Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

lesliec

Le Cordon Bleu comes to town

Recommended Posts

[font="Trebuchet MS"]CB1.jpg

Behind this battered frontage, in what used to be a small cinema and retail complex in the heart of Wellington city, something rather special is happening. We're getting a Cordon Bleu school!

Le Cordon Bleu Academie d'Art Culinaire de Paris, to give it its full, grand title, dates back to 1895 - the first cooking demonstration on an electric stove was held to launch the school. Julia Child is among the well-known culinary figures to have passed through their doors, they now have over 35 schools in 16 countries ... and New Zealand is next. Cath Hopkin is the newly-appointed Institute Director for New Zealand, and she's generously allowed eGullet to share in the creation of what she wants to be the 'absolute gem in the portfolio' - the best Cordon Bleu school of them all.

Cath has been involved from the very beginning of talks to get Le Cordon Bleu here. She has over ten years' experience in business management, primarily in the hospitality industry, and is a director of several wine and hospitality companies (I first met her nearly three years ago when she was helping out in the early days of the Wellington City Market). Originally it was planned to have the school in Martinborough, an hour or so's drive north of Wellington in the Wairarapa wine region but for various reasons that didn't happen, so Wellington is the winner (I say this as a totally disinterested party - yeah right!). Le Cordon Bleu has partnered with two local educational institutions, the Universal College of Learning (Ucol) and the Wellington Institute of Technology (Weltec) to build New Zealand's first Centre for Culinary and Hospitality Excellence; Weltec is moving its School of Hospitality for Petone, on the opposite side of Wellington Harbour, to share the new facilities with Le Cordon Bleu.

CB2.jpg

Through these gaping holes will flow the raw materials for wonderful culinary creations. The plan is for the school to be very much a part of Wellington's food and wine community; local chefs will use the facilities both to showcase their own cooking and (naturally) as a talent pool, and the artisan foods and wines from the region will feature heavily in what the students have to cook with. Something I was interested to hear about Le Cordon Bleu: they don't live in the past with what we might call 'traditional French cooking'. The philosophy is around French culinary technique using local ingredients - Cath will shortly be visiting the Cordon Bleu school in Thailand to see how this works in practice; very successfully, by all accounts. And they don't shy away from modernism. Cath firmly believes French culinary techniques are firmly rooted in the science of cooking, and on a recent trip to New Zealand André Cointreau, the President and CEO of Le Cordon Bleu International, visited Massey University's Food Innovation Network to see what they're doing with advanced food science and product development.

Demolition of the internal structure of the old cinema and shops began last month. The plan, over the next few months is to strip the building to its shell and bring it up to modern earthquake strengthening standards. By about September the internal fitout will begin, and the school should open around May 2012. As work progresses I'll be posting reports to this thread in eGullet. Don't expect an early flood of information - the really good stuff will come nearer opening day - but if there's anything you'd particularly like to know, just ask.

I'm looking forward to this - can you tell?


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand is growing. This gentleman ...

GuyP.jpg

... is Guy Pascoe, recently appointed Director, International Business. Guy is from a teaching background, having taught in schools in several countries, and most recently worked for Grow Wellington, Wellington's economic development agency, as its Education Sector Manager. New Zealand has a large population of students who come here to study in various disciplines every year, and Guy sees Le Cordon Bleu as a great fit with our already-excellent reputation as an education - and food - destination.

His new job is very much about attracting students to the new school. At present he's receiving maybe two or three calls a day to enquire about courses, all without any real marketing of the school yet. He expects the student mix to be about 80% from overseas - predominantly Asia, with South Korea providing a good number of enquiries right now - and the rest local (Le Cordon Bleu is looking to partner with a language school to cater for non-English-speaking students). He was delighted to receive a call recently from an Australian studying with Le Cordon Bleu in Paris who wants to transfer to the Wellington school when it opens next year. Fees for the New Zealand courses haven't been finalised yet, but Guy says they'll be comparable to those at the Australian Cordon Bleu schools (and it's probably cheaper to live here!).

The building which will house the school is looking even more empty than in the photos in my first post above. Strengthening work is continuing; there was a large truck loaded with reinforcing steel outside when I dropped by before meeting Guy. They're is still on track to open in May next year, with the first full student intake in July, and Guy says one of the first things students will do is to spend four weeks touring New Zealand to soak up our food and wine scene, meet local chefs and talk to producers. There'll be a strong emphasis on 'paddock to plate' in the Wellington school and our central placement means it will be easy for students to hop onto a fishing boat heading into Cook Strait, or to pop over to Martinborough or Marlborough to visit farms and winemakers, from the artisanal to some of our biggest producers. The school has yet to appoint course tutors, but they'll soon start looking for an academic director.

Guy admits his own cooking cred is somewhat lacking, but he does enjoy the precision of baking.

In other news, Le Cordon Bleu has appointed two Ambassadors, whose job is essentially to fly the flag for the New Zealand school - this may include fronting various events, both here and in other coutries. Julie Biuso is well-known to New Zealanders for her books, magazine articles and TV appearances (on a personal note, may I say I've never had a failure from one of Julie's recipes?), and Josh Emmett has worked with some of the big names like Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay. He appeared as one of the judges of MasterChef NZ earlier this year.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been far too long since I posted a progress update on the building of the Wellington Le Cordon Bleu school. Allow me to make up for it ...

The local website has been up and running for a while. Be sure to check the Blog section; Le Cordon Bleu's ambassadors and staff are, among other things, busily exploring Shanghai (ambassador/chef Robert Oliver is based there) and cooking their way through a set of Cordon Bleu Cookery Course magazines from 1968!

