Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 7: They See Me Rollin’

It’s officially been a week since the first day of lessons at Le Cordon Bleu Paris! Time really flies when you’re doing what you love.

For our sixth demo and practical, we carried on from where we left off last Friday with our puff pastry. We learnt how to complete our turns on the feuilletage (puff pastry) and made chaussons aux pommes (apple turnovers) and palmiers. Palmiers are puff pastries rolled in sugar. They caramelise beautifully in the oven, coming out crisp and golden. We also made a new batch of puff pastry that we will be using for our next practical class.

The funniest (or most tragic) thing happened during demo. Chef seemed to have completed everything so perfectly, and it was time for us to try the turnovers and palmiers. It turned out that what Chef thought he was using to roll the puff pastry in for the palmiers was a mixture of salt and sugar instead of pure sugar. The result was a sweet and salty palmier, which some of us actually enjoyed because it tasted like salted caramel. However, Chef was not impressed and he told us not to eat it and threw the extras away. He is so unhappy that he wants to make new palmiers tomorrow so that we can have a taste of authentic ones. Apparently, he makes amazing palmiers.

The chaussons aux pommes were really delicious. I don’t like eating apples, but when they’re cooked, they’re so much better. They were filled with an apple compote. So good!

We had practical right after demo, which is great because everything is still fresh in our minds. As a team leader this week, I have to be early to help the class put the ingredients and tools out for the practical. We got a different chef for practical today. He was very helpful and super funny. And he spoke English! Yay!

We started on our puff pastry from last week first, splitting half of it for the palmiers. Then we made our apple compote for the turnovers. We also made the new puff pastry dough for tomorrow’s class; we will be making pithiviers.

The thing about puff pastry is that you have to work relatively quick, as you want to work with the cold butter. Once it warms up, you’re going to get a sticky dough with butter peeking out. I think I am slightly more confident working with puff pastry now, so today went pretty smoothly. Rolling it is the fun part, although I can never really get it into a proper rectangle.

We baked our palmiers first, followed by our turnovers. The kitchen smelled exceptionally good today.

IMG_0479Palmiers

IMG_0494IMG_0497Chaussons aux pommes

I was happy with my apple turnovers. They look very pretty and you can see the layers of puff pastry along the sides. My palmiers though, not so much. Chef asked me to use the “classic” method of shaping the palmiers instead of the “Le Cordon Bleu method”. I did not stick the layers together well enough, so they kind of unfurled while in the oven. I actually think the Le Cordon Bleu method yields better looking palmiers.

I’m pretty excited for our next practical. Pithiviers look really impressive and I hope I manage to make mine look at professional as possible.

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 7: They See Me Rollin’

Le Cordon Bleu – Day 6: I’m On A Boat

The school arranged what they call a “pedagogical” lunch for us today, which meant no school! Yay!

I’m lucky to have rented an apartment so near school and walking distance to Tour Eiffel. The meeting point was at Port Debilly, which is right across the river from the Eiffel Tower. The lunch cruise is run by Bateaux Parisiens. I was able to walk there in about 25 minutes. The lunch was onboard a boat that brought us down the Seine. We got to enjoy an amazing meal and also sightsee at the same time.

IMG_0436Rosé

IMG_0442Entrée – Lightly smoked salmon, fennel and poivrade artichoke salad

Best part of the entrée – the artichokes. I’ve never had artichoke this good in my life. To be honest, I was already full after this. But I had to force myself, because I’m pretty sure that at least some of my school fees went to this meal! And also, I don’t waste food.

IMG_0450Main – Roast veal rump, mixed vegetables with golden chanterelle mushrooms

I don’t usually eat meat, but I decided to not opt for the vegetarian meal. I don’t regret that decision, because it’s been a long while since I’ve had meat this decent. It was extremely tender and juicy. And I’m very thankful that it was not medium rare, because if it were, I would not have eaten it! The potatoes, peas and chanterelle mushrooms were really delicious too, but I still can’t make myself like asparagus! The asparagus was overcooked anyway, which made it even more repulsive to me.

IMG_0455Dessert – Chocolate concerto with vanilla cream from Lenôtre

Of course, the best part of the meal was dessert. A chocolate lover’s dream. The bottom layer of feuilletine was my favourite. The vanilla cream was not necessary, but I appreciate anything that uses real vanilla beans (because I can’t afford it myself) instead of vanilla extract.

