I had spent my first week in Paree doing what I always do whenever coming to this side of the world: long lunches, long walks, refusing to wait on long lines for museums, very long dinners and (window) shopping – there is a wonderufl French phrase for this that directly translates to “licking glass”, which one normally tends to do when viewing some of the clothes here. It’s natural, just give into it, no need to resist the urge.
Apres my week of meandering my new neighborhood of St. Germain and eating at least one Pierre Herme croissant + macaron combo a day (what calories?!?), I began my education the same way Audrey Hepburn did in “Sabrina”, at Le Cordon Bleu. Since most of you are curious as to what it’s like, I’ll be reporting from the front lines. No pun intended. Not.
Week 1: Orientation and the lack of French, done two ways.
So begins Week One of my 9 month trek to a Diploma in the Culinary Arts. It starts on a Monday with a half day of orientation which began promptly at 9:30am. Here, you are introduced to the whole LCB staff and your Basic Cusine chef-instructors. If you applied for and got accepted into the Culinary Diploma program you need to take and pass Basic, Intermediate and Advanced cuisine (alternatively, you can apply for just Basic cuisine or Basic and Intermediate only). Absent for more than 6 classes? FAIL. Don’t pass the written exam? FAIL. Late to class? ABSENT. Yes Chef. They are very strict with the attendance rules, strict with your uniform (must be neatly pressed, clean and tailored) and you must address the chef as “Chef”. I, on the other hand, like to be addressed as Chief but that’s another post.
After you are introduced to the LCB staff, the Basic Cuisine class of 32 (made up of many nationalities but sadly, only one lone Frenchman) gets divided into 4 groups of 8. For the entire Basic Program this group of 8 forms your Practical Class (more on that later). From there you take a tour of the school from the basement to the Winter Garden which acts as a gathering place and student lounge of sorts. The tour ends with you picking up your crisp new uniform (jacket, pants, apron, torchon, cap) and LCB Wusthof 40+ piece kit. Right after they ask you to go find a locker, padlock it and try on your uniform to ensure the correct fit. Pending chefs jacket and gingham pants fitting, you are released. Phew.
Once home, you have the chance ro review your schedule and binder of “recipes” for the next 3 months. Classes have 4 start times: 8:30am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm and 6:30pm. The schedule changes every week with an average of 6-8 classes per week. So far I’ve had 8:30am classes almost every day which means waking up at 6:45 to leave my house at 7:45 to get to school at 8:00am so I can change into my chefs whites, grab my notebook, get a good seat and be there in time for roll call at 8:25am. Chef starts working at 8:30am on the dot. If you are late, he has every right to refuse entry into the classroom. AWES. Now that’s what I call wielding power in the kitch. Loves eet.
The classes are divided into two segments: Demos and Practicals. Demo = chef lecture + watch chef cook. Practical = in the kitchen cooking one of the dishes the chef made with a different chef instructor. In your demo you must take copious notes on the chefs technique and why is he working the way he does. There is a rhythm and reason to each action and we need to know the hows and whys for our practical. During said practical, we are only allowed to bring in our knife kits, tupperware, “recipe” (it’s just a list of ingredients) and our notes from the demo and we’ve got 3 hours to cook, soup to nuts. Can you say OUI CHEF.
Next: LCB vol. II and Paris, Two Ways.