In Part 2 of this interview, Le Cordon Bleu Japan’s Executive Chef and Culinary Academic Director, Gilles Company talks in more detail about courses provided by Le Cordon Bleu as part of the exciting new Global Culinary Arts and Management Programme, available to students of the College of Gastronomy Management.
The Programme, run jointly by Le Cordon Bleu and Ritsumeikan University, provides students with the opportunity to gain an internationally recognized professional qualification in addition to their bachelor’s degree, and opens up a wealth of future opportunities in a wide variety of gastronomy-related fields…
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Can you tell us a little more about the courses provided by Le Cordon Bleu as part of the Programme and how they incorporate ‘management’?
Le Cordon Bleu delivers seven different courses: Culinary Basics, Fundamentals of Gastronomic Practice, Industry Workshop, Culinary Practice Advanced, Wine Fundamentals, Work Integrated Learning, and Food and Wine Philosophy.
An excellent example of how management structures and regularity are woven through these is Culinary Basics, where students learn culinary techniques and presentation of work, together with basic food management.
Every single day the students will hear me emphasize ‘workflow’, which is basically a rhythm of ‘One, two, three - complete task, clean up, start again!’ It’s about organizing one single task, and organizing and managing different tasks at the same time.
There’s also management of the product, including a landfill test – recognizing what is waste, what is not. Like workflow, I emphasize every day the fact that I’m not wasting. We teach how to use part of the food which is not the prime cut, or prime part of the veg, for something else. Of course, this links to financial management and economics too.
Of vital importance throughout all our courses is health and safety – not carrying too much at the same time, how to stand in front of the bench on your feet not too close to the fryer, so as not to burn yourself, and so on. Health and safety regulations are now more or less the same throughout the world, but there are still differences from country to country.
Advanced Culinary Practice takes all this one step further.
Students will work on advanced management skills – including looking at human resource management needs through practical exercises. We will cover leadership and how to exercise that leadership through teamwork and role play, with students taking it in turns to be the chef, the sous chef, or the chef de partie. In this way, by taking on distinct roles, students will learn about another key aspect of the professional kitchen environment: communication.
When you work in a brigade, in a team of up to 25 people, with three or four, up to six different levels of responsibility – chefs, sous chefs, chef de partie, commie (line cook or station) chef, trainee, kitchen porter, cleaner – you have a lot of people with different responsibilities all working in the same room. For this to work smoothly, it is necessary to have both a code of communication, as well as recognition and respect for hierarchy.
We’ll also talk about menus and international food in more detail. Practical cooking moves on a level too, so rather than cooking basic food based on French recipes, students will cook international food - Mexican, Vietnamese, possibly British food. Discovery of what is happening around the globe through cooking different dishes from different countries opens students’ eyes to the world.
Fundamentals of Gastronomic Practice moves into a different area. Though it is concerned with management and food, it will cover both modern and traditional techniques of cooking. Students will be asked to do their own research and the focus will be on completely different aspects of cooking based on analyzing, tasting, and reviewing the product - followed up by group discussion and writing up of comments.
Students will also be introduced to the creative possibilities of taste and product.
Focusing on investigating and producing preserved food, they will begin the process at the start of the course, before tasting and analyzing the product together at the end of the course.
They will be asked to go even further though, by reproducing the taste using a different food production process.
To give an example, we will preserve cabbage in salt. Prepared in this way, it will keep for a long, long time, and you can keep it for a period of the year when the vegetable is not available. The process also provides you with the juices from the cabbage, and the product itself has a certain sourness and a touch of bitterness.
At the same time however, we will also challenge students to reproduce the taste of the preserved product by cooking it fresh. This may involve bringing in some other elements, possibly vinegar, to approach the taste of the preserved product.
The point here is to help students realize that tools are available - perhaps special equipment, perhaps a different food product – to produce a similar taste experience with other benefits. Reproducing the flavor of preserved cabbage using fresh cabbage has the benefit of keeping the green of the leaves, which would possibly be appealing to the eye of the customer, for example.
As we research into this area, we’re going to be introducing other cooking techniques and equipment such as sous vide (cooking ingredients in vacuum packs at a constant temperature), slow cooking, and so on.
What kind of difference do you expect to see in students between the beginning and end of the course? And how will they be helped in this process?
For new students everything is unfamiliar and it is hard to break the ice. But, by the end of the course, they need to deliver. I myself, and other chef teachers from Le Cordon Bleu, will help them to do this.
I tell students from the beginning that they are going to see two sides of me - the head chef, who might raise his voice in a firm tone; and the teacher, who is rather kind and smiley.
In life and in management you also see different sides of people, and through my showing two different sides, I hope to make students realize that you can’t take situations for granted. This helps them to develop themselves; and it helps them also to recognize that when they work in teams they might be working with colleagues in a good mood, or in a sleepy mood, or who bring a different side of their personality to work on a particular day.
As a manager, they need to lead and they need to respect, but they also need to be able, through communication, to lead people and work as a team. In this way, I expect students to improve not only their people management, but their management skills in general.
I also want to see students find and improve their sense of product, so they can recognize something as a commodity and learn to develop new products themselves. The aim is not for them to become head chefs or Michelin Star chefs, rather it is for them to develop and understand food and products from a global perspective.
Aside from this, students need to learn. They need to be able. And they need to share.
They also need to stay in contact with Le Cordon Bleu, because we are in contact with very famous chefs around the world, some of whom are Michelin Star chefs. And guess what? Many of these were Le Cordon students too.
In this way, we expect the Programme to open the students up to the world and, in turn, the world to the students - with all the creative future possibilities this brings with it!
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The College of Gastronomy Management, Ritsumeikan University:
Le Cordon Bleu, Japan: