Helena Williams looks back at her time at the Institute when she took her Cuisine Diploma: the camaraderie in cuisine and the unforgettable practical classes with the Chefs.
Interview with Helena Williams
What made you want to study cuisine?
I wanted to find out if I could create a new career path for myself that revolved around food. And I have!
What is your favourite memory from your adventure at Le Cordon Bleu Institute in Paris?
Definitely my small practicum group! The friendships I made were extraordinary and the hands-on cooking under the tutelage of seasoned Le Cordon Bleu Chefs was unforgettable. Cooking with Caroline, Bondan, Marcella, both Jennifers, Allson Lin, Elvis, Dominick and our friends from India was incredible, something I will always treasure, knowing it can never be duplicated. I could never forget the comradery as we precisely chopped veggies, scaled fish, created sauces, turned mushrooms (Allson Lin’s were the best!) and learned how to artfully plate our many dishes. Helping each other in the cooking lab, sharing meals, and creating social times to picnic, party and cook together enriched the experience by ten-fold! Most of us have stayed in contact for the past 12 years!
Could you tell us briefly about your career path?
After leaving Le Cordon Bleu, I renovated a building and opened Smedly’s, Baltimore’s first Gastro Café and Gallery. I cooked everything from scratch and changed our floor to ceiling blackboard menu daily. We were recognized as a top new food venue and earned a citation from the City of Baltimore (2005-10).
When my family moved to Indiana I transitioned to teaching, consulting and writing within the food, nutrition and tourism industries. This led to the creation of two different ventures: Gastro Gatherings and The Kitchen Crew Against Food Waste.
What advice would you give to future cuisine students?
Career paths can be incredibly unpredictable. I have learned that opportunities knock every day often when you may not be looking nor feel ready to grab them. I have learned that it is wise (and exciting) to open opportunity’s door every time. Pursuing diverse culinary adventures may seem risky, but following an unpredictable path has made my life incredibly rich and vibrant. My short time at le Cordon Bleu has opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed!
Could you describe your new life in United States?
After living in Paris and attending Le Cordon Bleu, I now have a richer and wiser global outlook and the confidence to cook anything, anywhere, for anyone. I have confidently served bouillabaisse to 75 people at a free community meal, created a kid friendly gluten-free peanut butter cookie recipe from food pantry ingredients, served a pork, cabbage, and apple stew live on a TV news show, taught college students how to make a caviar and crème fraise purple potato amuse-bouche, and even taught a group of ladies from a country club how to de-germ garlic and make a fabulous black-skinned chicken risotto.
What are your plans for the future?
I have taken advantage of another unexpected opportunity. I have just received a fellowship to begin a PHD program in Hospitality Administration at Texas Tech University where I will be developing and teaching culinary courses and will be honing my gastronomic tourism research.