I took a walk back with a couple of my classmates and bought some tape for my utensils so that no one mistakenly takes them. I also bought some warmer clothes from H&M so that I can sleep comfortably at night here. I feel really cold at night, especially my hands and feet. I’m all curled up like a shrimp! And I don’t have my mummy with me anymore. I used to put my cold feet and hands on her because she’s like a hot water bottle!

I’m well rested and ready for the new school week. I’m one of the team leaders for this week, which means I have to be early for classes to assist the chefs and the class with ingredients and set up.

I’m off to see the Eiffel Tower light up in a bit though I’m already pretty tired. My classmate just happens to live in the block beside me and she just called me lazy! Haha. I am actually 😛

Le Cordon Bleu – Day 6: I’m On A Boat

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 5: I’m Keeping It

(I don’t know who is reading my blog, but I want to thank you if you are! I’m pretty sure people who aren’t my friends and who aren’t interested in baking will not be reading this. As I mentioned in my first post on Le Cordon Bleu, I’m doing this mainly to help future students and also journal this for myself.)

It’s only been a week, and I already feel exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m doing here, but somehow, despite the fantastic quality sleep I’ve been getting, it just isn’t enough to keep me going the entire day.

I walked my mum to the taxi stand for her to catch a cab to the airport this morning, and then I was off to school for morning demo. I really enjoyed the demo today; the chef was a good teacher. He showed us how to make tarte Bourdaloue (pear and almond cream tart), tarte aux poires caramélisées (caramelised pear and almond tart), poires pochées (poached pears)  and feuilletage (puff pastry). I’m still amazed by professionals who are able to churn out so many things in such a short time. I hope I will someday be as efficient as they are.

For the tarts today, we used pâte sucrée (sweet pastry) instead of the pâte brisée we used before for the tarte aux pommes. This dough is much more fragile than the pâte brisée. The tarte Bourdaloue is filled with pâte d’amande (almond cream), and topped with poached pears in syrup. This tart was my favourite of the day. What makes this tart so amazing is the delicious almond cream. I’ve had pâte d’amande before in tarts back in Singapore, but I was never really a fan of it, though my mum loved the ones from Delifrance. This tart has swayed me!

For the tarte aux poires caramélisées, an almond meringue is baked on top of diced poached pears and blackcurrant. I wasn’t a fan of this tart. I have never liked meringue. Also, the blackcurrant was way too tart.

Puff pastry is the thing that scares me the most. I’ve never attempted puff pastry back home because Singapore’s weather is not ideal. The warmth will just soften the butter too fast, making it hard to work with. Of course, the chef made it look very easy.

Practical was right after the demo class. I was starving and I only had a banana for lunch. Eating desserts every single day has not been working well for my waistline. So I really need to watch what I eat outside of school. Looks like it’s back to eggs and salad for me for the next month. Now that my mum is gone, I don’t have to feel obliged to eat anything that I don’t want to. I guess that’s the beauty of living on your own. No obligations, freedom, space.

I felt pretty confident during today’s practical when I was working on my tarte Bourdaloue. The pastry dough turned out well, and so did the almond cream. The past few practicals, I’ve felt like such a noob. Honestly, I didn’t expect everyone to be so experienced. There are quite a few in the course who are already working in professional kitchens. I’m also one of the younger ones (I think), so I feel a little intimidated working around them. I remember the first practical; the moment we walked to our stations, there was silence and everyone started immediately. There are no instructions given by the chef; you are expected to know what to do and in what sequence.

Anyway, once my tart was in the oven baking, I started on my puff pastry. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I think the hardest part for me is ensuring that I roll the dough out into a proper rectangle with right angles. I struggled with that bit, and also I should have dusted my work surface with more flour, because my dough got stuck and tore a little. NOOOO.

Here is my tarte Bourdaloue:

IMG_0417.JPGTarte Bourdaloue

I think it looks pretty good, eh? 😀

The same thing happened again today. The chef told us during the demo to roll the dough out quite thick, about 3 to 4mm. I intentionally rolled mine out thinner than that. So when the chef that took us for the practical was commenting on our tarts, he told most of us that our tart shells were too thick. I think mine was already one of the thinnest and he said mine was too thick! Other than that, he said it was delicious. And it really is. Everyone in class loves this tart. I think it is now my favourite too. Usually, we are just dying to give our pastries away, but today, nobody wanted to give them up. I’m keeping mine too 😛

By the way, I still don’t know for sure if I made my puff pastry properly. Our dough is resting for a few days in the fridge. I’ll only know when we make our Chaussons aux pommes next week.

I shall enjoy this quiet time to myself because the introvert needs to recharge after such a long week of attempting to make new friends.

