Le Cordon Bleu
15 Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1A 2LS,
020 7400 3900 | www.cordonbleu.edu/london
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Food and Travel Review
As I step off the bustling Holborn street into the pristine entrance of the legendary Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, I am greeted by chef David Duverger. Dressed in whites and crowned in a towering chef’s hat, he welcomes me with a resounding ‘Bonjour’ and promptly asks the class if anyone can speak his mother tongue. ‘Un petit peu,’ replies a student at the back of the class and we all quietly titter at this typically English response.
Our Modern and Classic Sauces class begins with a discussion about the elements required to make a stock. It quickly becomes apparent that we are in the hands of a master. After working in his father’s pâtisserie from the tender age of nine, David has a lightness of touch that is a pure delight to watch. He places a generous number of chicken wings (which give stock an added depth of flavour) in a searing-hot pan and the sound of crackling meat fills the kitchen. ‘This is to seal it, not only adding flavour but also giving the end product colour,’ he explains to us.
Next up is a velvety Bordelaise sauce, flavoured with shallots and thyme, which we cook with a red wine from Bordeaux, rich veal stock, bone marrow and a French portion of butter. The outcome is a deep crimson liquid that oozes intensity. We dunk in freshly baked bread and David suggests drizzling it over roast beef.
In the afternoon we turn our hand to Béarnaise sauce. We clarify butter and make a reduction with chervil, tarragon, shallots, vinegar, dry white wine and crushed black pepper. Once it’s cooled, we add egg yolks and whisk the mixture over a bain-marie (water bath) before finally adding the clarified butter and seasoning it with more herbs, salt and pepper. As it comes together, I can picture it sitting next to a rare piece of rib-eye beef and lots of hot, salty chips.
The course culminates with a decadent crème Anglaise. After teasing vanilla seeds from the pod with a knife, we scatter them into a pan of gently warmed milk. Next, we beat together sugar and egg yolks until pale, before gradually pouring in the milk mixture.
By the end of the day we may not have learnt to speak any more of David’s language (much to his humorous mock disdain) but we all certainly now know our stuff when it comes to French sauces. Far less time-consuming than I had imagined, they’ll certainly be making an appearance on the menu at my next dinner party. CR. The six-hour class costs £175.