Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sharing the notes/recipes from culinary school, the very ones that students paying $50k are getting (from Le Cordon Bleu of Pasadena, CA)

Today, I am going to start sharing with you what thousands of other folks pay tens of thousands of dollars for each term (to see more). Yes, that’s right. I am letting you take a peek at the recipes, notes, and more that were provided during my time at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA. The very same ones! If you’ve ever wondered about what is taught at the school that you hear so much about on the TV commercials late at night and during the middle of the day telling you to “Get your career cooking…LITERALLY!”, I’ve got you covered. I hope this finds to be helpful for many. I know that many may wonder if making such an expensive commitment is right for them. You can talk to several different reps (in the likes of used car salesmen) from the school. But they have a commission to earn and are determined to make you sign those enrollment papers at all costs no matter what (even if that means lying. and they are notorious for lying..just check out their reviews from past students). Or you can take an inside look at the materials covered that yours truly (one of the many sucker graduates of Le Cordon Bleu) is sharing with you. Disclaimer: the material is from several years ago, and may or may not have changed over the years. The content I am sharing with you is what I received in 2009.

If you have read my post on my experiences at Le Cordon Bleu, you know exactly how I feel about that school. My issues were with the admin (always screwing up with every little thing), the quality of the food items more often than not, and how the programs are run. But at the same time, some of the basic information learned is actually useful. If you are a home cook or thinking about signing up for Le Cordon Bleu, then you will be a step ahead.

These are all the books that we used throughout the 15 month program. Of course, we didn't thoroughly go over each page of each book. Relevant chapters were assigned to read, answer questions on, and cook from. The toque is what is given to the students at the end of the program. The chef instructors all wear toques like this while the students wear the flat white skull caps until they graduate.

Maybe I will post my way through each of the classes of the program. Check in regularly for more feeds so that you too can learn to “cook like the professionals”. Well, not really (nothing substitutes years of hard work, experience, and talent). But with the references I am providing, you will get a first hand look into what is taught to aspiring young chefs that pay $50k each term.

First and foremost is safety and sanitation. Before even entering the kitchen classrooms, we went through a three week course (each class was three weeks long because we know that’s exactly how long it takes a person to become an expert in each specialty…note the sarcasm). The class was also combined with Nutrition, so we’d have X number of days out of the week to go over nutrition, and X number of days to go over safety and sanitation. It was a three days a week class since “College Success” was taken the same term (two days per week). A couple of other college graduates and I were excused from College Success while I saw one lady required to take it when she was a college graduate too. Weird! Anyways, in Safety and Sanitation, students spent the three weeks preparing for the national Servsafe Exam. If they didn't pass, they wouldn't be able to move on to the kitchen classrooms. The exam questions are pretty basic kitchen knowledge, but still…many people managed to fail. On the exam, one might find questions asking what the temperature danger zone (anything out of the 41-135F) for food is. Or when placing food items on a rack, what goes on the very bottom (always poultry first). The Servsafe certificates are good for up to five years. To work in any commercial kitchen, one should have a Food Handlers card or be Servsafe certified. 
Moving on, once you get into Intro 1, expect to start with knife cuts, which are the very core of cooking. Different knife cuts ensues different tastes. You will never see a great chef with poor knife skills. So before even attempting to cook anything we started with learning about knife cuts, -how to hold a knife, how to cut certain food items, etc. Our outrageously expensive knife kit came with a template that features the different basic knife cuts. And I kid you not, the school goes through a billion Idaho potatoes everyday so that students can practice. I think that is where a big chunk of the $50k goes, plus I almost think that they might have connections with potato farms in Idaho (not a fact, but I wouldn’t be surprised).

We didn’t try ALL of the knife cuts, but the main ones that we were tested on each week were: batonnet, julienne, brunoise, macedoine, and the tourne. The tourne cuts takes some practice and it made me want to tear my hair out sometimes. A tourney cut is shaped like a football and has seven equal sides. If you have never made a tourne cut, give it a try and let me know how you make out. It’s not as easy as it looks…well it wasn’t for me anyways. It's one of the classical French cuts and such précised cuts of vegetables can be found on plates of refined caliber. I mean, tourne cuts just makes a dish look pretty!
Learning and perfecting knife skills was an ongoing process. We were graded on precision and yield. The leniency of the grading curve varied with each instructor. I remember one instructor giving me an A while another gave me a D for the exact quality cuts.

On day 1, we started with a little intro to get acquainted with the kitchen and such. I was on the C schedule (schedules were categorized A, B, and C... A being morning, B daytime, C evening) and class ran from 6pm to 11ish. For each (cooking) class, the early part of the evening was spent with lecture. But it is a cooking program, so most of our time was spent cooking. But on day 1, we spent the greater part of the night getting acquainted. I mean, it's not like we weren't going to be let loose when we hadn't been properly taught how to hold a knife or how to sanitize the stations. Below is the Power Point lecture notes that instructors sometimes read off of (some literally just read verbatim while others actually took the time to get into details beyond the notes). Yes, these are the same exact ones that students paying a ton of money are given. And here I am sharing these overpriced material with you.

Yeah right, because we all know how "G rated" the real kitchens can be.

