So this falls into the category of ‘why didn’t I write this?’ The New York Times Dining Section ran a story about taking a short cooking class in Paris while a tourist. She focused on École Ritz Escoffier, École Lenôtre and Le Cordon Bleu. She’s accurate in her descriptions: the kitchens at the Ritz are glamorous and impressive, and the classes at Lenotre are held solely in French.
She doesn’t say much of my alma mater, Le Cordon Bleu, but that makes sense as she took hands-on classes at the Ritz and Lenôtre, but then took only a two-hour demonstration class at LCB. So, I felt that the article was a bit lopsided, and thus, it’s my duty to tell you what to expect if you take a hands-on class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. (Above is the kitchen where I spent most of Basic Cuisine, and got yelled at by chef for a too-sweet sauce, as noted in the book’s prologue
LCB offers a variety of short classes. The cheapest and shortest is the Chef’s Secrets noted in the NY Times story, typically held once a month on Wednesday nights. You can also it in on the demonstration classes taught to the regular students in Basic, Intermediate and Superior Cuisine. (About 40 euro). Then, there are all-day classes. My favorites are the Marche de Paris and the single subject classes that focus on a specific ingredient or technique, such as foie gras or Danish pastry, the latter I took with my friend Jeff, seen above excited or shocked, I’m no sure which, by the high ratio of butter to flour found in typical brioche dough.
If you want to mimic a LCB’s students day, try the Cooking for Friends classes. In those, you watch a 2 1/2 hour demonstration of a menu, and then go up into the kitchens to make it yourself. All have English translation, inluding in the kitchens.
As a tourist option, the March de Paris is great. A French chef guides you through a French market, and then, back at school, leads you through a tasting of items purchased. Then, he does a cooking demonstration. All participants get a taste of what was made, plus a glass of wine. If you’re taking you aging mother, this is the class.
If you opt for a hands-on class, you’ll be on your feet for several hours, so be prepared for this. First, you’ll get an apron, a side towel and a set of knives and be assigned to a kitchen with an English translator. (The full chef’s uniform is only for students in the clasic cycle full-time classes.) At the end of the day, you’ll be able to take home everything you’ve made, but no utensils — a challenge if you’re staying at a hotel. To sign up for classes, you can go to the Le Cordon Bleu site
and sign up right online.