Two girls exploring Paris through Food and Art

Field Trip to the international Marché de Rungis, the largest food market in the world.

Le Cordon Bleu took us to see just a small part of the Rungis Market. We visited the meat, cheese, flower, and fruit/vegetable areas. I learned a lot about the system France uses to trace food products in an attempt to eliminate contaminating and food borne illnesses. It was also amazing to see whole animal carcasses and to hear the vendor be able to tell us everything about the animal, from when it was born, where it lived, what it ate, and how and when it was killed. The United States could learn a lot from the system used at Rungis. 

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There are a couple things I miss from North Carolina, but at the top of the list is North Carolina barbecue. I love the tangy vinegar sauce and the finely shredded, soft pork. Although barbecue can never be replaced, I have found the French equivalent, rillettes.

Rillettes is slowly cooked meat, usually pork or duck, that is shredded and mixed with fat to form a paste. The rillettes is stored in jars and is covered with a thick layer of melted fat to help preserve the meat. It is traditional served with baguette for an “apéritif” before dinner. 

Ok, so maybe rillettes is not exactly like barbecue but it is one of the most delicious things when I am craving something meaty and salty. My favorite is duck rillettes with a thick layer of silky duck fat. And I don’t have to feel guilty about mixing in the layer of duck fat because duck fat is actually healthier than olive oil because it is a monounsaturated fat. Bonus! 

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Cuisine chefs, pastry chefs, and artisans came to Paris to participate in the Omnivore Paris event. The Omnivore event was created to celebrate young chefs from all over the world. Their slogan is “100% Jeune Cuisine.” Lucky for me the event uses Le Cordon Bleu students to assist the chefs with their prep work before the demonstration and also to assist the chef during the demonstration. I was assigned to work in the pastry kitchen and help the pastry chefs. There were so many famous chefs walking in and out of the kitchen, I had to contain my excitement. It was such a great experience to work with so many different chefs and to watch them work. 

Team meeting before the chefs started arriving

Cuisine stage and demonstration 

Chefs Yannick Tranchant and Beatriz Gonzalez, Neva Cuisine

Chefs Yannick Tranchant and Beatriz Gonzalez dessert, before

After, the chocolate shell is meant to be cracked open with a spoon to reveal mango sorbet, spiced rum cream, and a passion fruit coulis

The three Australian chefs were, of course, the favorites among the girls. (Those smiles got us to prep 300 scallops for their dinner Monday evening)

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I have begun studying the ten dishes for my Intermediate cooking exam. Like in Basic, we have two and half hours to cook a dish from start to finish and also complete the technical dish. But unlike in Basic, the dishes are complicated and require excellent time management skills. Everyone knows how to cook by now (hopefully!) so the emphasis is on working quickly and efficiently. 

Everyone is praying to get the “Gaston Gerard” style free-range chicken and Morvan-style Crapiaux because it is the easiest. I will certainly cry if I get the Stuffed sea bream fillet wrapped in lettuce leaves because it is a very time-consuming dish and tastes terrible! 

My exam is on Friday, wish me luck!!!

Practicing the rabbit dish, de-boning a rabbit is no joke

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Today I continued my Big Bad Louvre tour by visiting two works that pertain directly to my thesis. Since it was a Saturday, it was little bit busier than usual and so I wanted to get in and out as quick as possible. However, I got lost for about a half hour trying to get out so my plan didn’t really work out…

The goal of my mission was to see two ceiling paintings both located in the Sully wing in adjacent rooms. The first is by Georges Braque, known for his founding role in the Cubist movement (however he was more than slightly overshadowed by Picasso). The second is a recent painting by Cy Twombly, a contemporary painter known for his abstract, graffiti-like paintings and his use of “scribbles” (not joking). 

Georges Braque, Les Oiseaux (The Birds), Etruscan Gallery, Louvre, 1953

Cy Twombly, The Ceiling, Bronze Gallery, Louvre, 2010

Both of these paintings are very striking due to their bright blue colors and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone in the gallery was looking up. There is no doubt that these paintings create an interesting juxtaposition between their abstract natures and the antiquities on display.  Especially since most ceiling paintings in the Louvre look like this:

This ceiling painting (I unfortunately forgot to take note of the title and artist) is obviously done in a more classical style with a subject that pertains to the items on display in the room - Egyptian antiquities - which is where I got hopelessly lost for a while.

