Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Le Cordon Bleu
Le Cordon Bleu sits unobtrusively among other 17th century buildings in Paris’ 15th arrondissement. The exterior is somber. I had expected something a little more glamorous. The day I arrived, there were two tailored representatives greeting incoming visitors. They politely led me to a waiting area. Wide eyed and dismayed, all I could see were salmon colored chipped walls, cracked blue and white tile floors, and indoor awnings that desperately needed dusting. How could this be the famed Le Cordon? As I moved up a flight of stairs I couldn’t help but notice the lopsided picture of Julia Child hanging on the wall. I shuffled on, curious where this would lead.
Clarity began to arrive in the form of an individual, Chef Patrick Terrien. Anyone that refers to a plate of vegetables as “A magical garden” immediately grabs my attention. Sprinkle in phrases such as, “Brigitte Bardot at her peak”, and I find myself clinging to every playful word. Chef Terrien’s confidence in the kitchen was an unexpected delight. It wasn’t his impressive culinary background that grabbed me, although it didn’t hurt. To the untrained eye, you couldn't help but notice his careful precision and attention to detail. Every move was calculated, no motion wasted. He offered a rare glimpse of pure harmony. A sprig of parsley becomes not just a sprig, but the final ornament to a perfectly plated dish. The seasoned chef coddles and hovers over his vegetable broth like it were an infant that needs guidance and nurturing. He often mentions his Grandmother’s culinary influence; her remembrance was always followed by a nostalgic grin.
When it came time to indulge our taste buds, my eyes were focused on Chef Terrien. I imagined he was waiting to see how the audience would react to his masterpiece. To my astonishment he was not interested in our reaction. While everyone delighted in their delectable dish of cod with spring vegetables, he stayed busy tenderly caring for his beloved broth and vegetables. This man exuded self-assurance. A light began to flicker within my brain. His sense of satisfaction would never come from the audience. He has nothing to prove. Cooking is in his blood. I felt humbled for thinking he would be concerned with how the masses would react to his plated masterpiece. Perfection it seems, does not need an audience approval.
My inadequate first impressions had been shrouded by current standards. Current mind set dictates for something to be of value, it must be shiny, pretty and highly commercialized. Le Cordon knows value does not reside in fresh coats of paint or flashy neon signs. The famous culinary institution has earned wisdom which has led to something more defining, Character. Not something a credit card can buy and certainly not something found within a home improvement store. By the end of my visit, I left hoping the school would continue to place value where it belongs, on the talent that courses through the history filled walls. In hindsight, 8 Rue Delhomme did not live up to my expectations, it exceeded them. Turns out the “Magical garden” exists beyond the plate of vegetables.