My experience at Le Cordon Bleu

In January of this year, I took a leap of faith. Jumping out of my office job and straight into the kitchens of Le Cordon Bleu in Bloomsbury Square, London.

Having been feeling quite professionally unfulfilled and stuck in a rut for a while, I wanted to feel accomplished again. I began looking around the internet. Having always wanted to have a food business working directly with food and creating it for other people, I looked to do a professional culinary course. However, I found it difficult to find one that aligned with my personal morals and ethics as well as being of a high enough standard to warrant giving up my job. After a few months of searching I kind of gave up the ghost and accepted I would be where I was for a while. Until one day in the office I was scrolling Instagram (my job at the time, I promise I wasn’t slacking) and I saw that Le Cordon Bleu was offering a fully Plant-Based Diploma starting in January. I was sold…within three days I had signed up for the programme, completing the lengthy application and paying the deposit. Within a week, I was accepted onto the course and had confirmed that I would be starting in January – that was in October. Fast forward through leaving my job, Christmas and New Year; the 3rd of January rolled around and I was nervous but first and foremost ready to start.  Rather than going into detail on the small things, I thought it would be more useful to give an overview of the structure, school and course. The course is split into 6 modules starting with the basics; stocks and sauces etc, before moving through vegetables, grains, nuts, speciality techniques and then bakery and patisserie. Over the course of 2 and a half months you are taken through the modules with more time being spent on the culinary side and only the last two weeks in the patisserie kitchens. Which was a shame as it was definitely my favourite part! On a typical day that you are in the school for teaching, it is split into two 3 hour blocks. The first 3 hours is a demonstration with the chef that has created the dish, who takes you through the dishes that you will cook in the practical and occasionally extra dishes too. Following the demonstration, you go straight into the practical where you are tasked with recreating the dish or dishes that you have just seen be demonstrated. It faintly reminiscent of Masterchef in the practical as you are given a time at which you have to serve. On serving the chef tastes your food and marks you based on a variety of criteria; presentation, hygiene and organisation being a few. The school itself it very well equipped; with 3 cuisine kitchens, 2 pastry kitchens and a multipurpose kitchen. With individual work stations, ovens for each student and all the equipment you could possibly want – they really are set up to be top spec. The school also has a café at the ground level, library full of cookbooks from around the world and a student room to hang out between lessons – not that there is ever that much time to relax. The course itself is intense. I would be lying if I said otherwise. The school is based on over 125 years of tradition, practices and principles that are held strongly within the school. From making sure your uniform is perfectly clean, pressed and correct to attendance and correct time management within the kitchen. Everything is set up to prepare students to work in professional kitchens, whether this is your aim or not. The school is built on discipline and technique, however that is not to say that it is a scary or intimidating environment. The classes are small enough to get individual teaching and feedback, with most people who signed up to the course very eager to learn and likeminded. All of the recipes that were taught on the course were designed by the chefs at the school and ranged in difficulty level. I think that the introduction of the plant based course is so far removed from the traditional way of thinking that it forced the school to widen its horizons and bend the rules. Although the chefs are extremely talented and very willing to help you understand and get the most out of the diploma. It felt like there was a slight disconnect between the intention behind creating the course and the delivery. Not quite fully understanding the plant based world and the type of people that are likely to sign up to the course. Overall I would definitely recommend the course if you are someone looking to further their knowledge of plant based cooking as a hobby or as a means to change career. Although some professional chefs might find it a little too easy, as some of the recipes aren’t too complicated, it is a good way to think about plants differently and how they have a place in fine dining restaurants as the centrepiece of a dish not the side. The skills, techniques learnt and experience I had will definitely form a solid foundation from which to build a career. If you are looking for more information about the course or Le Cordon Bleu in general head over to their website https://www.cordonbleu.edu/london/home/en

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