Holy Mummy!

Zut! Jacques Pépin just makes everything look so easy! It definitely took me longer than one minute to debone my chicken (I don’t even want to talk about deboning a rabbit).  

"Art is an expression of love or it is nothing"

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Marc Chagall

Bonne Saint-Valentin!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people from different cultures everyday at school. In my kitchen alone, there are six different nationalities represented (United States, Nigeria, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and Paraguay). Sometimes I forget we are all from different places because we all look the same in our uniform and we all “speak” French. But last week we used an ingredient that made everyone voice their cultural beliefs and I realized again how diverse my school is.

Bottle of fresh blood, made the 8:30am practical a little more interesting 

Fresh blood was the ingredient that caused such a debate within my kitchen. We were making a traditional French dish called Coq en Barbouille and the recipe called for 50 ml of fresh blood. The blood is used to thicken sauces because it coagulates at 70°C and gives the sauce the color and texture of Hersey’s chocolate syrup.

Coq en Barbouille

Needless to say blood is considered a taboo food by many religions and it just so happens the student from Nigeria is from the Igbo culture where blood is regarded with extreme disgust. In contrast, the students from Asian cultures eat a coagulated blood dish called xuedoufu (blood tofu). I was told it is cut into cubes like American jello and eaten for a snack. Yum?

Blood Tofu

Personally, I wasn’t so grossed out by the blood since it was being added to a sauce and was being cooked. But what surprised me was how salty and metallically it tasted. The chef made us taste the blood on its own before adding it to the sauce so we would know how it would change the taste. We used pork blood because it is the only animal blood regulated in France and apparently blood tastes different depending on what animal it is coming from.

Since “nose to tail” eating is now in vogue, many chefs are including blood on their menus. So maybe blood is really food after all.

“Hare Ravioli with Bolognese and Blood” paired a wine glass of thick hare’s blood at El Bulli 

NYC Chef Brad Farmerie giving demo on how to cook with animal blood (Clearly the US is a little more sanitary, hence the IV bag instead of the plastic bottle)

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So I have a confession to make. It has been 7 years since Ive been to the Louvre. Shameful, I know considering that during the time I lived in Lyon, I visited Paris twice….and oh you know…..I’ve been living in Paris for the past 6 months…

Oh, and did I mention that I’m writing my thesis ON THE LOUVRE? Gosh, someone needs to slap my wrist. 

Mom and my 15 year-old self in front of the Louvre way back in 2007. Of course we are matching…….

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen the outside of the Louvre many, many times. Its massive exterior is hard to miss once you get anywhere close to what I fondly call “tourist land.” Although the palace is gorgeous and marvelous to look at, stepping inside it’s ancient walls is an entirely different story. 

I shall explain:

The Louvre is the world’s largest museum with its 652,300 square feet housing 35,000 works of art. It is also the most visited museum in the world welcoming more than 9.7 million visitor per year. 

First off, that is a lot of stuff to look at with a lot of ground to cover. Second, that is a lot of obnoxious tourists to deal with. 

Needless to say the Louvre is an intimidating place, but hath no fear, it is February (not the most popular month for tourists) and so, I decided to take the leap and revisit the Louvre. After an hour and a half I was only able to cover one floor of one wing of the museum. I chose to start with something a little less non-traditional and visited the Islamic art, Coptic Egypt, and East Mediterranean collections.

The Islamic art collection is the newest addition to the Louvre officially opening in 2003, but was reopened in 2012 in this modern space.

Beautiful tiles from the Eastern Mediterranean exhibit.

Giant mosaic floor from St. Christopher’s Church in Lebanon. 

Since I only made it to one tiny portion of the museum, I have decided that every Friday, I am going to visit one floor of one wing until I have seen the entire museum. If my calculations are correct I should be done in 10 weeks. (!!!) Oh, the things we do for our (most likely useless) graduate degrees. I will keep you posted on my progress.