French Culinary Workshops with Institute Paul Bocuse
Written by Karthik Acharya, India, Class of 2018 – 2019
During the International MBA program at emlyon business school we have the opportunity to take part in “Art de la Table” workshops at the prestigious Institut Paul Bocuse. As an international student, this has been a unique experience for me. I love cooking for a simple reason that I have always enjoyed the process of taking a bunch of food materials, mixing them together and transforming them into a dish that satisfies your senses. I am one of those guys who if I eat something great in a restaurant, I would walk up to the chef to thank him/her. I would then look up at the recipe online and try to make the same dish at home, not missing a chance to brag about it to family and friends if I got it right. I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re foodies because they love trying out different dishes, but I consider myself a Food Lover who is more interested in the process of creating those dishes. So, when I saw that 4 separate sessions at Institut Paul Bocuse were planned for us, I got super excited.
Our cohort was split into 4 different groups – “Patisserie”, “Cuisine”, “Cocktails or Tea & Coffee” and “History of Gastronomy”. My first session was Patisserie on 3rd October 2018 with 11 other classmates and boy were we all excited! The first sensory experience I had when we entered the kitchen was the delicious smell of a French bakery. Our exercise for the day was to prepare 3 different kinds of desserts but quite honestly it was quite difficult simply because it was too hard to resist tasting the ingredients – fruits, baked bread, cream, chocolates etc. The chef and his assistant, a resident student, were very patient with us and helped us by talking us through the process, step by step. I was learning a lot of minute details for example how to boil milk to get a particular consistency later when you add eggs, and butter. We made everything from scratch, the chocolate cream, custard, the bread crust etc, which was so much fun but at the same time, made me realize, what a long process it was to make desserts. The desserts we had created became something of a possession for all of us, and we all took them home and most of it was proudly distributed to other students!
The next session was on 4th October 2018, and here we learnt how to make a very creatively prepared Fish with a Potato Crust, the legendary – “Filets de Poisson en Écailles Croustillantes”. The process was simple yet at the same time needed us to be very precise in our preparation. The layered potatoes added that additional crisp and taste to the whole experience and is a must try for all sea food lovers.
The next session was probably the most anticipated for obvious reasons – cocktails! We were introduced to the history of how cocktails came to be and how they have evolved over the last 2 centuries. There was an incident which I want to share – The Bartending Lecturer asked us a question about why they pour the ingredients in a particular order, like lemon, crushed ice, or other syrups first and finally the alcohol at the very end? Always in the MBA mode, we tried giving an answer, ranging from to retain the lemon’s pH level, viscosity of different liquids to several other chemical attributes we could think of. In the end, the bartending lecturer told us that it is because if the mixing ratio goes wrong, you can throw it away to make a new one and one doesn’t have to waste the alcohol which is more expensive than the other ingredients! We all had a hearty laugh and knew we definitely needed quite a few cocktails to relax and take it easy! We made 10 cocktails in total – with almost every alcohol out there, starting from Whiskey, Rum, Cognac, Vodka, Gin, Tequila and finally Absinthe. We got to correct our misconception about Absinthe that is so commonly known to be hallucinogenic or that it makes you crazy. We were told the real story behind it being banned for many decades and the reason for the stigma attached to it. In the 1920’s Absinthe was very cheap – so cheap, that men drank it the whole day ignoring their families and work. The women and other concerned citizens started a lobby to ban absinthe but weren’t successful since Absinthe was very popular and easily available. Finally, in their desperation they found a crazy man who was addicted to Absinthe too and made him the face of their campaign against Absinthe and they started the notion that Absinthe made that poor guy crazy! The ban on Absinthe was finally lifted after almost a hundred years in 2012 in France and now is available like before, but I’m not sure if it is as cheap as it was before!
Our final class is scheduled for 28th Nov 2018 which is about “the history of gastronomy” and we are all looking forward to it. Overall, it has been a great experience thus far to attend these sessions at such a prestigious institute. We still work in teams however the teamwork is much less stressful than our usual classroom assignments so it is nice to have a moment to connect in a less intense environment. I’m sure every session has had many such interesting stories for all of us to tell and I’m happy to have shared mine here.
Prof. Rhoda Davidson, our course director, has been a part of our activity in all the sessions and it is fun having her around as one our classmates. I would like to thank her and her team to include these sessions to our curriculum and recommend keeping them going. I also want to extend my appreciation and thanks to the Institut Paul Bocuse for hosting us students and putting up with our silliness and making sure we all had a great time. It was truly an honor to be inside the same kitchen where the legendary, Chef of the Century, Paul Bocuse once stood and imparted his knowledge.
On behalf of my cohort, thank you emlyon business school and thank you Institut Paul Bocuse.