The 1991 book “Le Cordon Bleu at Home,” which I bought because it was interesting, came to mind when I received an invitation to attend the launch of Le Cordon Bleu school recently.
Le Cordon Bleu’s colors, blue and white, matched the school colors of Ateneo de Manila University where it’s located. The kitchen facilities and equipment are top of the line, say the chefs who also attended the event.
Andre J. Cointreau was introduced as Le Cordon Bleu president and CEO. His family name is familiar in the liquor business, but he struck out on his own after buying Le Cordon Bleu and expanding the school from its Paris base to about 30 international outposts.
Cointreau’s son, Charles, serves as business development director and the main official of the Manila branch. Father and son are both Jesuit-trained, which may have helped in deciding to open at Ateneo.
By codifying recipes early on, the French preserved their cooking traditions. Le Cordon Bleu also began documenting its recipes in magazines which the school published.
But “Le Cordon Bleu at Home” is the first time that the recipes were printed in book form and written in English, with the home cook as its audience. In the book’s foreword, Andre Cointreau said that the recipes “correspond to actual classes at the school.”
The book is divided into three parts: basic techniques, intermediate skills, and professional touches.
Lessons are grouped by menus. For instance, Lesson 4 menu in the basic chapter has smoked salmon crepes, roast leg of lamb, Swiss chard gratin and pineapple sorbet.
At the launch, master chef and technical director Thierry le Baut demonstrated black squid risotto and pan-seared red snapper with malunggay foam. The use of malunggay is a way of showing that local ingredients can be used in a French recipe.
But it took the cook’s eye of Glenda Barretto of Via Mare to notice that the chef put in yellow food coloring in the risotto. When she asked Le Baut why, he replied that it would ensure that the risotto would not display its original white color when mixed with the black squid ink. Good technique to learn.
But how will teaching French recipes benefit Filipino cuisine?
Cointreau said that it wasn’t so much French dishes but French techniques that would be taught. I remembered Alain Ducasse said something similar—that French techniques could be applied to any cooking.
Charles Cointreau later told me that one of the consultant chefs, Myrna Segismundo, also asked the same question.
Incidentally, Segismundo had demonstrated an adobo recipe at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris during a promotion of Filipino food in Europe.
One of the Filipino graduates of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and Tokyo schools, Rica Buenaflor of Naga City said that she intended to use the techniques to refine Bicol cooking. That’s something to watch out for.
Le Cordon Bleu in Ateneo is offering a degree in Bachelor of Science in Restaurant Entrepreneurship. The first batch of students were introduced at the launch.
The cooking school is in one of the new buildings of the Ateneo campus, the Areté, which unwittingly figured in a controversy recently. It is hoped that Le Cordon Bleu operating in a creative hub of Ateneo will be free of politics and open to all ideas.