What is a French Culinary School Blog without a shout out to Julia?
I sat down and watched Julie and Julia – a movie that was based on a blog, Julie tackled all the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook and blogged about it for a year. All the meanwhile, it also showed the trials and tribulation Julia went through to publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I used to work for Barnes and Noble, so I’ll do a shameless plug…and if anyone wants to get me a present). It’s a pretty good movie to watch when you’re doing something else at the same time, I was working from home and it was on in the background.
I learned that I shared some similarities with Julia – we both work/worked for the government, we both have very supportive husbands who enjoy being test-tasters and we did the culinary transition later in life (in our 30’s). Not to mention the obvious, I think we are the same height – ha jokes, she was a foot taller than me.
Julia went to culinary school at the famous Le Cordon Bleu and I noticed in the movie, that her lessons are very similar to the classes I have had so far in my school – starting with how to cut an onion.
Using only the movie to make comparisons, our classroom setting seems similar, classic French Technique I assume. I’ll speak only from my experience. There are 8 students, 1 assistant, and 1 chef in my class. Class is about 5 hours long each night, it includes a demo/lecture and then we recreate the same dish in the kitchen, Chef J then comes around to evaluate. Afterward, we clean the kitchen, help with the dishes and call it a night. As you can imagine 5 hours is no longer a lot of time.
Lecture and the demo usually takes about 2 hours. Chef J and his assistant, we will call her U, make the entire menu., which is usually a full dinner (protein, side & dessert) from start to finish, this will include teaching new techniques, with review of some old. Chef J and U, most of the time, bounce back and forth so you have to have a watchful eye on both of them as they execute the meal.
Our turn. We usually are encouraged to complete the meal in 2 hours. This can get a little tricky because our space in the kitchen is not set up as conveniently as the classroom, we do not get an assistant and it’s usually our first or second time trying, so remembering the correct steps and processes can take a few extra minutes, and can sometimes lead to do-overs. The time constraint pushes us to concentrate and retain information more efficiently – I can’t believe how much I have learned in such a small amount of time, we are going on week 10 of class.
French cooking is definitely a classic! It has proven to have withstood the test of time. When you understand the “how and why” of cooking, you can really adapt and deliver newer twists on an old dish. This is something I have started to do in my limited spare time.
At home, I made a puff pastry – which is an all-day-long activity. I made a béchamel sauce, melted in some cream cheese, added in some strawberry preserves and orange zest. I stuffed the puff pastry and made individual cut outs, baked it and tried it. It was so delicious, but there was a lesson – next time it will need a thicker filling so that it sits up on inside of the pastry once it’s baked.
Seems easy enough, but the understanding of how all the components come together is truly a result of class, I’m learning new things!
It’s so much fun!