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 5: I’m Keeping It

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 4: Lost Things & Dirty Talk

Last night’s demo was painful. You could tell by everyone’s faces that we were all tired and just wanted to go home. To put it bluntly, most of us looked like shit.

We were shown how to make Gâteau Basque and flan pâtissier. Both require us to prepare crème pâtissière (pastry cream) for the fillings. Gâteau Basque is a traditional dessert that originates from the Basque region of France. Although I’ve never tried it before the demo class, I had read a recipe and I always assumed it was more like a tart than a cake. Which is odd, because gâteau means cake in French. The batter we used is a cake batter, although I guess the traditional one is more of a pastry dough. Someone enlighten me, please?

The flan pâtissier, which is a custard tart, was very yummy. I would have enjoyed the dessert last night a little more had I been less tired.

This morning, we had to make our own Gâteau Basque. When I was laying out my equipment, I realised that my paring knife was missing. Then I realised my pastry brush was missing. Oh, and also my notebook! I felt sick. Absolutely sick. That Wüsthof paring knife costs £35! I was a little embarrassed to keep borrowing stuff from my classmates. But they were nice about it, and for that I am thankful.

This practical didn’t go too well either. Firstly, maybe because the worktop is pretty high (built for Caucasians I guess), whisking the pastry cream was a painful process for me. My arms were aching and I was sweating by the end of it. Secondly, the chef that took us through demo was not the chef that took us for the practical. Of course, we simply made the cake the way we were taught during demo. However, after all our cakes were baked and out of the oven, the chef commented that ALL our cakes had way too much cake batter and that the way we lined our cake ring was wrong. This was the exact opposite of what the other chef told us to do during the demo. SERIOUSLY. We were all pretty annoyed by the conflicting instructions.

Personally, I feel that what the chef told us about our cakes having too much batter and the way to line the cake rings is correct. Simply because it makes more sense. If you look at the traditional Gâteau Basque, you will see that it is actually quite a flat pastry – a layer of pastry cream between two layers of cake or pastry. Our Gâteau Basque was really tall and the proportion of cake to pastry cream was not right. Also, the way we lined our cake ring was with a strip of baking paper slightly taller than the ring. Because we did this, the fan in the oven blew the paper around and it got lodged into some of our cakes. So you see, our chefs are not perfect.

This was my final product:

IMG_0414.JPGGâteau Basque

The next time, I will smooth out the cake batter at the bottom before I pipe the pastry cream on. I was in such a rush today because everyone was so fast. At the end of the practical, Chef asked us all to cut a slice so that he could give us more comments. To my surprise, he said “Très Bien, madame.”, smiled, gave me a pat on the back and walked away. I was obviously less impressed with my own cake.

I had another class at 3.30pm, which gave me about 3.5 hours to kill between. I decided to have lunch with my mum for the first time this week. She leaves tomorrow and I am pretty sure she will miss me (HAH). We had Thai food just across the street. It was a really good meal. The tom yum goong was fantastic. My mum asked me whether I wanted her to leave a deposit at the restaurant so that I could go there any time to eat. If you know me well enough, you know my eating habits aren’t exactly normal. I prefer cold salads to warm meals. I do not enjoy meat, nor seafood. I love my vegetables, fruits, nuts and eggs. My first love is peanut butter. I will have the occasional chicken or fish but I never really care meat at all.

After lunch we walked over to Monoprix just to walk through the supermarket. It is a hobby of mine to gush over fresh produce. I could really live here. The quality of food is fantastic, and there’s such an amazing variety. Even ready made meals are healthful and look so appetising. How I wish we had such food back home in Singapore!

Our afternoon class was a theory class. We had a talk on kitchen hygiene which lasted 3 hours. It was quite an enjoyable talk though. It made me very aware of the bacteria everywhere. You know Taenia, right? Google it 🙂

I met my mum again at the mall to do some “research” for work (not kidding) after class, and bought my new knife and pastry brush, along with a beautiful silicon rose cake mould. We got home at 8.30pm and it is currently 10.23pm, which means it’s bed time for me because I have to be up at 6am again for class!

Bonne nuit!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 4: Lost Things & Dirty Talk

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 3: All About Apples

I hate it because class yesterday ended at 10pm and today, we started at 8am. I was also PMSing over the past couple of days. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone at all actually, including my mum. And yes, the dreaded time of the month has arrived, dead smack in the middle of demo class this morning. What a great way to start the day!

