Today was my first day. Like all first days, the excitement of new adventures and new situations seemed to fill the air. Does everyone in Tokyo feel this excitement today or just me? I haven’t had a first day of class in over 25 years and I had forgotten how many new things happen in just a few hours: lockers, classroom assignments, uniforms, books, new teachers, new classmates and so many names. My fellow classmates certainly feel this same excitement. Most have just arrived in Tokyo in the past few days and though they should be jet-lagged, they look well-rested and eager to start their new lives. But maybe the excitement is also because today is a mix of Halloween and Christmas.
The first thing we did today was to receive our uniforms. Some were too big, others too small. And so many pieces: pants, jacket, hat, a long apron, special kitchen shoes, and a towel, all to be worn together. When I put it all on at home, my son said I looked like a five-year-old getting ready for Halloween. I think he’s right, but that isn’t the distinguished and confident look I was trying to portray. Today I may be just dressing up as a chef, but soon I will be a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef!
Le Cordon Bleu Uniform Kits
After we received the uniforms, the next event was the tool kit. This looks like a large violin case filled with over 50 different types of knives, tools and pastry equipment. Many of the names I’d never heard before: spatula coudee, bird’s beak knife and the St. Honore pastry tip. I’m sure even the ones I have used before will have many uses I had never considered.
After the uniforms and the excitement of shiny new presents, it was time to get down to business. The rules! We started with a discussion of who is in charge. The chef told us that we are “entering a we-chef world”. I began to daydream of how nice it is that we are all chefs together, working toward a common goal. Maybe Le Cordon Bleu will not be so stressful. Maybe the urban legends about tough kitchens and tough chefs are just made up so TV shows sell better. Maybe…
My daydream was quickly ended when the translator again said “we chef” and I realized, oh, he’s saying “Oui! Chef.” Not a group of like-minded individuals working together to improve our skills, with the chef as our gentle guide. Nope–Chef is in charge, and we are to listen. “Oui! Chef.”
After learning who is in charge–not us– t was on to the uniform. I thought I had gotten this right, but my casual California ways were showing. Chef looked over the class and began to talk about how to wear the uniform, starting with the jacket. It must be fully buttoned up (which mine was not because it was a hot day!) No earrings (oops), no watches (oops), and minimal make-up (ugh – I’ll really look pale in the all-white uniform), and finally, you must wear socks with those gorgeous kitchen shoes (sigh). After 12 years of Catholic school, I still don’t know how to wear a uniform.
Even with all of that, it was exciting to finally be in the Le Cordon Bleu building. I didn’t get to work in the kitchens yet, but I did receive the recipes for the first six weeks, which covers a quarter of the cuisine course. This volume contains over 60 wonderful recipes, starting with a basic vegetable soup and ending with a roasted rack of lamb with sautéed potatoes. Interestingly, the recipes only contain an ingredient list and quantity, no description of the preparation or the techniques used. This is what I will learn each day during the three-hour lecture, and then practice in the subsequent three-hour practical.
And so, that finishes my first day. Tomorrow – into the fire! Or at least the kitchen!
Le Cordon Bleu Uniform