My nephew, Gerry, is studying to become a chef.
A year or so ago, my nephew moved in with my twin sister and her husband to pursue the next step in his formal education. Thus far, the Cordon Bleu has exposed him to several regional dishes, sauces and desserts. Gerry sometimes brings these meals home for my sister and brother-in-love to try but he’s usually tied up with his job at a restaurant near their townhouse. Every semester, Gerry and his fellow chefs in training put on a sample show where they share the dishes they’ve been working on with the public. I wasn’t able to attend one of these demonstrations in the past (day job woes). Gerry invited me to come and enjoy some yummy foods that he and other budding cuisiniers had prepared a few weeks after I left the corporate world. Naturally I accepted!
Aside from the fact that there’d be free food, I wanted to take a look around. I hadn’t been to a culinary school before and after watching Julie & Julia 100 times, I was excited to see a real chef’s kitchen. When the day came, I got wrapped up in a writing assignment. Thankfully my sister (Gerry’s mom) Youlanda checked in with me via text to find out if I was still coming. Realizing that I didn’t have adequate time to put on a decent outfit, I settled for a pair of jeans, the neon pink t-shirt I was already wearing and my thrifted purple Nike zip up jacket. I crossed my fingers, hoping that I wouldn’t be the only casually dressed attendee as I kissed Brandon and ran out the door.
Eating at the Cordon Bleu School in Dallas
After driving (and sweating since our AC is out) for half an hour, I came upon a retail complex. The three suites on the end housed the Cordon Bleu of Dallas. I dabbed my face and neck and started towards the door. Youlanda came out to meet me. She was this brightly colored aztec print dress that we’d found on our latest shopping trip at Thrift City. Mom was waiting inside, also decked out in bright spring attire. Now I really felt underdressed! The lobby area was packed with guests of all ages. Though there was no food in sight, the aromas from the other room wafted in and made my stomach growl. An older gentleman dressed in a white culinary uniform came out to greet the group. The chef, who turned out to be one of the instructors, informed us that the students had all been working very hard on these dishes and were challenged to create their own recipes. Then he lead us around the corner into a modest dining hall full of eager student chefs stationed at covered dishes along the walls.
The instructor sat the guests at round tables covered by white and royal blue table clothes. In the center of the table were flowers, a bread basket, fancy butter and Mother’s Day themed menus. The three of us sat near the beverage area next to a friendly man whom we later learned supplied fresh produce to businesses and was married to one of the chefs in training. Feeling like one of those moms at elementary school plays, I hopped up and took a picture of Gerry at his food station. He looked so pristine in his uniform! Shortly after, everyone got up and started loading their plates with food. The students served us, sharing the details of their chosen dish and how to best enjoy it. There were savory foods like turkey pot pie, pot stickers, ceviche, milk bread, mussels and roast duck (Gerry’s main course). I had never eaten duck before so that was the first thing I tried. It was so delicious that I got seconds! For dessert we had poached pears. Once everyone was served, Gerry came to join us at our table. Gerry informed us that he’d planned on serving mochi dessert but it hadn’t turned out the way he planned and was left in the freezer. We raved at how good everything tasted and that we were sure he’d be able to succeed the next time he tried making the Japanese dessert.
After lunch, Gerry gave us a tour of the facility. After turning several corners and passing a group of large preparation areas, we walked into the large kitchen where Gerry and his classmates learned how to make traditional foods while experimenting with their own dishes. I’d never seen so many pots and utensils in one room. Just beneath one of the counters stood four large containers of flour, each a different kind, used for specific purposes. The shelves on the wall held enough seasonings to last a few years if stored in my cabinets at home. All of the appliances and table tops were stainless steel and brimming with cooking supplies.
There is a display case in the hallway honoring the late Chef Jean Lafont. Having been born in France and later moving to the U.S., Chef Lafont was known for his great ability to teach aspiring chefs and help them find employment after graduation. People called him the Diamond of Dallas Fine Dining.
Overall, we had an awesome time. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for his next presentation. I’ve been inspired to cook a bit more creatively at home and add some variety to our menu. I’ll let you know what I come up with! When was the last time you cooked and what was the occasion? Let me know in the comments.