For demo, Chef prepared tarte aux pommes and tarte tatin. Both are classic French apple tarts but prepared quite differently. I think I prefer the tarte aux pommes a little more, as it isn’t as sweet at the tarte tatin. The tarte tatin has caramelised apples which I find a little too rich. Both use the same pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry). I think shortcrust pastry is easier to work with than pâte sucrée (sweet pastry). It also helps that we have a professional kitchen which is air conditioned and a beautiful counter to work on. This keeps the butter cold so that it is easier to work with pastry dough.

Our practical class was right after the demo. I was nervous, of course. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve only ever made a tart once in my life. It also happened to be an apple tart, but not in the French style. For that, I used a sweet pastry, and in Singapore’s terrible weather, it was not ideal at all.

The making of the pastry went well, up to the point of easing it into the mould. Then it became difficult trying to ensure that the pastry was even throughout. The worst part was crimping the crust. I had no idea how to use the pastry crimper! Remind me to find out.

Apparently, we will be tested on this bit, up till the crimping, for our exam. Chef encouraged us to purchase a ring mould and practice at home. Looks like I really have to.

We then made the apple compote and sliced the apples to go on top while the dough rested. I also had trouble peeling the skin off the apples, because I’ve never peeled apples with a peeler before. I’ve used a knife. Don’t ask me why though. I do have a peeler at home too. We had to slice the apples thinly to arrange on top of the compote. The knives we got are super sharp. I kid you not. I think these are the sharpest knives I’ve ever handled. I was glad that by the end of the session, I didn’t hurt myself.

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Tarte aux pommes

Chef commented that though the arrangement of the apples was nice, I should have ensured that the apple compote at the bottom did not peek out at the sides.

After baking, the crimping also became hardly noticeable, even for those that went into the oven looking nice and distinct. So I guess mine didn’t look too bad then.

IMG_0389

Sliced tarte aux pommes

Here you can see the layer of shortcrust pastry at the bottom, followed by the apple compote and then the sliced apples. The apple compote is delicious because it is sweetened, flavoured with vanilla powder and also cooked in butter. #CozButter

I rushed home after practical to take my medication, thinking that the next class was at 3.30pm (that’s what my screenshot says), so I rushed back. I saw my classmates walking out of school and then they told me that class was at 7pm, not 3.30pm. Seems like they updated the calendar since I took that screenshot and I didn’t know. So I walked home again. Workout of the day.

I’m off to school now for the 7pm class. We will be shown how to make Gâteau Basque and Flan Pâtissier. This will be something completely new to me as I’ve never tried them before, but I’m sure they will be as yummy as everything else!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 3: All About Apples

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 2: Madelene Makes Madeleines (& Cake Too)

Day 2 started in the afternoon. Perfect, because that meant sleeping in and getting some exercise in before class. During the demonstration, Chef showed us how to make madeleines au citron (lemon madeleines), cake aux fruits (fruit cake) and cake au chocolat (chocolate cake). For practical, we had to make the madeleines and fruit cake.

As usual, we got to try everything after, and my goodness, those madeleines are so damn good! You know you read all about how to get those elusive bumps on the madeleines? They tell you to chill the batter, they tell you to chill your mould. Honestly, after the demonstration, I can tell you that it isn’t as complicated as you think it is. It is such a simple recipe and the madeleines are divine. No more buying Delifrance’s madeleines, the ones which sit on the countertop for a day and somehow still manage to remain “moist”. Store bought madeleines we get in Singapore taste nothing like the traditional madeleines you get here in France. I have been lied to all my life! Dominique Ansel explains the madeleines’ short life span and how delicate they are beautifully in his book, “I make my madeleines to order. I don’t pipe them or bake them until someone is standing there waiting for them. And as they stand there, rushed and frustrated at having to compromise their life and their schedule for a pastry, they often ask me why they should bother waiting. “Quite simple,” I answer, “it is a matter of life and death”.”

Our practical was right after the demo class. We started on our madeleines first, and while our batter was #justchilling in the fridge, we worked on our fruit cake. This practical was definitely much better for me. I feel more confident with cakes. The end result was very satisfying.

IMG_9890.JPG

Madeleines au citron

While Chef was going around evaluating our final products, he weighed our madeleines to check on the consistency. When he got to mine, he weighed two and they were exactly 23g  each. Then he kept weighing and all were +/- 1g off each other. He was shocked, and everyone laughed at his funny expressions! But yeah, I was just lucky (or was I?).

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Madeleines au citron

Check out those bumps!

