C’est si Bon: It is so good

“The table just makes life easier,” Rich Snover said. Rich and Dorette Snover own C’est si Bon Cooking School in Chapel Hill. Their vision runs deeper than teaching people how to cook. The past 19 years have been filled with bringing back the social importance of gathering around a table with food.

Written and photographed by: Cole McCauley

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In 1998, Rich and Dorette Snover cleared out the garage next to their house and transformed it into their dream – a sophisticated restaurant-sized kitchen that houses C’est si Bon, a small cooking school. But their vision goes deeper than teaching people how to roll dough and bake bread; they want visitors to experience how food brings us together.

C’est si Bon translates to “it is so good,” and the décor illustrates that.  The space is filled with natural light, illuminating the pastel walls and wooden tables.  Four cooking stations are positioned so new chefs may prepare the meats, dough, pasta and herbs simultaneously.

The idea of a community centered cooking class came to Rich Snover after hiking the Camino Trail in Spain.  “You spend your days hiking through little villages and gorgeous landscapes,” he said. “But the cool part was dinner. We would gather around the table in a village, usually with strangers who didn’t speak the same language, and managed to bond over a meal.  That’s what we want to accomplish in America.”

The Snovers are a good team for this.  Dorette Snover has spent years as a private chef, she is a food commentator for NPR, and she has degrees in education and culinary arts.  Her husband knows beers and wines, and he can grow anything with the right soil.  Together they teach the one-on-one cooking classes, take teams of students to France, and offer their kitchen to be a fun environment for team bonding.

“We get to see the kitchen transform in a couple hours,” Dorette Snover said. “In that time, strangers become friends and stories are being made.  That’s what it’s all about.”

Rich Snover grew up in Pennsylvania.  His family has Polish, English and German roots, which are reflected in the recipes and food Rich prepares. He is a teacher and a leader to anyone who desires to understand the importance of a meal.

The kitchen gets prepared. Ingredients are hidden inside baskets, utensils are laid out, and C’est si Bon awaits their guests.

“Going out of your comfort zone is fun with you’re with other people. That’s what you’re all doing today,” said Rich. Undergraduates in the Kenan-Flagler business school gather around Snover. The students are in the Global Program and are using C’est si Bon as a means to build community.

“The students compete against each other in an “Iron Chef” type of competition. “The recipes might not be right,” Snover said. “You’re going to need to make enough to feed 20 people. Some people in this room might be allergic to nuts, others might be vegetarian–you need to compromise. You get 90 minutes to complete your recipes. Go.”

Rich Snover pinches his earlobe to demonstrate the texture the dough needs to be.

One team laughs as a clump of flour explodes on the table, covering their aprons.

“In the business world you’re going to have to do things you’re not comfortable with yet,” Snover said. “Some people can barely hold a knife without a fear of getting cut. Our class is here to prepare them for those little fears, and show them that it’s fun.”

Students in the Global Program mix their fettuccine with the homemade sauce. “We get to see to see the kitchen transform in a couple hours. In that time, strangers become friends and stories are being made. That’s what it’s all about,” said Dorette Snover.

Rich corrects one student on the dough-rolling process. Then goes on to explain the earlobe texture theory to a different group of students.

After it was all done, bonding over a meal is what the Snovers and C’est si Bon strive for at the end of a class.

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