Lest you think my cooking school has sparkling kitchens filled with gadgets and appliances, lest you think everything is beautiful and glamorous, here are some realities that will bring you back down to earth:
- The building is OLD: sinks back up (with no garbage disposals), faucets never seem to turn off, bad ventilation system.
- Mice sightings have increased lately. We saw a mouse in two separate demonstrations slowly meander his way behind the chef, out on a leisurely stroll. Apparently the vacant lot across the street houses a lot of rodents, and they are smart enough to look for food in a cooking school. Scary how no one bats an eye now during the mice sightings. The action taken has been to sprinkle coarse salt all over the floors to prevent them from running through. Does this really work?
- One of the chefs picked a fish scale out of my hair today.
- I somehow managed to get fish guts all down my apron and tea towel today. And these stains never seem to come out! Some of the patisserie students look like a chocolate monster threw up on them.
- All you get are lousy tea towels as oven mitts. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen!
- I won't even go into French kitchen hygiene- you'd never eat in a French restaurant again. While American culinary students probably spend a lot of time learning about hygiene, our only lesson was on the first day: wash your hands, use soap if you have some. I'm surprised they even talked about soap
- After 2+ hours in a small kitchen where 9-10 people are cooking the same dish, your uniform smells like that dish. Then you face a dilemma: spend way too much money doing laundry or just plug your nose and put it on again? Although they gave me 3 changes of uniform, I wish I had more. So now I wear one uniform for 3 practicals and then into the wash it goes. I can't afford to do laundry more often than that, and everyone around me smells the same anyway.
- Gadgets and appliances are not used. We each get a four-top electric burner and an oven. Sometimes we use the convection oven, but only for souffles or dough-based dishes. The rare times we use the food processor or deep fryer are closely monitored by the chefs. All the crusts and doughs are done by hand. Egg whites and cream are whipped by hand. (In a way, this is great - back to the basics.)
Complaints aside, none of these things bother me enough where I wouldn't recommend Le Cordon Bleu. I've been thoroughly impressed with the quality of the meats and seafood. Ingredients are delivered fresh everyday, all stocks are made at the school, the only canned good used is tomato paste. Nothing is wasted, vegetable trimmings from our classes go into the massive inlaid stockpot in the main prep kitchen, and we're always told what to do with other leftover ingredients.
Heck, I even learned how to use the plunger on the sink today. Maybe I should take up plumbing work on the side so that I can do laundry more often or buy more uniforms.