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Grilled beef rib with compound butter - Food Gypsy

Le Cordon Bleu, Week VI – Crackin’ the Books

Le Cote de Boeuf – looks pretty good – right? Nope.  Meat – undercooked, starch – overcooked and too salty.  In a rush to serve I forgot the Papillote (paper hat for the meat) AND the butter.  ‘Stop RUSHING’ I tell myself, ‘you can do better than “average”‘.

The daily walk to school through the city’s core – over the Rideau Canal, past the campus of Ottawa U to the big yellow mansion that is Le Cordon Bleu – is my solace.

I focus on the classes ahead and leave behind any unfinished business that is anything other than my culinary studies and dive headlong into the plan of the day.

Lately, even that has failed to soothe.  A series of confidence shaking days in the kitchen has caused me to have doubt about my direction… my ability… even my sanity (which proves that I’m sane because truly crazy people think they’re sane, according to my shrink).  Days so bad even wine couldn’t help.  Nothing but tears and sleep could bring me comfort.

Then I remember that this is an adventure; one of many that has carried me along in this lifetime.  On this adventure, the impetus is on me.  I colour my own experience.  I get to choose.

Will I allow myself to fail or will I give myself permission to succeed? Will I dig deeper or will I slide by and say that it was too much for me?  I am… halfway.  Coming soon, written exams.

What’s it gonna’ be?!

I choose to study.  I choose to practice.  I choose to engage.

I choose to know all that I came here to learn, all that I hunger for, all that I spent nights yearning for, years hoping for.   It’s all here… now.  This is not a time to quit.  This is a time to dig deeper and say…

“Go ahead, turn up the heat.  Crank it up to 350° and I’ll bake something!”

I have not been happy with my plates.  I have not been happy with my performance. I have not been… happy… and that is about to change.

I prefer happy.  It’s kind of my religion!  So… letting go of perfection… just aim for “HAPPY”.  That I can do.   Just be happy.  A few things are just going to have to take care of themselves…

I have a course to finish, with a smile on my face.

Cori Horton

Fearlessly cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer, food marketing consultant, recipe developer and sustainability advocate. A Cordon Bleu trained chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and now shares all things delicious - right here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Corina,

    I’m not sure if every student that passes the premises of Le Cordon Bleu feels like this. But Corina, this I know for sure: I have felt the same way as you have.

    Just remember, you’re in this school because you don’t know how to tell if a duck’s done or not after 2 hours in the oven. But now you know. If we compare ourselves from what we were from the beginning of the course, we’ll be shocked with how much we’ve learnt. Be it a year, or even a few weeks.

    The search for perfection is a frustrating one, but it should always be a happy one. I realised through my countless mistakes I’ve made over the few years have made me better and along the way, I’ve found new solutions or new discoveries! (Culinary aspect)

    Days when I actually do leave the kitchen crying (twice it happened), I look back and I know for sure that I’m not afraid any longer because they will never happen again after many practice sessions. And the chefs are always there to help you through. They’re there to break you so you know where you’re lacking, only you can bring yourself up and fill the gaps by asking chef and practising at home. But you’ve been extremely proactive with home practice, I didn’t even practice my hollandaise when I was at home!

    My dear Corina, I know for sure that when all is said and done, you will finish with a smile, a big white smile on your face. After 2 hours, that smile may be stained purple from the wine. But that’s fine, it happens :)

    1. Dearest Justin –
      Thank you. You’re so very right and I know that. (I learned to practice from YOU!) I’m not perfect, never will be… but I’d like to be the best I can be… for me, for my readers, for my life, for those I so lovingly feed.

      I ask for alot of help. It’s working I think…

      Yesterday I cooked my first duck… it was gorgeous… fed my neighbours when I came home. Chef was happy. My neighbours were happy. I was happy.
      Everybody’s happy!

      Miss you though…

  2. Hi Corrina,

    As a Cordon Bleu graduate, I appreciate your frustrations. But the one thing I regret most about my entire time there is not using all of the resources available to me; I would leave the kitchen frustrated that whatever I made wasn’t perfect, and head straight to the pub. The whole time, I forgot that I was there to learn, to grow, and most of all, to ask my burning questions. I can tell that you haven’t forgotten this as of yet, but trust me, it’s easy to do. Head down to the production kitchen as often as you can to simply ask questions. After class, ask the chef if you can talk more about your dish and how it could have been better – you may not want to, but they will almost always have time – and in this case, you won’t be worried about other students waiting, or trying to clean up. But it sounds like you have a positive attitude, and that’s awesome. Keep on keepin’ on.

    I do have to say one thing – It’s important for you to be happy, but try not to let go of perfection. Keep pursuing it. It’s what drives the entirety of cuisine today.

    Best wishes,


    1. Thank you Eric –
      Valid reminders, thank you!!! Luckily I have become very good at asking for help. I am often found in the production kitchen or quizzing chef on how to do/be better. My relentless pursuit of perfection is only tempered… not lost… because I do my BEST work… when I’m happy. When I’m joyful. When I take that extreme desire and allow it to fill me with smiles. That is how I work best. That’s who I am and at this point in my life… I know who I am.

      Some of great stuff has been discovered purely by making mistakes… brownies… discovered because someone forgot to put leavening agent in the chocolate cake. Mmmmm… yummy mistake.

      Thank you so, so much! Hoping you will continue to read and offer great advice. Lord knows… I can use it! (midterms this week… iiiieeeeee!) Soon we will have our “Foodie Forum” hoping you will be an active contributor… tell us about your pursuit of culinary perfection… in great glowing detail!

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