I’m not sure how many of you know this, but I was previously in Le Cordon Bleu Paris, where I completed my Basic Patisserie cert. Since then, I’ve gotten several emails & questions here and there about how classes were, accommodation and various other miscellaneous things.
Hence, I’ve decided to consolidate some of the questions which I felt were most pressing & also talk a bit about my experience. I actually did quite a bit of blogging while I was there (like a day-to-day compilation) so if you’re interested in reading about how I felt at that very point in time, then do hop over to Midi & Me. Basically, going to Le Cordon Bleu was something that I’d wanted to do for a very long time. To be honest, even though I enjoyed baking as a kid, I don’t think going to Pastry School was ever on my ‘must-do’ list of things. Yet, somehow growing up, it seemed like I really needed to go do this. & I cannot stress how lucky I am to have been able to go over and do at least the Basic course. Of course, completing the Intermediate and Advanced courses would’ve been more ideal. But I’m still in school & I’ll have to leave that to later! So, on to the questions!
There are many Le Cordon Bleu schools out there, why did you choose Paris?
For starters, Le Cordon Bleu Paris is where it all started. Doesn’t it seem great to be at the original place? Well, at least that’s what I thought! So Paris seemed like the ideal choice. Also, even though I’m in Singapore, going to the one in Malaysia (so much nearer) didn’t seem as enticing – possibly wouldn’t give that same real feeling.
On a more practical level, going to Paris would’ve been the only way for me to complete the Basic certificate in my Summer holidays. Ordinarily, this course should be three months, with probably a 3-day to 4-day work week. However, I signed up for the Intensive course, which meant classes on every single day except Sunday.
Do you learn less in the Intensive course since it is shorter?
No! The fact of the matter is that since the three months course is ‘slow’ and spreads it across a greater number of days. The only thing that is different is how intense it is. Yes, they’re not kidding when they say it is intensive. I had 8am – 8pm classes some days and classes from Monday-Saturday for four weeks. It’s fun & if you really love baking, then you won’t find it a pain at all. There were days when I’d go home exhausted, just wanting to sleep. And that’s probably what I ended up doing some days. Showering, eating dinner and just stumbling into bed. It’s not just physically exhausting (because there are no machines – yes, everything is done by hand) but mentally draining. So at the end of it, I still had 20 different lessons, went through the same classes as the ordinary course programme and, graduated with the same certificate.
What sort of accommodation does LCB provide?
Unfortunately, there is no accommodation of any sort. I had to source out my own accommodation and because I knew classes were going to be crazily intensive, I wanted some place that was going to be near to school. I found several rental places but these all required me to stay for at least 3 months. Airbnb became my best friend. I managed to find an apartment near the school that had all the amenities I needed – washing machine, stove, bed. It was also pretty near to four supermarkets (think less than 200m) so it was really good. The only downside is that housing in Paris is expensive. You can go have a look for yourself – you’ll find that any place will burn a slight hole in your pocket. I know some of my classmates lived out of Paris, traveling 1 hour ish to school daily. I wouldn’t recommend this at all because after paying so much for school fees, you wouldn’t want to risk the metro breaking down/bus not turning up & then being late for class & potentially not graduating!
Did you really do everything by hand?
Yes. I thought this was a joke. I mean it’s a school – shouldn’t you be more modern than that? Well, one of the chefs explained to me that LCB was first established very long ago & since the campus has not changed since, the rooms could not be renovated to accommodate the increasing number of students. Having machines etc. would take up more space. And since people were able to do it by hand from long ago, why shouldn’t students who are truly passionate about it be able to? It was a gym workout for all of us & also made me have biceps… I do feel that learning by hand did help me understand consistencies and everything better though! But if you ask me now, I’ll still choose my KitchenAid.
What is included in the course fees?
Well, basically you pay a single lump sum. You’ll get 1) Knife set – everything you need is in there, 2) three chef jackets + 2 pairs of pants + kitchen towels, 3) Storage box, 4) weighing scale. I think that’s about it. It’s really a lot of things & enough! The only thing is that this knife kit weighs 10kg. It’s super duper heavy & really expensive. I’ve read other blogs where people didn’t lock their lockers and found some of their knives missing 🙁
Do you speak French? How did you get by classes?
Nopes I do not speak a smattering of French. I went to Paris knowing how to say ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci’ and unfortunately, came back learning additional phrases to use in the supermarket + different baking ingredients like oeuf, beurre, sucre… Basically, classes are split into Demonstrations + Practicals. We had only 2 or 3 actual theory classes, if I remember correctly. In demonstrations (3 hours), the chef would make whatever we needed to do in the following practical class + more. I mean he’s the chef, right? So in one demo we could learn about an average of 4 different items. There would be a translator sitting at the side to say out everything that the chef had said, in English. It was not difficult at all. Although I did notice some of my classmates having difficulty fully concentrating (listening to both French & English for three hours can get very tiring). In practicals, there is no translator. So if you’re lucky, you’ll get a chef who speaks English. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get a chef who speaks English but refuses to speak in English. Haha, trust me, the French really love their language & they’d rather you learn. I guess after a while I started to understand a little bit but not being there for more than 5 weeks, and not being gutsy enough, it wasn’t really possible. All you need to do is listen during demonstrations & you’ll be able to do whatever you need to do in practical class the way it should be done. Not being able to communicate verbally with the chef should never be a problem. If you’d listened attentively, you wouldn’t need to ask for help. All you’d need to do is just get your work done!
Are you going to do the Intermediate/Advanced?
As I mentioned above, I’m still schooling – that makes it really difficult. However, if given the opportunity to complete it, I most definitely would. Not necessarily because I want to be a pastry chef but more because I want to challenge myself & expand my skill set. Well, that’s all the questions I can really think of that people asked me about. Feel free to comment below & I’ll try my best to get back to your queries, if you’ve got any 🙂