When I originally signed up for the Basic Intensive Patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu I thought it would be fun & challenging. I had no idea it was going to be exhausting: 9 hours a day, 6 days a week. Many students (mostly adults) came to take this course as a little vacation from their jobs or to actualize a pastry dream–like me–without thinking about the actual grinding schedule. However, the chef’s were beyond amazing and once we students got through the first few days we quickly acclimatized to the routine.
Pastry has always been a mystery to me. I follow the recipe, I put it into the oven, and I pray that it will come out the way I want. Even during my short stint as a pastry chef in SF I have always found creativity in the baking department to be humbling. However, the techniques taught allow you to master the basics so that you can then be creative. I never thought that I would be able to make croissants or apple turnovers with homemade puff pastry. Many of the cakes we baked required several different techniques and a combination of recipes that I would have skipped over in the past.
The other great reason to study at Le Cordon Bleu is that all of the classes are taught in French and translated into English. You get to hear French all day long. In the practicals the chefs speak nothing but French and there is no translator. Many students started out with little French and left parle-ing Francais. I now have a vast vocabulary when it comes to the kitchen but still require a dictionary for in-depth conversations (or a lot of cocktails).
I know this sounds like a soap box for Cordon Bleu, but honestly I was extremely impressed with the quality of instruction. As a former cooking school teacher and high school drama teacher, that's important to me. For the amount of money, I wanted to learn new culinary skills that I couldn't teach myself, have fun, be entertained, and look at fabulous famous french chefs. My expectations were greatly exceeded.
I also took their basic wine course which was tons of fun, but more for the wine appreciator and less for the budding young sommelier. However, there's nothing like sitting around and tasting five wines a class with french smelly cheeses to match. Tres bien!– and not too expensive either.