Do you love to travel and want to experience something new?
Perhaps immerse yourself in local cuisine and insert a little joie-de-vivre into your life?
Or maybe it’s on your bucket list to learn how to cook from a real chef in a city like London, San Francisco, or New York?
If so, then travel culinary experiences might be for you.
For this blog, we visited Le Cordon Bleu, London’s esteemed culinary school for a gourmet plant-based short course.
Keep reading to find out what they are, how you can sign up, and why it was fabulous.
What Are Culinary Experiences?
Let’s explain what culinary arts is first.
Culinary arts is about creating something spectacular for the senses through food.
It revolves around preparing, cooking, and presenting food artistically into an eye-catching meal with the purpose of giving guests a table experience to remember.
Culinary experiences, on the other hand, usually involve a chef teaching cooking classes in front of a group of eager amateur cooks while divulging local food trivia in an exotic location, beach resort, or venue with a view.
However, unique culinary experiences can also be held on a city street not too far from home without the fancy resorts or venues.
Chef experiences are easier to find these days, even at the most obscure travel destinations.
Perhaps you wanted to give them away as gift cards. However, finding the best one can be difficult.
To help with this, we decided to share a culinary experience alongside our travel.
So, here’s our unique gourmet culinary experience at Le Cordon Bleu in London.
What is Le Cordon Bleu?
Le Cordon Bleu is a world-renowned culinary school founded in Paris in1895.
But the name Le Cordon Bleu, or the Blue Ribbon, dates back to 16th century France.
Then, King Henri III created the chivalrous Ordre de Saint-Esprit, or order of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by a blue ribbon.
The order was associated with elaborate feasts and over time, the blue ribbon became synonymous with excellence.
Today, the school continues on that journey of excellence.
Le Cordon Bleu’s chefs are award-winning and have worked in Michelin-starred restaurants as executive chefs.
They teach classic French cuisine and modern international techniques giving fine dining to the world.
And they also celebrate the French art de vivre, or art of living.
Why You Need Some Art de Vivre in Your Life
Art de vivre can be described as living the good life.
It’s deep-rooted in French culture as the foundation of good spirits, balance, and health.
Furthermore, it involves a lot of things such as history, wine, architecture, art, music, philosophy, sophistication, fashion, and of course, food.
But it also means slowing down and taking your time to be in the moment, such as:
- Sitting in a bistro reading by yourself or simply watching people.
- Enjoying an excellent dinner with wine, while having a conversation with the people around you and eating mindfully in moderation.
- Savoring the small moments and elevating simple daily routines into something special.
- Paying attention to the details by choosing the right ingredients, the right pairing, or the right accessory.
- Choosing quality over quantity in everything, especially in food.
L’art de vivre can teach us a few lessons about slowing down and savoring moments in life while enjoying quality food.
What Kind of Culinary Experiences Does Le Cordon Bleu Have?
Le Cordon Bleu is primarily a full-fledged chef school and offers Grand Diplomes in cooking and baking.
But they also offer gourmet short courses that range from a few hours to a few weeks.
These courses are perfect for aspiring chefs, food enthusiasts, party hosts, and food bloggers.
Or for those that just want to experience Le Cordon Bleu.
The best part is – for most courses you don’t need much experience to attend, although it will be easier to keep up if you’re not a complete novice.
Depending on the campus, and they are worldwide, you can choose from things like:
- Thai Seafood Dishes
- Mediterranean & Indian Cooking
- Plant-Based Cooking
- Food Photography and Styling
How Do You Sign Up?
Well, it’s very easy to sign up. All you have to do is fill out a simple application online and pay the fee.
And voila – you’re accepted!
How Much Is It?
The fees vary depending on the campus and specific courses.
In London, it ranges from £70 for a 3-hour course to £2,995 for a 10-day full-time course. Most courses are somewhere in the middle for price and time commitment.
What Do You Get When You ‘Graduate’?
Besides a one-of-a-kind experience, you also get to take home a few souvenirs so you look the part!
You get a diploma signed by your chef and a Le Cordon Bleu apron and tea towel. You also get to bring the food you cooked with you, so bring a container.
Where in London Should You Stay?
Well, there is no shortage of hotels and AirBnB stays in London, so set a budget, and get searching!
Le Cordon Bleu is located in the East End, minutes from the bustling Covent Garden.
But since we like the area around Hyde Park, we chose to stay at a boutique hotel in the South Kensington area.
Boutique hotels are generally smaller, more artistic, and offer a personal touch to their guests, all of which are lovely!
The South Kensington area is very centrally located and has great access to museums, shops, parks, and restaurants.
From there we got an Oyster Card and hopped on the Piccadilly tube line to Holborn station.
Then, it’s a 5-minute walk to the Bloomsbury Square campus.
How Do You Find the Best Dining Experiences in London?
