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Meet Michelle Thomas
Diplôme de Pâtisserie 2019

After obtaining her Diplôme de Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Michelle Thomas came back to her hometown of Brisbane where she became Head Chef of a French pastry boulangerie in only 8 months. She shared her experience last November at the Brisbane graduation ceremony.

Meet a woman who is passionate about her work and in love with France.

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia. I attended university here where I had a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, worked in childcare, was a travel agent, worked in retail, sales, customer service, and even finance. I’ve travelled quite a lot and lived abroad in London. But at 28 I still hadn’t found a job I was passionate about.  

I wanted to combine my hobby of making cakes with my need and desire to express my creativity, so I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a Pastry Chef! I had always been a Francophile. Growing up the first city I ever wanted to visit was Paris. So, I thought, why not train to be a pastry chef in France? And where else would be better to train than Le Cordon Bleu?! 

What have you accomplished since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Paris?

After completing my training, I returned to Brisbane in October 2019 and set about searching for a job as a pastry chef. I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to try my hand at making viennoiseries at a little French bakery called Chouquette.

Despite being a complete novice my mentor, baker Brendon Woodward taught me all I needed to know to get me started. Once I got the hang of things, I was responsible for producing all of Chouquette’s laminated pastries (croissants, pain au chocolate, pain aux raisins and more) for its two retail shop locations and its wholesalers. I did this for 8 months before Chouquette’s owner Fabrice Delaunay made me Head Chef in July 2020.

Despite my limited experience as a Pastry Chef, he identified my passion, drive and discipline that could take his business to the next level. Under my leadership we opened a third retail store location in September 2020 whilst continuing to grow our wholesale business too. At our biggest and busiest I managed a team of 10 pastry chefs and bakers! It was a huge logistically challenge, but very professionally rewarding.

What is Chouquette?

Chouquette is an authentic French Boulangerie & Patisserie specialising in beautiful cakes, viennoiseries and artisan breads, all made by hand with passion and love. It first opened its doors in December 2006 and has been in the hands of its current owner Fabrice since July 2018.

What do you like the most in your job?

There are many parts of my job that I love. Recipe development and creating new cakes for special occasions is an incredible way for me to express my creativity and appreciate how much I am growing and improving as a pastry chef.

I also LOVE making croissants! I no longer produce viennoiseries full time, as my role as Head Chef requires my focus to be more global in monitoring all aspects of the kitchen, but one or two days a week I still have the chance to laminate and roll around 600 croissants!

But, more than anything, I love teaching and mentoring the other chefs on my team. Our kitchen frequently welcomes Pastry students from Le Cordon Bleu Brisbane’s campus for their industry work placements, so I am heavily involved in their training and development.

How would you describe your experience at Le Cordon Bleu Paris?

It was everything I hoped it would be! I walked away from a stable job in Brisbane to pursue my dream of becoming a Pastry Chef with no promise or guarantee of success! I was putting my faith in Le Cordon Bleu as an institution to teach me and train me everything I would need to know to start my career and as a chef, and Le Cordon Bleu Paris definitely delivered.

The facilities in Paris are state of the art, the Chef Instructors so experienced, and the program is diverse and ever evolving. I often think of my time spent there fondly and am still in touch with many of my fellow students. It’s a fantastic network to be a part of and I will always be proud of my involvement with Le Cordon Bleu. 

What advice would you give to future students?

Your life and your career are quite simply about what you make of the opportunities presented to you. Training at any Le Cordon Bleu campus in the world will give you a massive advantage on your search to find work as a chef! Your time training and studying there will open doors for you!  

But it’s up to you what you do with those opportunities! Never underestimate the importance of a good attitude, commitment, discipline, and hard work!