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Cake aux fruits

IMG_9891.JPG

Cake aux fruits

There weren’t a lot of fruits for a fruit cake, so I would add more the next time. Also, I pushed the cherry down way too far and it ended up at the bottom. Oops! I love the sprinkling of flaked almonds, as it gives a nice contrast of textures. I would definitely soak the cake with even more rum than called for too.

Day 3 is going to be tough. We will be making a classic French apple tart – tarte aux pommes for practical, and I am nervous because I’ve only ever made tart once in my life!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 2: Madelene Makes Madeleines (& Cake Too)

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 1: The Best Sablés Ever

The classes at Le Cordon Bleu Paris start at 4 different time slots. 8am, 12pm, 3.30pm and 7pm. I usually arrive 30 minutes before and take about 15 minutes to get dressed.

My first official day at school started with a demo class on the “simplest” of recipes. Recipes so simple pastry chefs simply do not bother with making them on their own. Fondant, nappage blond (apricot glaze), praliné, pâte d’amandes (both cooked and raw almond paste), essence de café (coffee extract) to sirop de base (basic syrup). The only one made in house is the basic syrup of course. Who would pay for boiled sugar and water, right? After Chef Cotte (who is extremely funny by the way) finished all the recipes, we were encouraged to try everything. The thing about being a chef is that it is important to try everything. I guess that’s why they say “never trust a skinny chef”! The praliné and almond paste was so delicious, I could eat them for days.

As most people already know, the French are very proud of their language, and for good reason. The language is beautiful. Just listening to it makes me want to learn it so bad. The demo classes at Le Cordon Bleu are taught in French, with an English translator. Most of the intensive students do not speak French, so I am not alone. The English translators speak fluent French and English, so I’m pretty sure we are not shortchanged of any information at all. We are given a recipe file and take notes as the chefs demonstrate the recipes.

We had slight over an hour’s break before our next demo class. I packed some leftover wild rice and mushroom salad from the day before and ate at the atrium.

Our second demo class was all about French shortbread, or sablés. At the Sweets Factory, those were my favourite and I use to sneak all the not so aesthetically pleasing ones into my mouth! There were 4 different kinds of cookies made – Sablés Breton, Nantai Style Sablés, Sablés au Chocolat et Ganache and Diamants. The latter we had to pay close attention to as we would be making them during practical later at 7pm. We got to try all the of the cookies after the demo ended. I think my favourite is a toss up between the Nantai Style Sablés and the Sablés Breton. The shortbreads are all nice and crunchy. And I thought I knew what sablés were. These were the most delicious I’ve ever had. I think the thing I like most about them are that they aren’t too sweet at all. Unlike “American” cookies, they are low in sugar and have a higher butter content. French butter is LOVE! I haven’t gotten the photos taken by our team leaders yet, but I will update the post once I do. Everyone gets an opportunity to be a team leader for a week. Next week is my turn.

I went home feeling really full from the wild rice salad and the munching on sablés. I had planned to exercise but I was so full that I felt so sluggish. Instead, I decided to do a quick yoga session. At 6.20pm, I walked back to school for my first practical.

I was pretty nervous about the first practical. You would think for someone who made so much sablé at the factory, that I would breeze through this, right? NOPE. Firstly, we don’t use mixers. We employ techniques using only our hands. Also, the sablés I’ve made have been rolled and cut out. These are rolled into logs, chilled and then rolled in sugar before slicing. I thought everything was going fine and dandy initially, until I sliced into my dough and realised that I didn’t roll it compact enough, and hence there were tiny cracks or holes in the middle. I tried to fix it, but after baking, there were still little holes as though I pierced them with a skewer in some of them. I was super disappointed. Like really. How could I have messed up the easiest recipe out there?! I got a smiley face rating on all other criteria other than the saleability factor, which I got a neutral face rating. I guess it beats a sad face?

While we were waiting for the sablés to bake, the chef taught us how to make a cornet to pipe chocolate. He made it look so damn easy, but as anyone of us would tell you, it was definitely harder than making the sablés! From patterns and borders to letters, we were all trying our utmost best to replicate what the chef had done. I have always had problems with my cornet folding. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. At least I felt comfortable with the chocolate, having worked quite a bit with it at the factory. Chocolate is so finicky. And because once they cool down and harden, you have a hard time doing any more piping, you’re better off remaking another cornet.

At the end of the day, we are allowed to bring home whatever we make. It was about 9.40pm and the sun was just setting. Because summer. Haha! I brought my diamants home and my mum tried one and exclaimed that she’s never had anything quite as good as these back in Singapore. She thought they were beautiful though I did not. Anyway, as I promised, a photo of my diamants.

