For Annabelle Baker, studying at Le Cordon Bleu Paris was a dream come true. The Adelaide-born chef, whose family has French heritage, says it was only fitting she experienced a Parisian lifestyle at one of the institute's most well-known schools - and it armed her with everything she needed to flourish on her return to Australia.
“I knew about Le Cordon Bleu because of Julia Child, but to be accepted into the Paris school was an opportunity of a lifetime,” she says.
When people learned of Annabelle's Le Cordon Bleu studies, they immediately thought she was going to become a chef, however her main goal was to get into recipe development and food styling.
“The biggest thing to come out of Le Cordon Bleu was the transition from cooking to presentation,” she says.
“I remember the teacher coming around and inspecting all the plated dishes...he would tip his hat as a sign of approval and this was seen as a really big deal.
“One thing I had always nailed was presentation and I vividly remember the chef tipping his hat twice to me in one week...that’s when I knew I had made it.”
After graduating in 2007, Annabelle spent time enjoying the European sun before heading home to continue her love for cooking and food styling.
She spent several years working in the hospitality industry, but when COVID hit, was stood down from her position and had to look at alternative ways to use her skills acquired through Le Cordon Bleu.
As the pandemic progressed, more and more people were forced to stay indoors while restaurants and cafes struggled through lockdowns.
It was this that sparked the idea of Chefs on Wheels, where restaurants across Adelaide would create restaurant quality food as ready-made meals for people to enjoy at home.
In their first week of trade, 300 meals were prepped, packed and delivered to homes across South Australia.
Once the COVID dust settled, and restaurants began opening their doors again, the demand for Chefs on Wheels didn’t dwindle. The business model was tweaked, and Chefs on Wheels today remains one of the largest independently owned ready-made meal companies in Australia.
Dishes on the menu include curries, pastas, lamb shanks, bao buns, tagines, chicken yiros, quesadillas, chicken schnitzels and an assortment of feshly baked breads.
“Learning about the presentation of food translated so well into e-commerce where I have to sell food on a website, so my time at Le Cordon Bleu Paris was so valuable from that perspective.”
As an added cherry on top, Annabelle was recently recognised in the 2023 SA Woman of the Year Awards as a nominee in the Hospitality Hero category.
“I’ve spent 15 years in the industry and everything lead up to that moment,” she says.
“With such a simple idea, I was able to make such a huge impact on the community during COVID, so it was amazing to receive the acknowledgement.”
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