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Could you describe yourself?
My name is John O’Connor. I’m a 23-year-old, just beginning my career in New York City. During the global pandemic, I spent 6 formative months in Paris learning the fundamentals of French cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. During my time in Paris, I familiarized myself with the culture through trips to markets and eating my way around the city
Why did you choose the intensive formula?
I personally liked the agenda and timeframe of the intensive program. Initially, in Beginner and Intermediate, the course load is quite dense, which allows for the repetition needed to gain a foundation. The ladder part of the program, Superior, allows for more exploration of the city, exploration of your own ideas, and time to begin searching for a job post-graduation.
What did you learn at Le Cordon Bleu Paris?
I learned a lot at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, under very talented professionals - though they have some different technical approaches, comparing each was very valuable. In terms of specific techniques, I developed a great technical foundation for sauce work, specific knife cuts that I use every day in the kitchen, and seasoning. Beyond that, the most valuable thing I took away from my education was cleanliness, both in terms of your work surface, but also as a cook (I.e. clean uniform, tools, how you carry yourself, etc).
Is three months of training enough to learn French cuisine?
Three months of training allows for a strong foundation in a cuisine that could take 50 lifetimes to learn and master. I think what Le Cordon Bleu Paris teaches about cuisine is that learning extends outside of the institute for students and chefs alike.
What are the strengths of the Intensive Programme?
I think the Intensive Programme comes closer to replicating the physical demand that is required to work in a top-notch professional setting.
Have you had time to visit Paris?
My classmates and I were in a unique situation due to the Pandemic - lockdowns made it difficult to see much of the city. Luckily, I lived in a homestay with a wonderful couple, which was a rich cultural experience. Towards the end of my stay, I was able to eat out with friends, visit museums, and take in Parisian life
What is your job now?
I work at SAGA, a new fine dining venture in New York City. The executive chef is James Kent, the long-time Chef de Cuisine at Eleven Madison Park (3 Star Michelin). The food is rooted in French technique, but also globally inspired. I am currently a garde manger line cook.
3 words to describe your experience at Le Cordon Bleu Paris?
Challenging, rewarding, unique.
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