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|Le Cordon Bleu|
|Le Cordon Bleu|
Le Cordon Bleu (French for "The Blue Ribbon") is the world's largest hospitality education institution, with over 50 schools on five continents serving 20,000 students annually. Its primary education focus is on hospitality management, culinary arts and gastronomy.
The origin of the school comes from L'Ordre des Chevaliers du Saint Esprit, an elite group of French knights that was created in 1578. Each member was awarded the Cross of the Holy Spirit, which hung from a blue ribbon. According to one story, the group became known for its extravagant and luxurious banquets, known as "cordons bleus". While these dinners ended at the time of the French Revolution, the name remained synonymous with excellent cooking. Another theory has it that the blue ribbon simply became synonymous with excellence, and this was later applied to other fields such as cooking.
The name was adopted by the French culinary magazine, La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu, founded by Marthe Distel in the late 19th century. The magazine began offering special lessons by some of the best chefs in France. This eventually grew to become a cooking school that opened in Paris in 1895 and quickly became one of the most élite cooking schools in the world. The school closed during the German occupation of Paris (1940-44). After the war, Madame Elisabeth Brassart relaunched the school both on rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré in Paris and at the Chateau de Montjean.
Madame Brassart managed the school until 1984; at the age of 87 she decided it was time to retire. She sold the school to the previous owner, André J. Cointreau, a descendant of both the Cointreau and Rémy Martin dynasties.
In 1933, former student Dione Lucas helped to open a school under the Le Cordon Bleu name in London, England. In 1988, shortly after buying Le Cordon Bleu, Cointreau purchased the London school, and has since launched schools in Adelaide and Sydney, Australia; Seoul, South Korea; Ottawa, Canada; Tokyo, Kobe & Yokohama, Japan; Lima, Peru; Mexico City, Mexico and Bangkok, Thailand. Le Cordon Bleu was due to open its first rural outpost with partner UCOL in Martinborough, New Zealand in early 2009, but the deal fell through, causing controversy there. In total, more than 20,000 students attend a Cordon Bleu school each year. Le Cordon Bleu has also expanded, issuing cookbooks and a line of kitchenware.
In the United States, 18 schools operate under the Le Cordon Bleu name through a marketing relationship with Career Education Corporation (CEC); the deal was renewed in 2008 to continue until 2013.
Apart from the culinary programs, Le Cordon Bleu also offers hospitality management education with up to 2000 students studying Bachelor or Masters degrees. They have Masters degrees in Korea and Australia and an on-line gastronomy tourism program. Their Bachelor programs in Hotel Management, Restaurant Management, Food Entrepreneurship and Wine Entrepreneurship programs are delivered in Mexico, Australia, Peru and Korea.
Aside from the CEC-run schools, each Cordon Bleu school offers its own list of culinary short courses, matching local demand. Most diploma programs consist of three ten-week courses; three in "cuisine" and three in "pâtisserie" (pastry making). Each course, if successfully completed, leads to the award of a certificate at basic, intermediate, or advanced level. Students who complete all three levels in the same field are awarded the Diplôme de Cuisine or the Diplôme de Pâtisserie. Those who complete all six courses are awarded the Grand Diplôme. The "Grand Diplome" is one of the few culinary credentials that signifies mastery of both pastry and culinary fundamentals.
Following Cointreau's purchase of the school, Le Cordon Bleu began to systematically clamp down on unauthorized use of its name. As one example, in 2006, Cordon Bleu threatened legal action against a small family-owned restaurant in Ste. Anne, Manitoba for trademark infringement. Although the restaurant had been operating under the name "Cordon Bleu" since 1963, and the owners asserted that no one could have mistakenly believed any connection between their "little hick restaurant" with the corporate giant, they felt that taking the issue to court would have bankrupted them. As a result, the Ste. Anne owners agreed to change their name and reached an undisclosed settlement with the larger company to pay for new signage and other costs.
In 2008, a student at the London school reportedly pulled out a chef's knife and threatened to kill himself after being told that he'd failed his Basic Cuisine exam. London papers reported that the ordeal led to a four-hour standoff with police.
In her memoir My Life in France (Knopf), Julia Child, aided by her husband's great-nephew Alex Prud'homme, discusses her experiences attending the school in the late 1940s. This is one part of Julia Child's life portrayed in the feature film Julie & Julia, released in the U.S. in August 2009. Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep plays Child in the film.
In 2007, an American writer, Kathleen Flinn, wrote the first insider's account of attending the modern Paris flagship school titled The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. Flinn's best-selling memoir recounts the modern day-to-day trials of the program, and provides a further history of the school. The film rights for Flinn's book were purchased by the TV division of 20th Century Fox; an adaptation is expected to be filmed in Paris.
In 1991, Le Cordon, Inc. published its first English-language cookbook entitled Le Cordon Bleu at Home. As printed in the inside cover, the book "provides a solid understanding of the philosophy and skills taught for nearly a century in the school's nine-month "Classic Cycle" course. Moving through three stages, from basic to advanced techniques, this in-depth approach to classical French cuisine offers a series of easy-to-follow menus and recipes that correspond to classes at the school. Nearly three hundred beautiful color photographs depict finished dishes, serving ideas, and cooking techniques at each stage through completion."
Another book about attending Le Cordon Bleu was published in 2008 in the United Kingdom, "Sacré Cordon Bleu: What the French Know About Cooking" by Michael Booth (Jonathan Cape). Like Flinn's book, it also features numerous classic French recipes.
It is often assumed that the character Audrey Hepburn played in the 1954 film Sabrina attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris; however, the school's name is never mentioned in the film. She did visit the school for the film's launch.
In the Artemis Fowl series, the Butler Family is taught Cordon Bleu cooking as part of their training to protect a Fowl. This is why Artemis has no other servants because Butler can do it all.