By Justin Chao
Individual cakes at Bellouet Conseil.
Since launching my website, I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about my culinary training in Paris. Choosing a culinary school was a tough decision. I researched culinary programs in the US, but none seemed to fit my needs. I had talked to a few culinary professionals who told me that--while culinary school was a great experience, you only really learn your craft when you start working professionally. With this in mind, I decided that I would like to do an intensive short program in order to get my training and start working as soon as possible. I visited the Cordon Bleu in Pasadena and the San Francisco Baking Institute, but neither of these schools really fit my needs.
For me, it was a logical choice to go to France to train. Training in France would differentiate me from my peers. In addition, I was already familiar with living in France because I had done an exchange at HEC Paris when I was in business school. From my perspective, I had only one chance to go to culinary school, and I wanted to choose the best program for me. With this in mind, I decided to go to France in order to see the schools I was considering. I considered four schools:
Ecole Lenôtre near Paris
While all of these schools were excellent choices, I thought that Ecole Lenôtre was too large of a program for me. I was looking for a small program where I could get personal attention.
Ecole National Supérieure de la Pâtisserie (ENSP) in Yssingeaux
I was very impressed with ENSP’s program, and I really liked what the program director had to say. Unfortunately, at the time, they did not have a general program for a beginner like me. However, I have checked their website recently, and they have added a general 20-week pastry course.
Olivier Bajard in Perpignan
I also visited Olivier Bajard, but I thought that Bajard’s program was not really tailored toward a foreign student like me.
Bellouet Conseil in Paris
Bellouet Conseil in Paris was the last school I visited, but as soon as I walked in the door, I felt very comfortable. It was a small school with classes of just five to six people which would provide me with the personal attention I was seeking. More than anything, my gut reaction was that this was the program for me.
Ice cream cakes at Bellouet Conseil
My classmates and I at Bellouet Conseil.
My experience at Bellouet Conseil
Going to Bellouet Conseil was one of the best experiences of my life. I was excited to be living in Paris, one of my favorite cities--learning a craft that I loved.
My teachers were experts in their field. In fact, the school’s director Jean-Michel Perruchon is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF). The MOF is one of the highest honors an artisan pastry chef can achieve in France. MOFs must demonstrate a mastery of all of the skills needed to be a pastry chef--only a handful of pastry chefs have achieved this honor.
I also really enjoyed the curriculum. Within a few weeks, I was producing beautiful pastries that I never thought I could be capable of making. It was a 12-week course, and each week we learned a different pastry skill. For example, one week we learned chocolates and the next we learned about how to make ice cream. I was very impressed by the amount of knowledge that the teachers had from working in the field, and I feel like I learned a lot just by being around them.
One of the best parts of going to Bellouet Conseil is that you have a choice of where you would like to work in Paris. I would recommend taking advantage of any internship program that your culinary school offers. It is an intense experience, but I really feel that it gave me confidence in my skills. After my internship, I knew that I could work in any setting and do well.