London has a lot to offer when it comes to restaurants. Anything from Michelin-starred restaurants to street food is at your fingertips.
The most fun, we think, is to visit the ethnic neighborhood restaurant on the corner, where you can get both local vibes and a great dining experience.
Learn to Cook Like a Chef at Le Cordon Bleu
What to Expect
So, we gathered at Bloomsbury Square for our cooking class experience with great anticipation.
Today was the day for the plant-based gourmet short course at Le Cordon Bleu, London’s premier chef school.
It just so happened that Le Cordon Bleu offered culinary experiences and this one in particular during our planned stay in London.
And since it was only three hours long, we jumped on it!
Getting Ready for the Experience
Upon arrival, we received a welcome packet with our Le Cordon Bleu apron and tea towel and a lesson on how to wear it appropriately.
After we changed into the chef gear, we picked a station in a fully-equipped teaching kitchen.
Our group was a mixed bunch of 20 or so individuals from all over the world.
To our left was a woman from Hong Kong that lived in London and was very friendly and helpful. To the right, was a girl from Florida.
We also met our very friendly chef, Colin Westal, stationed up front.
He told us that we could take as many pictures as we wanted, just don’t post his creations as our own!
What’s On the Menu?
There were two meals on the menu:
(1) Grilled Tempeh and Young Vegetable Salad with Miso Sauce
(2) Panisse with Hummus, Mixed Peas, Smoked Paprika, and Lemon Foam
So, what is all that?
- Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian meat alternative made from fermented soybeans
- Panisse is a chickpea flour crust
- Hummus is a chickpea spread
- Lemon foam is made from whisking aquafaba, the liquid portion in chickpea cans, and lemon juice
Fun fact, you can use aquafaba mixed with sugar to make a vegan version of meringue.
But because it requires a lot of mixing, we suggest using an electric hand mixer.
More on that below.
The First Dish Was Smooth Sailing
For the first dish, we started by making the miso sauce.
First, we ground toasted sesame seeds into a powder and mixed sugar, soy sauce, and miso paste – voila, we had a marinade.
The scent coming from the freshly ground toasted sesame seeds was wonderful and mildly nutty.
Then, we marinated and grilled the tempeh, blanched soybeans, prepared the vegetables, and plated our meal.
For the Second Dish, the Real Work Started!
For the second dish, it got a little more intense.
The two things that needed the most muscle to make were the Panisse, or chickpea flour crust, and the lemon foam.
And, yes, we made both of them by hand with a great amount of whisking which was quite a workout.
Needless to say, there were some really stiff and sore forearms the next day.
Let’s talk about the Panisse first.
We made this in two parts:
First, we mixed the chickpea flour with some water and olive oil.
Then, we let it thicken into a dough on low-medium heat while whisking vigorously by hand for a solid five minutes.
Peeeww… it was really hard work.
Lastly, when it was just at the right consistency, we flattened it into a crust and baked it in the oven.
Next, we made the hummus by mixing chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and smoked paprika in a mixer. Yay! This was easy.
Then, we blanched peas, grated vegetables, and lastly made the lemon foam.
We got another real workout here since our right arms were already pretty tired from whisking the thickening Panisse.
Basically, it’s like making meringue, which you’d normally make using egg whites and sugar using an electric mixer.
But we made it by hand using a bowl and a whisk. So, the harder and faster you whisked, the better your foam turned out.
Luckily, chef Colin was a great cheerleader. Keep going! Faster! Whisk on! Whisk harder! All said with a wink and a smile.
Then, we plated our meal and garnished it with edible flowers and pea shoots.
Yay – we did it! We learned how to cook like a chef in 3 hours.
So, to do this, we cut, sliced, grated, whisked (!), blanched, baked, plated, piped, and garnished.
And even though you are in a group, you get a private adventure. It’s like you have a private chef for a night of food experiences.
This is great because you can ask all those burning cooking questions you’ve amounted over the years.
Chef Colin was also very patient with us when we needed more olive oil from the Chef’s table, forgot the peanuts, or wanted input on our Panisse.
And the best part, you get an incredible experience from a real pro and get to meet folks from every corner of the world.
We’re already thinking of going to Paris next!
Culinary arts is about creating something spectacular for the senses with the purpose of giving guests an experience to remember.
Culinary experiences might involve chefs teaching cooking classes in an exotic location or on a city street not too far from home.
Our cooking experience this time brought us to Le Cordon Bleu in London.
They offer gourmet short courses that range from a few hours to a few weeks.
These courses are perfect for aspiring chefs, food enthusiasts, party hosts, and food bloggers. Or for those that just want a chef experience at Le Cordon Bleu.
The best part is, that it’s OK if you’re a bit of a novice.
All and all, we got a great experience learning how to cook like a chef. And it only took three hours out of our day.
We’ll surely remember it for life!
These are general inspirational ideas about our culinary experiences. All rights reserved Heselholt Group, LLC.