The teacher who taught me.. And language was never a barrier

‘My First week at Le Cordon Bleu’ is probably the most written topic amongst LCB students. And like most people, mine was similar. However, I want to actually talk about my last week and the sudden change that took place out of nowhere.

Let me start with some flashback: During my time at The French Culinary Institute, New York, we had the same chefs – 1 head chef and 1 assistant chef teaching us throughout the course. All our styles of baking bread, way of working with the dough, we emulated the chef’s styles and developed them to be our own. Le Cordon Bleu, Paris was different. We had 4-5 different chefs teaching us the demo class and then conducting the practicals. For some products, it wasn’t necessary that the demo chef and the practical chef would be same. This would at times result in lots of confusion. The demo chef would teach us a particular technique and the practical chef would insist on another. Initially we weren’t entirely comfortable with this methodology. I would always think FCI was easier and more systematic. But gradually, we got a hang of it. There was one particular chef who always stood out…Chef Pascal. He was very detailed and quick in our demo classes. He always taught how to do better time management and his sense of humour would make the 9 hour work days fun. Nothing could go wrong in a class with Chef Pascal, even if he did not speak English! But then the dreaded day of the Gateau Basque came. Our products were in one word – a disaster! As a class, we were shouted upon and humiliated. We were a disappointed bunch, a fact that we never quite understood at that time. We thought we were just fine.

As time passed by, we would dread having him in our practical classes. My hands would quiver while piping if he were next to me. When I had to whip up cream or whisk an egg white, I would get some super human strength just out of fear. Towards the last few weeks when we stated preparing, I was quizzing myself and I realised that I understood techniques much more than I thought. My wanting to perfect my piping or patience to take my time to make my genoise had improved. And that’s when my Eureka moment happened….It was a big thank you to the Gateau Basque and Chef Pascal. I realised that if not for his desire and need for us to be perfect, we would never have known how to improve. He taught us this not by speaking our language but by his sheer push for the perfect product and love for the art of patisserie. Truly, the culinary art has no boundaries…