The French connection

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Cuisine Le Cordon Bleu, the reputed French culinary school, has plans for India, says its vice president, Asia-Pacific, Rodger Griffiths

The culinary climate in India is to soon get a French flavour. Le Cordon Bleu, (LCB), the world famous French culinary school, may soon be setting up its prestigious kitchen-cum-classroom, if they find the right ‘ingredients’. Rodger Griffiths, Vice President, Development Asia Pacific, Le Cordon Bleu, on a holiday in Kochi, said that though he is not giving away anything at the moment, the fact that they have set up an office in Mumbai is a sign.

Sound training

“The fact that I am here…Watch this space,” says Rodger on a light note, but turning serious he adds, “What I hope to do here is to open a school for the training of the culinary chef, the patisserie chef, the baker, the sommelier, the hotel GM and all the operatives of a hotel or a convention centre.” What Rodger is not disclosing at the moment is the local partner and the details of the tie-up.

“When LCB wants to establish its school, we don’t want to stay as a foreign entity. We want to become local and wish to twin with a local partner, preferably an educational partner.” Rodger says of LCB: “It uses French cooking techniques with local cuisine.”

He formerly worked with the Government of Australia, heading their international educational division. He joined LCB in 1999. Having been to India “30 to 40” times, as a tourist, his recent visits have been on work. The prestigious Le Cordon Bleu was founded in 1895 in Paris. Today it has 54 schools across 22 countries. The latest school is a new one in London, a school in Brazil, “to help the government prepare for the Olympics” and plans are afoot for another school in Paris. The Shanghai school, Rodger says with pride, is one in which the government changed the rules to accommodate them. A school in Beijing is also on the cards.

A publishing side to LCB brings out books on food and wine. The latest book is the Cook’s Bible and a series on food and wine. LCB also endorses many food products, especially products for a French style restaurant. “We will soon be endorsing Indian products”, says Rodger, who loves Indian cuisine. “Each state in India has its own cuisine, each region its own flavours. Indian cuisine is very popular the world over.”

Global food trends

A man who knows global food trends, he says that fusion cuisine is on its way out. “Chefs are talking about a modernist approach. The chef as a chemist is moving away from molecular gastronomy and also from fusion experiments, where the use of foam was ruling. We are also over with Picasso style dressing of plates. Now there is room for a combination of all this. I think something new is trending.”

The chef’s job in the current scenario is a tough one, declares Rodger. “The chef of today has to be a good cook, a good chemist, a good artist and a good manager. It was easy in the past. Diners today insist on a food journey. They want an experience. They want to know everything about the food.” With so much pressure on young chefs and graduates, there is a high level of attrition.

“Fifty-eight per cent of them are getting out of the kitchen. There is a dearth of good chefs.” Another trend he notices is that women are matching the men in numbers in the kitchen, “in fact they may be a little higher in the ratio,” he says.

Reality TV shows that showcase the top chefs are inspiring youngsters to reach the top, “but it takes enormous amount of resilience to become a performing chef, the ones that come on TV.”

There is a huge demand for graduates from culinary schools in the hospitality-service industry. “Casinos, convention centres, food and beverage directors…the options are varied,” he says.

A renewed interest in the pastry section, especially among women, and to work in chocolate is what the food world is witnessing. Graduates are turning entrepreneurs moving on to start their little outlets whether it be in making of cupcakes, biscuits or just a fancy dessert, he says he is pleased that the Le Cordon Bleu graduate is a premium product grabbed by a growing global hospitality industry.


The chef as a chemist is moving away from molecular gastronomy and also from fusion experiments




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