This afternoon we meet a new chef. He’s tall and quite handsome. He introduces himself as a former golf instructor, and says he will demonstrate a few recipes that he learned last night on the Internet. The students who are fluent in French laugh first, while the rest of us wait for the translation and respond with delayed giggles.
We’re on the fourth floor, and Chef looks through the window to the produce truck down below and gives the deliveryman a big smile and enthusiastic wave. He tells us that Alain Ducasse, a famous French Michelin-starred chef, says food is sixty percent products and forty percent technique; so, we should treat our producers and deliverymen well, particularly if the Michelin Guide hasn’t recognized our technique yet.
Then we begin our demonstration lesson.
We’re studying sable dough, a crumbly pastry made of butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. To achieve the sandy texture; Chef instructs us to rub the dough between our pointer fingers and thumbs, like Scrooge counting money before Christmas. The sable dough becomes the base of a Quiche Lorraine, which will be filled with bacon, Gruyere cheese, cream, and eggs. As Chef assembles the quiche, an extremely observant patron of the front row fires off several questions: Did you add the pinch of salt? Was that cream actually simmering? Chef answers, saying he’s glad she’s not his neighbor because he walks naked around his house and she sees everything.
As the quiche goes in the oven, we forget the golden rule of not asking, “How loooooong, Chef?” A student inquires, and Chef lights up, as though he had been waiting for us to ask. “Le quiche est cuisson quand il tremble comme le cul de ta mère.” The quiche is done when it trembles like your mother’s behind. The class erupts in two waves of laughter again.
When the quiche is fini, everybody wants a photo. Chef asks if we’d like him to lie down behind it with a rose in his mouth so we can get a really good picture. At the end of class, Chef ‘s parting words are, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!” He explains that the Tarte Tatin, an upside down pastry filled with caramelized apples –was created when two sisters forgot about a tart they had made for their dinner party, then remembered, turned it upside down, and voila…Tarte Tatin!
We have a few hours before our next class starts, so several of us head down to the winter garden, or break room area. Each day, the pastry students leave the fruits of their labor for us to enjoy: chocolates, macarons, praline cakes, berry tarts.
Armed 24/7 with a spoon and fork in our breast pocket, it’s nearly impossible to resist. And today, to commemorate the first wine of the harvest, Cordon Bleu is celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau Day, so there’s also red wine in the break area. It feels strange to drink red wine at school, at 2pm, and not hide it in a water bottle (just kidding, of course).
We’ve got just enough time to grab baguette sandwiches at the boulangerie across the street, change back into our uniforms, and report for duty.