The official opening of the school is scheduled for early October, with the first courses starting a little before that. In the building itself, the earthquake strengthening is complete, much of the outside is finished and there's a lot of work going on inside to fit out the school for its first group of students in just a few months. Compare the first photo in post #1 above with this:

DSC_0411.JPG

The angles are a little different, but this is the current view of the Cuba Street frontage, where the main entrance will be.

Inside, the school extends over four levels (apparently, from a seismic point of view it's actually three buildings). The first level will have barista and bar training (handled by partner WelTec), along with several small classrooms. There's also a student commons/library/hangout area looking out onto Manners Street; right now, it looks like this:

DSC_0417.JPG

Further up the building there'll be specialist Cuisine and Patisserie kitchens, lecture theatres and a full (100-seat) restaurant with a large tutorial kitchen. There's still plenty of work to be done putting it all together, but the extractor vents are going up:

DSC_0416.JPG

This is one of the big kitchens. Soon there'll be a row of ovens and cooktops running the length of the room under the extractors. What I like about the layout is that there'll be big windows over to the right of the photo (behind the people) looking in from a walkway, so visitors will be able to see what's happening without getting in the way.

The restaurant looks like this:

DSC_0418.JPG

The restaurant will of course be open to the public and run by the students; WelTec hospitality students will handle front-of-house and the bar, with Le Cordon Bleu students doing the cooking out the back.

Things will move quickly now the interior work is on the go. I'll try to arrange another visit in a month or two to report on further progress.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And the doors are open ...

It feels like more (certainly for those closer to it that I've been), but after 18 months and $13 million (NZD), Wellington's new Cordon Bleu school is finished and open for business. And it's a fantastic place.

When I started this topic, the building that used to house a cinema and a small shopping arcade was looking rather sad - see the first photos in post 1. Now, we have kitchens:

LCB_Main-kitchen.jpg

This is the main Cuisine kitchen (tautology, I know, but that's what it's called!) where Chef de Cuisine Adam Newell will guide students through their Diplôme de Cuisine qualification. In my last post I included a photo down the length of this room, under the just-installed extractor fans. This one is from about the same position:

LCB_Main2.jpg

Opposite, and just behind the main reception desk, is the Pâtisserie kitchen, headed by Chef de Pâtisserie Sèbastien Lambert. Over here students will work on the Diplôme de Pâtisserie. Both these diplomas are nine-month courses, or students may combine them and study for the Grand Diplôme de Cuisine et Pâtisserie.

LCB_Patisserie.jpg

A feature of the building is a central light well, uniting the different floors and bringing huge amounts of natural light down into the school:

LCB_lightwell.jpg

The school officially opens with a ceremony on 8 October, but the public got their first look during an open day a couple of Sundays ago (at which your reporter could be seen running around, pretending to be helpful). The open day was one of the final events in this year's Wellington on a Plate festival and one estimate I heard was that around 2000 people came through for a look - it was certainly in the hundreds. Also as part of Wellington on a Plate, chefs Adam Newell and Sèbatien Lambert offered small groups - the kitchens will only accommodate 20 at a time - an introduction to what Le Cordon Bleu is about. The method is 'watch, then do', so each group started in the school's lecture theatre - itself a great space, with big-screen TVs showing the details of what's being done in the demo kitchen down the front - then moved up to the Cuisine or Pâtisserie kitchens to create their own versions of what they'd just seen. Here's an historic photo - the first dish, prepared for the first group of paying 'students', on the first day Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand opened to the public:

LCB_first_dish.jpg

It was duck breast with Pommes William and a red currant sauce and up close it looked even better than this. Unfortunately, I didn't get a taste. Maybe sometime ...

The first 'real' students started on the three-year Bachelor of Hospitality Management degree the next day, and 85 culinary students start in October. The shool will also be running short courses for - well, people like me! - starting with a two day Le Cordon Bleu Food Camp in November. That sounds like fun - starting Friday night with a degustation dinner at one of Wellington's great restaurants, into the kitchens on Saturday to get a taste of cooking under Cordon Bleu tutors, then on Sunday a visit to the City Market before moving back into the kitchens to put together a pretty stunning lunch. I'll try to give this one the eGullet writeup it deserves.

There's a real buzz around Wellington about having Le Cordon Bleu here. Chefs I've spoken to are excited about the talent pool they're going to be able to draw from, and if the open day was any indication, Wellingtonians with no connection to the food industry are both enthusiastic about having the school here, and impressed how well it's been put together.

It really is a lovely place and if you're ever passing through Wellington, try to get a look at it.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, I knew nothing about this until now. I'm not living in Wellington at the moment but am moving back next year. this is definitely something I'll be interested in attending.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am planning to go next year full time. I can't decide what course to do though. I want the qualification for my own cooking and entertainment at home - not a career. Is it true the fees will be around 30k?


Funny, Cool, Scary, Weird Top 10 Lists

http://listverse.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought you two might be keen on this!

Jamie, the fees are (mostly) on Le Cordon Bleu's website and yes, 30k's about right (I think somebody told me what the Grand Diplôme costs but I don't remember now). If you're doing it for your own interest and home enjoyment the full course might be overkill (but I'd be in there like a shot if Lotto worked). You might get more out of a few of the short courses they have planned, like the food camp I mentioned above. shortcourses@lecordonbleu.co.nz is the contact address to find out more.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am excited to say that I will be able to give a report in the school from the inside as I just got accepted into the diplome de cuisine for 2013! I decided to do the full course for the experience. I can't wait to get started!


Funny, Cool, Scary, Weird Top 10 Lists

http://listverse.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

lesliec I haven't yet - I ought to do that soon though I guess! I am waiting for all the documentation to arrive so I can read more info on the structure and timetables.


Funny, Cool, Scary, Weird Top 10 Lists

http://listverse.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...