Over the past three months, during the 10-week course at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit, we were shown how to make 95 recipes, and I personally recreated 29 of those in the school kitchen. Out of the 29 recipes, our Chef chose 10 for us to study in detail. He gave us “the list of 10” about three weeks before the end of the term so we would have time to prepare ourselves; we would not be able to use any notes during the exam. We would ONLY be given a list of ingredients needed and the appropriate measurements, but nothing else. We would have 2.5 hours to complete our given recipe, including the presentation of four basic knife cuts: Cisler, Brunoise, Julienne and Paysanne. The final exam would be 50% of our total class grade.
Preparing for the Final Exam at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
I’m not sure what other students did, but I spent about an hour per recipe (10 hours) to consolidate my class notes onto the computer so that the steps would be concise, easy to read and easy to follow. I noted the important points for each recipe with the advantages and disadvantages for each:
- How long did it take me to make the sauce: 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 1.5 hours?
- How many steps would be needed to complete the butchering of the chicken, rabbit or duck?
- Would there be trussing involved in preparing the chicken?
- Any special notes for filleting the fish?
- Any “turned” vegetables? And how many?
- On which recipes did I get the best reviews? Which were the worst?
In the end, I hoped I would be able to remake one of these four recipes, as I believed they were my best work:
- Seared Salmon (class 12)
- Roasted Rabbit (class 15)
- Beef Stroganoff (class 23)
- Seared Pork Chops (class 24)
The Final Exam at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: The Duel of Two Fishes
As luck would have it, the Chef chose fish for our final cooking class: half the class made Sea Bass with Bercy Sauce and the other half made Turbot Fillets Duglere, each requiring homemade fish stock/fish fumet. As you can see, I did not get my wish to have Beef Stroganoff or Seared Pork on our final cooking test.
I was quite surprised that Hollandaise sauce was not on the menu; I thought this would have been an obvious skill choice.
Our Final Chef Demo at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
For our last day of class, we watched a final Chef demo, which featured:
Gala or Banquet Menu
Rack of Lamb with Parsley Crust
Turned and Glazed Vegetables
Stuffed Tomatoes with Breadcrumbs, Garlic & Saffron Rice
Stuffed Zucchini with Sautéed Mushrooms (duxells)
A note about the Baked Alaska: I had not seen this dessert on a restaurant menu in years; it’s basically a sponge cake with ice cream in the center, covered with meringue and then browned on the outside with a kitchen torch or under a broiler. I first made this myself when I was about 13, as my mom had the 1st edition of Julia Child’s cookbook and she would often make one of her recipes for an upcoming dinner party. So I had to smile when the Chef prepared this; most of the students in the room had never seen anything quite like it before.
Final Thoughts on Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
Here’s what I learned during my 10 weeks at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit:
- After 60 classes and 180 hours of instruction, I can finally make a very decent French sauce to accompany almost any meat or fish dish.
- Our chefs demonstrated over 90 recipes during the term and we tasted them all! I personally made 29 of these recipes in the Cordon Bleu kitchen.
- In the time it would take me to prepare one dish, our chefs made three recipes (and sometimes even four) during a three-hour class. They made it look so easy; I guess that’s the mark of a true Chef.
- I have now learned the basics for butchering a whole chicken, duck and rabbit – something I never imagined I would be doing on a regular basis.
- After my final exam, it is clear I need a little more time to practice filleting fish. I was so nervous during the exam that my hands were actually shaking! My fish could have looked better on the presentation plate; there were definitely some ragged edges, which is unfortunate as the exam was 50% of my final grade.
- The French are fanatical about their knife cuts. I was told two of the four cuts I presented during my exam were “acceptable” and two still need more practice – something to work on before I return to the Cordon Bleu kitchen next term.
- I know I am a better chef than my final grade suggestions. I ended up being ranked in the bottom half of the class – quite devastating to the ego since I’ve been cooking professionally now for more than 12 years! I am taking a break until the New Year and plan to return with a new attitude Now that I’ve been through the program, I will have to work extra hard to excel at the high standards that have been set.
- I know this was supposed to be a “basic cooking course,” but believe me when I tell you that this is definitely not the case.
- If you’ve ever wanted to try this culinary program for yourself, come with some cooking knowledge before you start; I was surprised how many of the students enrolled in these classes with the expectation “to learn to cook.” I believe this program is designed with the premise, “to be the BEST cook,” not just a BETTER cook.
As you can tell, I learned a lot over the past three months! In addition to everything I discovered at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit, I’ve been having a wonderful time exploring the culinary world of Bangkok. Stay tuned for next week when I share some highlights of dining while living in my new city.
Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.