MANILA – In just a few days, the revered French culinary institute Le Cordon Bleu will formally launch its first school in the Philippines.
The nine-student pilot class at Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila started last January, with the new programs to officially start in June, according to technical director Chef Thierry Le Baut.
The new school is located inside the creative hub Arete of Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. It features four kitchens, demonstration and lecture rooms, and a soon-to-open restaurant lounge for students to hone their cooking skills.
An even bigger Le Cordon Bleu institute in Manila – “three times the size” to be exact – is already in the pipeline. It will be located inside Ateneo’s campus in Rockwell, Makati.
Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila currently offers Bachelor of Science in Restaurant Entrepreneurship, a four-year program in collaboration with Ateneo’s John Gokongwei School of Management.
Institute director Liza Morales said she and Le Baut have been working on bringing in other programs from Le Cordon Bleu campuses abroad such as diploma courses in Patisserie and Boulangerie.
While she did not reveal the tuition for a Restaurant Entrepreneurship degree, Morales said it is “very competitive,” especially considering that it involves two top educational institutions.
“Of course you’re paying for a premium because of the quality of education, the faculty, and the facilities. It’s excellent value,” she told ABS-CBN News.
“We will definitely help them get opportunities in terms of international internships and international jobs, given the network of Le Cordon Bleu,” she added. “A big part of our job is to make sure that they (students) are prepared for the industry, and that the industry will be wanting them after they graduate because they know they have the skills and the right knowledge needed to excel.”
Le Baut, for his part, cited their efforts to replicate the Le Cordon Bleu experience in Manila: “The ingredients they (students) are going to get are premium as well. We are looking for ingredients that come from Europe, some fish and some meat. We try to have fresh beef but it’s very difficult in the Philippines because from what I’ve seen, all the suppliers I met at the moment have frozen meat.”
He went on: “I’ve checked the quality of duck, it’s not possible to make the French recipe… It’s very good for different types of recipes but not for the French one, so we also had to think about that. It’s a lot to pay for the other ingredients from abroad for the students to work with as well.”
ABS-CBN News had an exclusive tour of Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila ahead of its launch on April 5.
Here’s a look:
Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila boasts of four state-of-the-art kitchens – one for pastry, one for general cooking classes, and two preparatory areas.
In the main kitchen, each student gets a stove with four burners, one oven, one work station, and his or her own set of bowls, pans, and other equipment.
“It’s one set, one place for each student, so each one is working on his own recipe,” Le Baut explained. “This is so they don’t mix things up. They don’t do teamwork at the moment, they have to know the basics first.”
“These are a lot of materials per student… even some restaurants don’t have these,” he added. “Every single student has one set. Everything is marked so we know and you have to put it back.”
Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila’s main kitchen can accommodate 16 students at a time, with Le Baut saying they would rather split classes into groups instead of having them share cooking stations.
“We have 16 students at a time. We cannot take any more,” he said. “So if we have a class of 20, we make it into two classes of 10.”
After learning French cooking basics through lectures and demonstrations, students will be allowed to prepare their own dishes under the supervision of the chef-instructor.
Once they have their French skills down pat, the students will then be taught about other cuisines such as Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Thai, and South American.
This, said Le Baut, will help them get better working opportunities abroad. “They have to learn the French basics first so when they look for jobs abroad, they don’t have to start from the beginning,” he said.
The pastry kitchen, meanwhile, has one induction cooktop and one work station for every student. There are also special ovens for bread and pastry from Salva, a Spanish brand.
“There is one place for each student so nobody can sabotage his work,” Le Baut said in jest. “The students are very lucky because the quantity and quality of materials here is amazing… They just have to show up at the classes.”
Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila looks pretty much like the French culinary institute’s other campuses in terms of design, but Le Baut said one thing sets it apart – natural light.
“Something I like about this campus is the light coming from outside,” said the chef, who has worked in Le Cordon Bleu campuses in New Zealand, Paris, London, and Tokyo.
“It’s just wonderful,” he continued. “Usually you’re in a place where you don’t have any windows. In here, you always have light and you know what time it is of the day because of this advantage.”
Le Baut went on to show the preparation kitchens, where ingredients for cooking sessions are set up for students’ use, as well as the lecture and demonstration areas.
The demonstration room has overhead mirrors and will soon have television screens so students can have a closer look at the chef-instructor’s techniques.
“They have to know the theory on how and why something is done a certain way,” Le Baut said. “It’s going to be a lot easier for the students to practice if they understand what they are doing.”