The kitchen is the great equalizer. Food doesn’t care about the colour of your skin…
“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” ~ Harry S. Truman
No question that enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu is among the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. Past the halfway point there is no turning back, you either rise to the occasion or you give up, throw your paper hat in the trash and call it a day.
We are a class of twenty-one, divided into Group A and Group B for our practical (there is only so much room in the kitchen). We began as a class of twenty-five. Three from our brigade left in the first three weeks of the program. Everyone has their own reasons, language challenges, too many obligations… too much stress.
We all come with our own objectives; most to pursue a career in the culinary field, a desire to cook in some of the finest kitchens in the world, or perhaps to have one of their own. I came looking to strengthen skills and establish a deeper knowledge, to support my writing and creative ventures. But some come purely out of interest and a deep love of food.
Classmates Susan Douglas and Nicole Diotte are retired. They have no desire to be on the line but they do have a desire to learn.
Friends since retiring three years ago; Susan and Nicole met as part of a wider circle of friends at the YMCA. On Fridays, following early morning workouts, they would all breakfast together and gab. This soon morphed into outings (grape picking in Niagara), adventures (building houses in Guatemala), courses (art, wine) and most notably… potluck dinner parties!
There is a spirit of friendly competition that prevails in their potlucks. Who can bring the best dish and who pairs it with the best wine? Looking for adventure, they enrolled in Basic Cuisine at le Cordon Bleu.
“We thought it would be fun and interesting.” comments Susan.
“We’re still waiting for the FUN!” jokes Nicole.
No matter who you are – this is a course that will challenge. It is designed to push, to break you down and build you back up. In that respect it can be compared to the military. When you leave these halls you will know what you are made of and… you will know what you have been taught.
Susan and Nicole were joined in this adventure by their friend, Andre. Recently retired from a highly stressful job, Andre found the ‘push’ to be too much and left the program within days. I wondered at that point if Susan & Nicole might follow suit, but something in their demeanour said to me…’you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.’
I love feisty women! Feisty holds passion. The more I know them, the more I respect the journey and perseverance of these two amazing ladies.
There is no ‘typical’ student at Le Cordon Bleu; we come from around the world, speaking every language imaginable. Some arrive straight from high school; others are shifting careers in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. Some have been in the industry and want the parchment that gives them instant recognition on their curriculum vitae.
And some… are feisty women! Active. Retired. Joyful. Funny. Engaging. Susan & Nicole are still standing and smiling in the heat.
This week we have our midterm exams. Hunkered down over books, reading and re-reading our techniques and terminology. This is what we came for – to know what we did not know.