Friday, May 23, 2008

Le Cordon Bleu & Moulin Rouge

Today the crew met up at Le Cordon Bleu for the Marche de Paris. This is a day event that anyone can sign up for includes a chef-guided tour of a French market, lunch at the school with items bought from the market and a demonstration class. All students in Basic Cuisine get the market tour with the chef as part of their fundamental package, and I wrote about in an early part of The Sharper Your Knife.

I was delighted that our tour was led by one of my favorites, Chef Didier Chantefort, the chef who leads Superior Cuisine at the school. (In the book, he known as Chef DuPont.) We walked through the market, where everyone got to see that I wasn’t make it up – French butchers do leave the heads on whole rabbits. (The rumor is to assure their patrons they are not buying cats…) They also got to see the standard brutal fare found in such markets – chickens with their heads attached, the snouts of pigs, the tongues of cows and crimson-colored unknown blobs of offal.

Strawberries are in season and everyone we went, we could smell their strong fragrance. Also in season are my favorite vegetable – white asparagus. A playful merchant even put two against his head to feign rabbit ears.

For lunch, we ate the purchases Chef made in the rounds at the market, including various hams, sausages, pates, breads and cheeses. Dessert was simply beautiful fruit. Afterward, we went to the classroom on the first floor for a demonstration. It was an odd moment as I sat down. After all, I spent a year of my life sitting in one of these rooms, watching the chefs, taking notes. As I watched him move through the lesson at an impressive pace, I was surprised by how many lessons were so familiar that it was as if I’d always known them: how to fillet a fish, cut various vegetables, when to salt, how to use a mesh sieve… the list goes on.

At night, we assembled at Le Moulin Rouge for dinner and a show. I’ll be honest; we never went because we thought it would be a touristy show. But even if the story made virtually no sense, the production quality of the show was impressive, on par with any West End show that I ever saw in London – with perky breasts as a bonus.

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