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Diamants

I’m off to school later today at 3pm for a demo and practical. I believe we will be making some madeleines today!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 1: The Best Sablés Ever

Le Cordon Bleu, Paris – Orientation

Hello! I know it’s been while since I’ve posted anything here, but I thought it necessary to pen down my experience at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I remember when I just received my confirmation letter from Le Cordon Bleu, and I was so excited about it, that I started searching for student blogs. I didn’t find many that were informative, so I’m hoping this journaling could potentially help future students who are coming to the Paris campus for the patisserie course. So here we go:

There are a few reasons why I chose to do the intensive course. Firstly, time constraint. I’ve gotta go back to work! Secondly, the cost. The intensive course starts on the 27th of June and ends on the 29th of July. That’s just a month, compared to 3 months if I took the regular. This means a third of the rent and a third of the living expenses, which is A LOT of money saved. Paris is not cheap, and rental, especially around this area, is not cheap. Lastly, the opportunity cost of time. The intensive course is REALLY INTENSIVE. I signed up accepting the fact that I would be in school 6 days a week, for a minimum of 6 hours a day. Some days are 12 hours long, from 8am to 10pm. From what I have heard, the students taking the regular course sometimes have as long as 3 to 4 days between classes, and that’s really a waste of time in my opinion. Having worked at The Sweets Factory before, I can say quite safely that I should be used to the long hours. At least we get to sit down during demo classes. At the factory, it was 8am to 6pm, with only time to sit for lunch, briefly.

My mum and I arrived in Paris on Friday, 3 days before the start of my intensive basic patisserie course. I rented an apartment through Airbnb which I now really love because it is super cozy and most importantly, it is just a 8 minute walk to the new Le Cordon Bleu campus. So yes, I have the honour of being the first batch to attend classes there! I did a little recce on Saturday and honestly, the school didn’t even look completely done up. However, I have to say that it looks really good, and very modern. On Saturday, I also brought my mum for the free walking tour by Sandemans. It was about 2.5 hours long, and very different from the free walking tour I took back when I was here before exchange. Nonetheless, still really good.

Orientation started at 9am and we were brought around the campus. There are demo rooms and practical rooms, all very nicely done up, all very modern looking. The course structure is as such: a demo, followed by a practical. If you fail to attend the demo, then you cannot attend the practical either. They are also very particular about punctuality. We are advised to be properly attired and wait outside the classrooms at least 10 to 15 minutes before class starts. If you are late, you are marked as absent. We were also given our lockers.

A few speeches were made, and the rules given; followed by an introduction to some of the chefs and staff members. Finally, we were handed our uniforms, knife set and other equipment. The uniform consists of the chef jacket, trousers, neckerchief, tea towel, chef’s cap and apron. Everything can hardly fit into our narrow lockers. And the locker room is always super crowded, it’s difficult to manoeuvre around. Anyway, as all petite people should know all too well, the small sizes will still be too large or too long and we will hardly ever look as polished as others just because the clothes don’t fit well on us. Blame the genes!

I lugged home my knife set and trousers so that I could engrave and hem them respectively. However, I couldn’t find any tailors that were open – because Monday. Neither could I find a place to engrave my knives. So I had to lug them back again for our first class which was at 3.30pm. We were advised to mark our equipment as it is easy to get them mixed up during practicals.

The first class was just a general one about rules, safety, roles etc. I went home immediately, having only spoken to just one person that whole day. That was really disappointing ): Hopefully I make some new friends soon.

Day 2 would be the official start with our first demo and practical class. But I’ll save that for another post. I promise to post pictures of my work!

Le Cordon Bleu, Paris – Orientation

River Safari, Singapore

As part of the Buddy Programme at SMU, we had an outing to the newly opened River Safari.

River Safari is the newest wildlife park opened by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and is inspired by the world’s most famous rivers such as the Mekong, Nile and Yangtze. While I am a big fan of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, the River Safari failed to impress as I felt that it was quite barren compared to the other parks. Of course, the highlight of River Safari is the Giant Panda Forest, home of Kai Kai and Jia Jia – the pair of giant pandas which is a gift from China to celebrate 20 years of Sino-Singapore relations. But mind you, it is just a 10 year loan.

