By Ellie Philpotts
As admirable as its food scene may be, it seems fair to argue Cardiff isn’t exactly as well-known in the culinary stakes as fellow capitals London and Paris. However, the next big thing to emerge in the world of cookery could come from right here in Wales, after Le Cordon Bleu stopped in City Hall yesterday amid their tour promoting the exciting new search for their UK Scholarship Award 2017.
Le Cordon Bleu enjoys a glittering reputation as the planet’s largest and most respected institute of hospitality education. Founded in Paris, one of the food capitals of the world, as long ago as 1895, it’s since nurtured many impressive alumni, including Mary Berry and Julia Child, and has expanded substantially, with over 35 branches in 20 countries, from Australia to Canada, Peru to the UK. It’s such an international scheme that it now trains 20,000 students of over 100 nationalities per year, honing their skills across the spectrum of the trade, from diplomas to master degrees, patisserie to gastronomic tourism.
And now, Le Cordon Bleu London is offering one lucky winner, who had perhaps pondered how to make it in such a competitive industry, a breathtaking prize. So successful has its UK Scholarship Award been that it’s now in its sixth year, particularly pertinent as Harden, one of the most reputable eatery guides, recently revealed ‘new restaurants opened in London at a faster rate in the last 12 months than at any time previously recorded.’
The lucky (or just extremely talented and hardworking!) recipient will earn a place on Le Cordon Bleu London’s most prestigious course, the Grand Diplome, which entails 9 months’ intensive training in both Cuisine and Patisserie, whereas often students might focus on one or the other; luxury accommodation in London; and a 3-month internship at Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant LIMA in stunning Fitzrovia, a stone’s throw from the West End. All in all, the prize totals £35,000, as well as being a sure-fire way to kick-start a career at the top of the catering hierarchy.
To enter, you have to be 18+, a UK citizen and harbour a real passion for everything involved. If this is you, simply apply via a form at ukscholarship.cordonbleu.edu, submit a minute-long video explaining your enthusiasm for food, and tag @lecordonbleulondon and the hash-tag #AllINeedIsPassion on an Instagram photo of your favourite dish to cook. The deadline is 5th April 2017, semi-finalists will be narrowed down by internationally renowned Master Chefs on 1st June, then the programme begins this September.
To spread the word across the country, Le Cordon Bleu are busy visiting cities from Edinburgh to Bristol, Manchester to here in Cardiff, so Quench Food went along to the first leg of the tour to find out more, salivate courtesy of a demonstration by Master Chef Eric Bediat, and conduct an interview. As well as a hefty dose of hunger and a lot of awe for anyone who’s made it in this career sector, the main thing I took away was how fortunate someone would be to receive such an acclaimed deal, so hopefully some of the attendees (or readers of this!) from Cardiff will apply and be in with a chance of furthering’ Wales position on the foodie map.
Ellie – Hello and thank you so much for coming along to Cardiff today. Your demonstration was fantastic! So can you tell me a bit about how you launched your own career?
Eric – I’m originally from between Lyon and Grenoble in France, where my background in cooking began. My family worked in agriculture, and that’s how I got started. I’ve been cooking for 24 years, with just over a decade of that at Le Cordon Bleu, where I began as a Teaching Chef and am now Head of Cuisine.
Eric – My day starts at 5am, as I live on the outskirts of London and need to commute to Bloomsbury Square (Camden, Le Cordon Bleu’s British base.) I start work at 7, and the days are very varied. I can be managing, teaching, cooking, touring (such as today, then Edinburgh tomorrow to promote the Scholarship), leading demonstrations or practicals, travelling (I go to Paris about once a year, for example), or running events like going into schools.
Ellie – As a French chef working in London, could you describe the differences between French and British cuisine?
Eric – British chefs used to go to France, but now it’s vice versa. Both are vibrant in their own ways. I still go to back to Paris for the best quality, but London also has a diverse range and is moving rapidly, so it’s hard to compare them. In London, there’s a real international drive – the amount of new restaurants setting up tells all.
Eric – Diverse, creative and evolving.
Ellie – What would be your top tips for someone trying to get into the catering industry?
Eric – One thing I’d say is that if it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. But overall – go for it! A mentor is also a helpful way to learn as you go along, but altogether just give it everything you’ve got.
Eric – It’s a big prize! It’s so international, it’s a well-rounded way to approach cooking. You’ll be doing Cuisine and Patisserie, two very distinct specialities, taking influence from what’s around you (we chefs also learn from our students!) and being rewarded for it. There are real links worldwide and you never know where it may take you.
And if that’s not enough encouragement, we don’t know what is! Bon Appétit!