolina) she gets reliable consistent results with “good old” Hershey’s.  (She also admitted to being a lover of milk chocolate, by the way.)

She brought up the same concept in the food photography/styling class.  She talked about how she often uses an f-stop of f/22 because she loves the detail that she gets.

(Donna of Dishy Goodness getting a shot.)

Taking the shot

So often in the food blogging/photography world you hear about using f-stops in the f/1.8 to f/2.8 range, and getting that “blur” in photos where one specific point of the photo is in focus and the rest is in an artistic blur. (If you have no clue what I’m talking about, see this great tutorial on Aperture in Digital Photography.)

(Shawn of kitchen fervor getting the perfect shot—aren’t those tarts gorgeous?)

Getting the shot

Looking at her photography, you can’t really argue with her viewpoint.  If you can get stunning photos by doing what works for you, and not what someone else says is the “right way” to do things, then I’m in!

(I have Tartelette camera envy.)

Tartelette Camera Envy

I came away from the weekend feeling more confident, both in macaron making and in approaching my camera.  Not only do I now know that the proper consistency of the meringue for macarons should be similar to shaving cream,

(Robyn of Earthbound Chronicles and Nancy of A Communal Table checking out perfect meringue for macarons.)

Whipped egg whites---like shaving cream

but I know what to look for when I’m folding my ingredients together for my macaron batter.


I’m also excited to relax and just play with my camera, get to know it better, and let go of some of my pre-conceived notions of “rules.”

(Marla of Family Fresh Cooking figuring out what works for her.)

Getting the shot 2

It was a great weekend, full of yummy macarons,

Macs restingMacarons coolingMacrons filled with chocolate ganache

wonderful people,

We had awesome class attendees!More Fearless Macaron MakersEsi of Dishing Delights

exciting lessons,

Helen talking shop

and one amazing teacher.

Helen explaining macaron making

A special thanks to my cohorts in crime for making the weekend possible. Gaby and Jenny, you’re the best!

Gaby & Jen, my cohorts in crime

If you’d like to hear more about the fabulous weekend, you can read these posts written by class attendees (I’ll be adding posts as they are written!):

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria March 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm

What a fun day with Helen and blogging friends.Thanks for sharing!


Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Rachael – what a wonderful post! So envious but earlier today I saw Hélène tweeting about a possible workshop in NYC which I would totally drop everything for. Fingers crossed it works out! I know what you mean about taking a proper workshop and coming away feeling confidence. I just had a massive mac failure today and am going to have to channel my Paris confidence tomorrow when I try again!


bunkycooks March 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Looks like so much fun! I hope to be able to attend one of Tartelette’s workshops at some point. By the way, my hubby says camera envy is appropriate!


jenjenk March 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

That’s such an awesome write up!! i could not have said it better myself.

thanks for the world’s tiredest looking photo of me… ;)


The Cooking Ninja March 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm

oooh…I’m so green with envy of you ladies! Looks like all of you had a lot of fun. :) I’m checking out on the links you gave re aperture.


Kristina@FormerChef March 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

You guys did a great job. The photo class was wonderful and it was fun to meet everyone!


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction March 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I’m soooo jealous! Looks like a blast. Loved living vicariously through all of your pictures!


vanessa joie March 9, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I had such a blast! I have not stopped talking about how much fun it was and I am impatiently waiting for my egg whites to age so I can give it another go. Thank you thank you for all of your hard work.


Paula - bell'alimento March 9, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Lurve it! Of course everyone had a blast it was with Helen & of course the evah so fabulous La Fuji Mama! Mwah!


Josie - Daydreamer Desserts March 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Amazing weekend indeed, had a great time and learned so much! Thanks for flying Helene out to LA!


Barbara Bakes March 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm

It looks like so much fun! I would have loved to attend!


Liren March 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm

What a fantastic experience! I’m in awe of how perfect all those macarons look! And I have camera envy, too :)


Kelly Azuma March 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Wow, sounds like you had a blast :) I so agree with the points you brought up about finding what is right for you. I think its true with anything, not just cooking.


Mercè March 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Rachael, thanks so much for putting everything together and make a dream come true!! It was really nice to meet Helen and all of you. I’ll try to apply all that Helen taught us on food photography. ;) Wonderful!


[email protected] March 9, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Thanks for the post… makes me even more jealous… Congratulations on organizing such an event!


Darina March 9, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Wow, what an amazing weekend. It looks like everyone had a great time and that the class was really informative.


Lisa! March 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm

It was an amazing evening… over way too soon! I could have mac’d all night.

I didn’t realize the depth of what I was getting into when I signed up on the advice of my friend. I was luckier than I knew…



Christine @ Fresh Local and Best March 9, 2010 at 10:16 pm

This looks like an amazing event, and how exciting to meet and learn from someone you’ve been following for sometime.


Cathy/ShowFoodChef March 10, 2010 at 1:15 am

Rachael, It was so fun to meet you and Thanks for all your work and organizing. The whole experience was fun-tastic!


Amanda March 10, 2010 at 3:54 am

Wow what fun that had to have been!! How fabulous! A great post too, and yes, I’m guilty of not investigating my camera settings, even though I had every intention to figure them out :-/


Winnie March 10, 2010 at 7:30 am

Wow- what a weekend! Looks like a great experience!
I am so jealous of all you learned about macaron making and photography!
Great post.


Fuji Papa March 10, 2010 at 8:40 am

Glad you had fun. Look forward to being a beneficiary of your new-found knowledge.


Lana @ Never Enough Thyme March 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

OMG. The photography in this post is breathtaking. Sounds like all of you had a fabulous time together!


Jennifer S. March 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

This sounds like such a great time! I’m glad you enjoyed it!


Barbara @ moderncomfortfood March 10, 2010 at 11:44 am

What a lucky girl you are. Many thanks for sharing your experience in such an informative way.


Kate @ Savour Fare March 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

All these recap posts are giving me the yen to make macarons! Thanks again for setting this up, and it was so great to finally meet you in person!


Debi(Table Talk) March 10, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I can see why you were excited for this—what a fun/education event (not to mention delicious!)
I just got a new camera and will take a look through your guide in addition to the dvds that came with my new toy.


deeba March 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Though I am green with envy, I am thrilled that you shared your experience so beautifully Rachel. I felt like I was almost there. Am a eeny bit confident on making macs once again! And yes, f/22 has left it’s stamp on my brain. BIG THANK YOU!!


Donna - Dishy Goodness March 10, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Hi, Rachael! Loved your post. The macaron workshop looked divine! What wonderful colors. Thanks for including me! Will let you know when my post is up about Saturday’s class.


megan March 12, 2010 at 6:09 am

So jealous! You Southern Californian have all the fun! Send Tartlette up north please.


Rebecca March 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I am so jealous I wish I could have been there to take that class!! Tartlette has been helping me here and there via email with my macaron issues but I seem to still have very bad luck but I am not giving up just waiting to come into contact with a better oven and hope thats my problem!! Looks like you ladies had a lot of fun!!


susan March 22, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Hi Rachel…fun post, fun night! So glad I was a part of it. I finally posted about macaroons, about you, about Helene and about the experience! Let’s do it again, real soon! xx


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