Take a culinary course at the iconic Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

I had to force myself to slow my pace as I walked along the well-worn pathway down the Rue Léon Delhomme. My excitement to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime journey urged me forward along that sleepy street at a hurried rate while my desire to soak in each step of my experience finally won over as I began to grasp the significance of the moment.

It had always been a dream of mine to prepare a meal at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, where some of the world’s most talented chefs have earned their chops while studying and cooking amidst heated stovetops and fiery professors. This elite culinary school has turned out gastronomic greats since its opening in 1895—including celebrity chefs like Julia Child, Gastón Acurio, Giada De Laurentiis and Ming Tsai, and others who are now prepared to cook alongside the world’s most renowned chefs like Chef Eric Briffard at Le Cinq or Chef Philippe Labbé at L’Abeille—and that day I was literally walking in the footsteps of these talented chefs as a participant in one of the school’s new gourmet short courses.

With each stride leading up to that surprisingly unassuming building, I began to savor every sound and every scent that wafted its way through the crevices of Le Cordon Bleu’s blue-rimmed glass door. I could almost make out the faint sound of a sauce simmering on the stove as I made my way up the steps. After one final strategic pause, I opened the door and took a deep breath before entering my first cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

Once inside, the nerves from feeling out of my element in such an influential institution faded as I was greeted by the fresh scent of warm bread followed by a warm handshake from a pristinely clad chef. He was donning a perfectly white apron embroidered simply with the school’s prestigious blue ribbon emblem, and it was the instant that I let go of the chef ‘s hand that I immediately felt like I was right where I belonged.

Just like the ever-so-determined Julia Child who had walked these halls years ago, I knew there was no turning back now.

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A RICH HISTORY

Le Cordon Bleu is more than an institution in Paris; that little blue ribbon has become a world-renowned distinction that represents inclusion into an exclusive handful of culinary greats who have sweat, sipped and sautéed their way to being worthy of wearing the crest. Even the term “Le Cordon Bleu” evokes an essence of elitism, dating back to the mid 1500s when Henri III of France bestowed the knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit with a cross hanging from a blue ribbon. The name and symbol have become an expression that speaks for itself in the modern world of cuisine, suggesting a chef with an unparalleled repertoire of mastery.

Although the program began in Paris, it has now grown into a worldwide brand, boasting more than 50 schools in 20 countries. The school offers prestigious diplomas ranging from a Basic Cuisine Certificate to the highly sought-after Grand Diplôme®, which only a select group of chefs hold to this day. More than 20,000 students attend the school annually, learning everything from basic pâtisserie, hospitality management, tourism, and even wine management from chef instructors who have themselves been awarded Michelin stars, prestigious awards, or have become famous for their specific craft.

Up until recently, the only way to attend Le Cordon Bleu was to register as a student in one of the certificate or diploma programs, but the school has opened its doors to non-professional food enthusiasts around the world for a short course passport to culinary culture and expertise.

THE GASTRONOMIC TICKET

The one-day, short-term culinary classes offer the opportunity for weekend gourmands and passionate home chefs to immerse themselves into the world of Le Cordon Bleu for a single day. Whether in town on vacation or for business, these courses remove any semblance of time constraint fears or commitment qualms to provide provisional students with traditional techniques to modern methods in cooking, pastry and bread baking.

Each course is unique, offering everything from an immersion into a specific region’s cuisine (i.e., Provençal classics) to a demonstration on highly advanced techniques (i.e., sauce making). The programs are conducted by Le Cordon Bleu chefs in an inviting classroom environment where each highly accomplished chef can share his or her passion with students with a “watch, do, learn” methodology.

There’s a long list of tempting classes at the International Le Cordon Bleu campuses—including London, Paris, Bangkok, Sydney, Tokyo, etc.—that help students master the sophisticated workings of “haute cuisine” with simplistically challenging techniques like the proper way to melt butter, chop nuts or plate an entrée. Each course offers students the chance to escape upon a journey of aromatic experiences with unforgettable flavors and fragrances. The class list ranges from demonstration and tasting-style classes that last a few hours to market tours and hands-on culinary courses that last a full day.

The chefs and staff at Le Cordon Bleu demonstrate their passion for perfection upon arrival, providing each student with all the necessary tools required to be successful in the class (insulated canvas bags, aprons, tea towels, pen and paper for note taking, chef’s bios, etc.). Although the creative team behind the courses is always concocting new offerings, current favorites include French Regional Cuisine, Cooking for Friends, Homemade Sauces, The Secrets of Macaroons, Chef-Guided Market Tours, Bread Baking, and the ever-so-popular Food and Wine Pairing course.

At the Le Cordon Bleu Paris, each course is taught in French and translated into English. Along with the precise instruction, and often witty banter, from the chefs, most classrooms are also equipped with video cameras set up to show the intricate details of each technique and help students further develop his or her ability to reproduce the recipes back in their own kitchens.

ONE DELICIOUS SOUVENIR

Inside the classroom, my senses became fully aware. I no longer had to force myself to slow down to enjoy the moment as each sense awakened to my surroundings and I suddenly felt flooded with creativity and excitement. I could feel, see, hear, taste and smell everything in that spotless room. I finished pulling my hair back and away from my face the instant the minute hand struck the half hour, and soon my Le Cordon Bleu dream began forming into a memory as the chef challenged the class with a simple question: “Shall we begin?” “Oui, chef!”

© LE CORDON BLEU INTERNATIONAL 2014