post57 // culinary school, first look

bonjour mes amis! [hello my friends!]

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15th arrondissement, my neighborhood here

greetings from parisland, where i’m back again after a long american holiday! it feels wonderful and exciting to be back in this foreign city that feels every bit less foreign and more like home by the second.

tomorrow i head back to le cordon bleu where i’m enrolled in their grand diplôme program. this program runs for 9 months and upon completion, students receive superior certificates in both pastry and cuisine.

while home, i was asked the following questions countless times, #1: what is a typical day at cordon bleu? and #2 what is your favorite dish to make? so for this week’s post, i’m serving up answers on a hot plate for you! (just in case you didn’t get to hear them in person).

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pithivier

a day at cordon bleu

6am. wake up!!! most of my days begin with an early call time for class so i’m up and at ’em. to keep me full through the morning, i eat this muesli (a cereal-like breakfast made from rolled oats, grains, and dried fruits) almost every day. i do *sometimes* splurge for a croissant or pain aux raisins like the ones below…c’est la vie!

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pain au chocolat, croissant, pain aux raisins

7am. en route to school! i chose to live with a french host family while staying here to help improve my french and lucky enough, they live within walking distance from the school. once i get into the institute, i put on my uniform: pants, chef’s jacket, neckerchief, and shoes (i use dansko’s).

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crudités, mimosa hard boiled eggs

7:45am-11am. class starts! at school, there are two types of classes i can have: demonstrations or practicals. in demonstrations, i sit in a large lecture room where the chef prepares the dishes i’ll be making that day in practical class. while i receive the ingredient list, no recipe instructions are provided by the school so i take a bigillion notes during these demo classes to make sure i don’t miss a thing! at the end of each demonstration, team leaders (a sort of group captain for the week) passes around a tasting portion of the dish. above you can see my very first cuisine tasting at cordon blue, a crudité salad that employed many, many knife skills!

11am-11:45am. lunch! time to scarf something down that will hold me ’til half past six. i’m usually munching on something that i made in a practical class the day before.

11:45am-3pm. class again! pastry instead of cuisine this time.

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macarons

pastry demonstrations function the same as cuisine demonstrations and sometimes the chef will make a dish for fun on the side, like these heart macaroons! too sweet.

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macarons

in this particular demonstration, the chef used macaroons from prior classes that week to model how much food coloring we should be putting in our meringue batters. super helpful! (see below to see how mine turned out.)

3:15pm-6:30pm. practical class! recognize the colorful vegetables below from the tasting dish earlier? this was my recreation of the chef’s crudité platter, complete with cabbage, radish, celery, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumber, all specified to different types of cuts. plus a deviled egg! my knife skills have been on a major learning curve since i step foot in this school.

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crudités, mimosa hard boiled eggs

practical classes are different from demonstrations in that i show up in full uniform (apron, hat, and tea towel included), and cook for 2-3 hours. most chefs require dishes to be served on a hot plate within 2 1/2 hours of start time, leaving the final 30 minutes for cleaning. every student has their own workstation, oven, and stovetop, and is required to produce the same dish. it’s pretty intense! the stuff of tv shows.

looking back, the crudité platter was easy compared to some of these other dishes…

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braised beef cheek with honey and lemon fondant carrots, pureed potatoes

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salmon paupiettes, genevoise sauce, crunchy cabbage with ginger

you can see that the salmon paupiettes above have been broken into. in each cuisine practical, chef will taste my dish. this is the ultimate test! during tasting, chef will also take note of my personal hygiene (no apron stains!), how i operated throughout the practical, and how warm my plate is. fun fact: this salmon dish showed up on my final exam!

6:30pm-6:45pm. try and shovel dinner or a snack in before running to the next class!

6:45pm-10pm. pastry practical!

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how’d i do on the macarons? judging from the chef’s macaron gradient, i could’ve used a bit less food coloring. and when piping the macarons out, it’s best not to flick the tip of your pastry bag too far upwards. that’s what makes these guys look a *little* busty.

pastry practicals are a bit different from cuisine as i’m usually on a clock with shorter sprints. for example, the dacquoise cake below required the meringue layers to be baked before i began assembling the buttercream filling or marzipan rose. in my practical for this cake, chef only allowed a specific time frame to bake the meringue layers. if my meringue hadn’t been piped within that time, you wouldn’t be seeing this pretty cake in pictures!

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dacquoise meringue filled with praline buttercream, caramelized almonds, and topped with a marzipan rose

bringing me to the next difference between cuisine and pastry practicals: chefs typically do not taste student’s pastry dishes. why? in most of the pastries, a chef can determine whether an ingredient was missing just by looking at it.

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dacquoise meringue filled with praline buttercream, caramelized almonds, and topped with a marzipan rose

10pm-11pm. get out of my uniform, and head home! after a long day like this, it typically takes me a couple hours to unwind. i head home and eat a late dinner, catch up on some texts, and get to sleep asap. there’s more work to be done in the morning!

my favorite dish to make

bread! i still can’t quit it. after spending the summer before culinary school rolling out baguettes and mixing sourdough starters, i feel even more connected to the bread products i make in school now. my first pain au chocolat was a big hit and i can’t wait to make more!

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in the cuisine realm of things, i enjoy making quiches and stews. the most delicious dish i’ve made in school so far has to be the braised beef cheek dish. see the fancy portrait of that dish above, in contrast with the “how-i-eat-this-at-home” image below. (with a glass of vin rouge of course!)

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braised beef cheek with honey and lemon fondant carrots, pureed potatoes


while every day at cordon bleu isn’t as jam-packed as the day i described above, that schedule is typical of at least half my week. on lighter days, i try my best to catch up on sleep, exercise, blogging, and exploring this city!

and because you made it so far in this article, here’s me (hairnet and all) at my final pastry practical in november! i guess sleep deprivation will make you think anything looks cute.

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springtime charlotte with ladyfingers, almond bavarian cream, fruit mousse, and fresh berries


in this week’s other stuff:

to get back in the french spirit, i’ve got sidney bechet’s si tu vois ma mère on repeat. fun fact! it’s the opening song to midnight in paris.

speaking of food gradients, check out the queen: wright kitchen

west elm is getting trendier by the second

french soulcycle, my latest obsession

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