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Alumna Marie Cheong-Thong
Success Story

Marie graduated from Le Cordon Bleu London in 1988 and has enjoyed an illustrious career in the years since. Born in Malaysia, she lived her formative years in Penang, before attending boarding school in England.

After university, first jobs and Le Cordon Bleu, Marie lived in Boston, USA for two years with her husband before returning to London. Now, she resides between her two homes in London and Penang, spending her free time with her husband and little West Highland Terrier as both children are now grown up living in London.

She is an executive director of the British Sake Association, council member of the Association of Wine Educators and member of the Circle of Wine Writers, the Guild of Food Writers and the Japanese Culinary Academy in London. She has been on the competitive judging circuit for over 15 years, judging at national and international wine and spirits competitions.

As a certified educator for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the Sake School of America, she teaches at the Sake School of America, VSF Wine School, WSET, WineEd and Aspects of Wine. She is also a speaker and lecturer and has presented sessions at various festivals and events.

Marie is a freelance writer on food, beverage, travel, fly fishing, and writes a blog on The Larder at 36. She is currently planning a book on Japanese food & beverage culture plus a series on indigenous dishes & ingredients.

During her career, Marie has travelled around the world interviewing food & beverage producers and researching indigenous dishes and ingredients. She was awarded a competitive scholarship in 2015 to research washoku (Japanese cuisine), sake making and related culture in Mie Prefecture, Japan and was recently awarded the 2021 Guild of Food Writers Futures Fund Bursary for a forthcoming book.

Why did you choose Le Cordon Bleu London?

"In 1988, Le Cordon Bleu London was the best and most well known cookery school, probably in the world. It taught cooking from first principles and I was very very interested the anthropology of food and ingredients at the time."

When did you realise you wanted to become an work with food and wine?

"I didn’t. Through the years, my experience at both Le Cordon Bleu and numerous other courses, teaching and travelling led me to where I am today. Its been a fascinating journey meeting people from all walks of life, tasting all sorts of food and drinks. Undertanding culture, rituals and history has been so exhilarating."

What are your main responsibilities?

"Everything! From cleaning and tidying up to teaching and presenting to hundreds of people. As a freelance writer, I have to write and edit my content myself. I judge all over the world so planning trips and my diary is also my responsibility."

How did studying at Le Cordon Bleu help you to achieve this role?

"Le Cordon Bleu taught me the basics of cooking, time keeping and introduced me to food and ingredients. I could not even boil an egg before!"

What’s your average day like?

"There is no average day… life is interesting. My hours are very long dealing with interesting people, boring admin chores and special writing time. I work weekends when I have to teach and through the early hours if dealing with the USA or the Far East."

What has been the best moment in your career so far?

"Watching my students happy faces when they get their results on my courses. Making sure all my students pass with flying colours. When your students respect you and call you “Sensei” it gives me the biggest smile."

What have been some challenges you’ve overcome in your role?

"It has been a long and winding road with ups and downs. Starting a business on your own is never easy. It is very hard work but so rewarding. The feeling of achievement is unexplainable!"

What’s the best thing about being the owner of your own business?

"Being able to do what I want and in my own time."

What advice would you give to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

"Be patient and accommodating. It takes time and a lot of effort. Perserverance is key."

What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you in one sentence?

"It's an honour to be an alumni of this great school."

What’s your fondest memory from Le Cordon Bleu?

"My first day at the school, wearing the apron, hat and chef’s jacket (which I still own!). I still remember the first ever dish I cooked – Oeufs en Cocotte using fresh cream. It was so delicious, it remained one of my signature dishes for dinner parties for years to come. I remember struggling as I couldn’t event boil an egg before Cordon Bleu. I loved eating and comparing the dishes we prepared with classmates. Special memories."

What's the best piece of advice you’ve received?

"Always try every dish or drink offered to you. As a food and drink lover you cannot comment nor enjoy without a taste. No matter how weird it maybe. Just a little morsel so you know the texture, smell and taste."

Who is your biggest inspiration?

"Every single person I meet is an inspiration. Everyone is special. I learn so much from people I meet around the world and without the experience of a quick chat, drink or even a meal, I would not be where I am today."

Find out more about
our professional cookery courses and other culinary programmes to see how you can follow in Marie's footsteps.

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