I’ve been pondering what I will do once I finish my Cordon Bleu diploma in November 2012. As I think through the possibilities, one that intrigues me is owning a cooking school. I believe that cooking is a life skill and although there are a plethora of cooking shows and Masterchef renditions, not many people actually learn to cook.
This journey to become a better cook began when I moved to Amsterdam. My husband could see I was struggling to settle in our new life and suggested I take a few cooking classes. Exploring hobbies or passions is always a great way to meet like-minded people and he’d found La Cuisine Française close by our home.
I embarked on 2 series of 6 lessons packages on Italian cuisine, met a couple of passionate foodie friends and then before I knew it I was obsessed and registering for Cordon Bleu in Paris. I’ve kept in contact and become friends with Pat, the owner of the cooking school, over the past couple of years. This spring, post Intermediate Cuisine, I volunteered to be her assistant for her “Basics of French Cooking” series.
The series consists of 6 classes where the students are led through the foundations of French techniques. The 6 classes were: Stock and fish fileting; Dressings and poaching; Pate’s and terrines; Eggs; Shellfish and roasting, and finally Game. It’s an ambitious course and not for novices. Although a number of the ingredients and most of the dessert recipes were new to me, I felt generally confident in assisting.
There were 14 students registered, a full slate, for the Monday evening class. I was curious as to how Pat would progress through the full menu plan and what I was to help with. As she’s been an instructor for most of her career, this was all quite matter of fact for her. Although for me, I was used to sitting back taking notes and planning my approach for the practical learning.
We met in advance of the first course where she provided a bit of guidance on where she would start and where I would assist in the demo. Seems straight forward but when you are with a group often questions and plans shift and change to suit the crowd. I found myself explaining chopping techniques for vegetables, gutting and fileting a fish and scurrying to remove dirty dishes.
When the demo was done after 1.5 hours the students then went to work to prepare the 6 dishes. It was beyond challenging the first night to try and keep up with questions, make certain cutting boards were cleaned of raw fish before vegetables were chopped and that no one cut themselves!
A mere 3 hours later, they all sat down to eat the fruits of their labours and enjoy a glass of wine. I was exhausted and took a seat near the kitchen. The students were recounting and laughing over their learning experiences while enjoying each course at the family style table. Food brings people together, strangers, friends or family – we all can communicate through our experience of taste.
Although it was a lot of work, I thoroughly enjoyed helping people through the recipes and teaching them how to chop an onion, filet a fish, sauté, braise and roast their way to the finished dish. Five more Monday night lessons filled with enthusiastic, creative and brave souls to look forward to. I suspect this could be addicting….