It may not be easy to wrap, but who cares, when two businessmen and a French chef have put together what has to be the dream Christmas present for people who entertain: A week on the island of Saint-Barthelemy in the Caribbean studying cooking under Chef Hubert, whose Le Bistro d'Hubert in Paris was crowned by one star in the Michelin and two toques in Gault-Millau.
Chef Hubert (whose English is better than he admits to) and his wife, Joelle (whose English is very good indeed), will provide students at the Caribbean cooking school with five days of instruction, teaching them to produce five complete meals -- from appetizer to dessert.
From nine to noon, the students cook. From then on they eat -- perhaps escalopes of foie gras of duck with grapes, or filet of veal with artichokes and pine kernels, all accompanied by good wines, of course, and then a fruit sorbet, or a pastry puff filled with framboise and cream. After lunch, students are released from the arduous chores of cooking and eating, set free to visit the island's beaches or tennis courts, where they can get themselves back into shape for dinner at one of the island's many French or Creole restaurants.
Tuition for one week is $995, although if two family members attend, the second is charged $495. The price of the week can move up or down depending on how lush the hotel room, but Harvey Schuster, one of the founders of Saint Barth's Cooking School, figures airfare and hotels will bring the cost to at least $2,500. There are four sessions, the first starting Jan. 19, the last Feb. 9. For more information: St. Barth's Cooking School, P.O. Box 912, Greenwich, Conn. 06836-9990; or call Frank Brooks, (203) 622-8684, or Pat Wright, (619) 453-8900.
If you'd love to do it, but your pockets are empty, consider spreading sand on the kitchen floor and giving your favorite hostess Julia Child's latest venture -- a videocassette cooking school. On six cassettes, Julia demonstrates the proper way to cook Poultry; Soups, Salads and Breads; Meat; Fish and Eggs; Vegetables; and First Courses and Desserts. "I want the vegetables to be exactly right," she announces in that familiar gruff voice as she lurches her way from Asparagus to Zucchini, "not raw and crunchy undercooked and not mushy." Even if you've already mastered the art of French cooking and are an expert at company meals, just watching Julia would cheer up anyone who had the winter-day blues.
The cassettes are $29.95 each, $188 for the entire course. The Kitchen Bazaar, which is carrying them, allows prospective buyers to preview a cassette and will be running the Julia Child lessons in their stores at 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, Seven Corners Shopping Center and Montgomery Mall.
Another potentially extravagant Christmas gift for someone who entertains starts out very cheap indeed. It is a new book called Capital Entertaining, Caterers to Call & Places to Party In and Around Washington, D.C., researched and written by Bunny Polmer and Ann Yonkers (101 Productions, $6.95). You could be more creative -- and more extravagant -- and give not only the book but the services of one of the caterers they recommend. It could be a week off from cooking, with dinner provided by The Food Lady, 1470 Irving St. NW, who, for $140 a week, delivers five entrees for four, with vegetables and salads. It could be a Mexican banquet for 35 to 40 people from The Tortilla Factory, 648 Elden St., Herndon, with a price tag of $350; or a feast of crabs steamed in hot spices, which Morgan's Seafood, 1100 Maine Ave. SW, serves up for $45 a bushel, though having them cooked at your place can cost from $75 to $125 extra. On a smaller -- and less expensve -- scale, you could arrange with one of the more traditional caterers to provide tea for two or breakfast in bed. Or if making one selection from this sea of caterers begins to overwhelm, you could tuck a check inside the book and let the recipient decide what kind of party to spend it on.