IMG_6514Kathy, Anton, Dj and I (at my chubbiest)

The Amazon River Quest is a boat ride that brings you through “the Amazon”, showcasing many species of wildlife from the Amazon. That was pretty fun too, I guess. However, like how the trams are at the zoo and Night Safari, you may not get to see the animals if the timing is not right, since the boat will not stop. Fortunately, we got to see the jaguar, which was to me, the highlight of the whole ride.

IMG_6541 IMG_6544 Spider monkey

IMG_6553 Brazilian tapir

IMG_6558 Jaguar

IMG_6563Flamingoes – always an amusing bunch

IMG_6569 My buddy and I

IMG_6572The lovely couple

Of course, no trip to River Safari would be complete without having a meal or a little snack at Mama Panda House, the resident café serving up Chinese food such as bamboo (surprise, surprise) rice and their signature Panda Paus. I am a HUGE fan of paus, especially red bean pau, so I ordered one for myself. These paus do not cost the same as paus we get at neighbourhood food centres; they cost about $2.90 each but they are also bigger than they kopitiam compatriates. The paus also come in Chocolate Custard flavour. The paus look adorable, almost too cute to eat. Almost. To make it more bearable, eat the eyes and nose first, then you will have the heart to devour these yummy paus. They were soft and fluffy, and filled with a generous amount of red bean paste. Yup, worth the $2.90. Almost as yummy as the $2.50 tau sar pau at 40 Hands.

IMG_6576 Red bean Panda Pau from Mama Panda House

IMG_6584 Posing with the pandas outside Mama Panda House

IMG_6586 Gazing at the long bridge that connects the park, it felt like I was transported back to the past. This somehow looks very “kampong” like.

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We wandered into the Giant Panda Forest. Other than the famous giant pandas, it is also home to the red panda, which reminded me of a reddish-brown racoon.

IMG_6594 Just hanging

We spotted one panda lazing and grazing. Not sure if it was Jia Jia or Kai Kai.

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Suddenly, we heard some rustling, and saw the other panda scurrying from one side of the exhibit to the other. Just like paparazzi, we followed suit with our cameras, capturing photo after photo of the panda.

IMG_6623 They really are the celebrities of the River Safari.

Towards the end, we saw the alligators of the Yangtze as well as the giant catfish of the Mekong.IMG_6636 Close up of a Chinese alligator

IMG_6643Giant catfish

Thank you SMU for organising this trip for our buddies! Although I felt that it was pretty disappointing compared to the zoo, I am hoping that River Safari has gotten better since last year when we visited since I believe it is now fully operational.

River Safari, Singapore

Munich, Germany

After our trip to Neuschwanstein, we returned back to Munich to have dinner at one of the most famous beer halls in the world – Hofbräuhaus München. The beer hall that stands today is over a century old and its history as the royal brewery stems dates back to the 16th century when the Duke of Bavaria first started brewing brown ale. Whether you are a fan or Weißbier or Dunkelbier, you must visit the Hofbräuhaus in Munich to taste some of the best beers in the world. I honestly do not like beer, but I am a BIG fan of the Dunkelbier served here.

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Other than the beer, the Hofbräuhaus is a great place to try traditional Bavarian fare such as Weißwurst and Laugenbretzel. I tend to avoid processed meats like sausages but these were amazing sausages! The pretzel was also really good – hard on the outside, soft on the inside (just like me) and also nice and chewy. The mustard is a good accompaniment to both the sausages as well as the pretzel.

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Good luck trying to find a seat here as it is ALWAYS packed. Be prepared to share a table and to speak much louder than usual as it is a crowded and noisy place, but it all adds to the amazing atmosphere at the Hofbräuhaus!

The next day, we headed out for the free walking tour which is once again run by Sandemans. As usual, a very insightful tour. The three hours are jam-packed with visits to the most famous, and not so famous, tourist attractions around Munich.IMG_6049 IMG_6056Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady)IMG_6065Rathaus-Glockenspiel at Marienplatz

Like many big European cities, Munich also has a famous clock tower. However, this one puts on a little show for the hundreds of spectators below. The story of the royal wedding, a joust between a Bavarian and Habsburger and a popular folk dance are performed by the little figures. The whole event, which takes place at 11am daily at Marienplatz – the heart of Munich, lasts about 10 minutes. It is highly overrated and a long time to keep your head up (or your cameras pointed skywards).

IMG_6072Alte Rathaus (Old Town Hall)

One of our stops was at Viktualienmarkt (“Viktualien” means food in Latin)This farmers market hosts over a hundred stalls selling a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, baked goods, flowers and more.

Our guide recommended a stall for us to have a little snack – a Bratwurst im Semmel.

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IMG_6085Bratwurst and beer. How very cliché.

IMG_6115Lebkuchenherzen

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Our tour brought us back to the Hofbräuhaus. While we simply enjoyed our German fare the last time, our guide provided us with the very interesting history of this brewery.

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Hitler used to hold some of his most memorable rallies and speeches at the Hofbräuhaus.

IMG_6118Lunch time at the Hofbräuhaus

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Look closely and you can make out the elaborately disguised swastikas on the ceiling of the Hofbräuhaus.

IMG_6135Bayerische Staatsoper (Munich State Opera)

IMG_6146Our guide

IMG_6140The Golden Line along “Dodger’s Alley”

This line of gold painted cobblestone was one of the most memorable places we visited. During the failed coup (a.k.a. the Bierhalle Putsch or Beer Hall Putsch) to seize Munich in 1923, 16 Nazis were killed. Hitler put up a plaque honouring the death of his comrades and ordered everyone who passed by this very spot to do the infamous Nazi salute as a sign of respect to the fallen Nazis. However, people who were against them started taking a route down another alley so that they did not need to salute. The Nazi soldiers started to notice this pattern and on the assumption that they were non-supporters, would shoot those who walked down this alley. The golden line was laid in honour of the “dodgers” who died.

Our last stop was at the Feldherrnhalle.

IMG_6150Feldherrnhalle at Odeonsplatz

The Feldherrnhalle was where the Bavarian police and Hitler’s followers opened fire during the Beer Hall Putsch. It was here that after rising to power in 1933, Hitler turned the Feldherrnhalle into a memorial for the fallen Nazis. Odeonsplatz was often used for Nazi rallies and parades.

Present day Munich still hints of its Nazi history which is embedded in little details such as the ceilings in the Hofbräuhaus. However, Munich, as well as many other European countries occupied by the Nazis, have gone a long way to destroy the remnants of the terrible past and to commemorate those who gave their lives in their fight against the Nazi regime.

After the tour, we searched for baumkuchen.

Conditorei Kreutzkamm is a café founded in 1825 in Dresden. They are famous for their baumkuchen and also, the world famous Christstollen from Dresden.
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Baumkuchen can come in two forms. The more famous version is that which resembles a log. When sliced, the characteristic rings look like tree rings – hence the name baumkuchen, or tree cake.
IMG_6184Christstollen

However, the log-like baumkuchen was atrociously expensive, and we had to settle with the baumkuchen torte, which is baked in a normal cake pan as opposed to on a spit. It is also known as a Schichttorte, sometimes glazed with chocolate. The baumkuchen torte resembles our Nyonya kuih lapis and tastes similar as well. It is painstakingly made layer by layer. I’m not sure when I will ever have the patience to do that, but this cake is definitely on my baking bucket list.

We also ordered the Käsekuchen, which is a German-style cheesecake traditionally made with quark instead of cream cheese (New York-style) or ricotta (Italian-style). This results, in my opinion, in a lighter, not-too-sweet, healthier cheesecake. Quark was something I discovered back in Graz as many of the pastries there used quark instead of cream cheese. I fell in love with it instantly.
IMG_6191Baumkuchen torte and Käsekuchen

Our final dinner in Munich was with Ron once again. This time we went to Augustiner Biergarten, another famous beer hall in Munich.IMG_6241I had the pork sausages with rotkraut instead of the usual sauerkraut. SO DELICIOUS. This meal was on-par with the meal we had at Hofbräuhaus. It seems like we ended our little Bavarian adventure with a very typical Bavarian meal that night.

Sadly, this also marked the end of our entire European tour. I am glad we ended it in one of my favourite cities in Europe – Munich. We flew back to Singapore and the very next day, we had to go to school. There was not much studying involved over the last few months in Austria (as compared to Singapore), but we all did well with the little work we put in. We always pulled our weight when it came to group work and we excelled in presentations and in exams.

Although Graz was not my first choice as I initially chose to attend a school in France instead, I never looked back from the moment I arrived in Graz. I am thankful for the opportunity that SMU affords it students to immerse themselves overseas and to experience different cultures and landscapes. I am also grateful for the scholarship I got that made this whole journey less of a financial burden for me since I funded it all with my own savings. I must say that I do not regret a single cent I spent (except maybe on some terrible food) because as cliché as it may be, the journey was priceless.

25 cities later, I finally conclude this travelogue of my epic exchange. Cheers to all whom I share many wonderful memories with.

Auf wiedersehen.

Munich, Germany