I got a warning on day 1 because I rolled up the bottom of my pants due to them being too long. For safety and sanitary purposes, they asked that they be altered. Rolled up pants can easily roll down and get dirty or make you trip and fall. Also, some of us naïvely had our hair in pony tails and were asked to rectify that as well. No hair at all could be showing and had to be tucked underneath the cap. But in the real kitchens, I have seen people not always do this. Ponytails freely hanging from underneath the hats is common. Heck, I have even seen some kitchens where the chefs don't even wear hats. I don't really understand that though.

The very first thing we learned to cook was stock. An impeccable stock is the basis for flavorful dishes. Eff up a stock and whatever you make with it is likely to taste effed up too.

This is a syllabus for the things we’d cover in Intro 1. See Day 15? That was the day I hated most each term. Deep cleaning meant we had to break down everything, take things apart, get down and dirty cleaning everything. I wanted to cry at the end of those nights.

And guess what? With the material I am sharing, now you can go through the same lessons that we (the $50k paying graduates) have gone through, cooking the same recipes,  minus the huge debt, the overcrowded classrooms, and the often seen spoiled food items. You may not have a chef instructor there with you, yelling at you to let you know what you are doing wrong. But know what they always told us? "Make food that doesn't suck". Keep tasting and perfecting until the food tastes like it "doesn't suck". So go ahead....feel free to play "culinary school" at home. Just visualize a Gordon Ramsey figure standing there watching your every move, telling you to hurry the eff up, and counting down to when your window time is up.

Day 1

Safety and Sanitation: dish sink, hand washing, sanitation buckets

Lab Tour

Knife Kits

Knife Cuts

Chicken Stock

Product ID: Sachet - parsley, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorn

Day 2

Sanitation Quiz

Product ID

Knife Cuts (carre/stocks)


  • Stocks, standards
  • Knife cuts

Moist cooking techniques

  • Blanching spinach
  • Pommes Vapeur
  • Poach (demo)
  • Simmer : stocks

Chicken stock

Day 3

Product ID


Knife Cuts (Ratatouille)

Dry Cooking Lecture/Demo

Sauté and Braise (Ratatouille)

Sweat (mirepoix)

Glazed root vegetables

Stew – lecture

Braise Belgian leeks

Brown Stock – chicken or veal

Day 4

Product ID


Knife Cuts

Pilaf technique

Pilaf technique with brown and white rice

Pommes Puree


Day 5

Quiz #1

Practical #1

Knife Cuts


Overview of Week 2

Product ID

Skills to go over next week

Day 6

Sanitation, Knife Cuts, Product ID

Lecture/Demo/Production –

  • 3 Roux’s – demo plate
  • Béchamel
  • Veloute
  • Espagnole
  • Tomato (demo only)
  • Clarified butter
  • Stock

Day 7

Sanitation, Product ID, Knife Cuts


  • Recap Mother Sauces

  • Daughter sauces – Supreme, Mornay, Bordelaise (demo only)
  • Risotto
  • 3 Roux’s, Béchamel, Veloute, Tomato
  • Stock
  • Hollandaise Demo (last item of day)

Day 8

Sanitation, Product ID, Knife Cuts


  • Hollandaise recap (discuss reduction technique) – students make w/ day 6’s clarified butter
  • Béarnaise (demo only)
  • Potato ID – potato lecture
  • Pommes Anna
  • Pommes Dauphinoise
  • Clarified butter
  • Brown Veal Stock

Day 9

Sanitation, Product ID, Knife Cuts


  • Marinara (demo only, yield 8 oz per student for fettuccini on day 11)
  • Roesti
  • Latke
  • Pommes Anna
  • Béchamel
  • Veloute
  • Hollandaise (with butter from day 8)
  • Vegetable Stock

Day 10

Quiz #2 (cumulative)

Practical #2 (cumulative)

Knife Cuts

Overview of Week 3

Product ID Wk 3

Skills to go over next week

Day 11

Sanitation, Product ID,  Knife Cuts


  • Fresh fettuccini (serve with marinara from day 9)
  • Risotto – recap and student production
  • Garnishes
  • Roux based soup – Cream of Mushroom with sautéed mushroom garnish
  • Soak beans
  • Stock

Day 12


  • Pureed soup – Julienne D’Arbly (w/ liaison)
  • Fresh ravioli with a cream based sauce
  • Fresh Fettuccini Alfredo (cream sauce technique)
  • Pasta Putanesca (with dry pasta. Students will learn concasse.)
  • Par cook beans
  • Stock

Day 13

Sanitation, Product ID,  Knife Cuts


  • Consommé – Tomato and Chicken (fortified stocks)
  • Demo Consommés Celestine and Royal. Recap garnishes.
  • Vichyssoise
  • Laminated pasta (Tagliatelli) with a Cannellini Bean Sauce

Review for final quiz

Day 14

Quiz 3

To cover all material in weeks 1-3, including sanitation and knife cuts.

Academic and practical knowledge will be weighed evenly.

Day 15

In-Service or deep clean

 And if you are curious at all, I have uploaded the recipes from Intro 1 (the same packet we cooked from).


  1. How interesting! I briefly (very briefly) thought about culinary school but then was like ... nah, that's okay. Haha. I like the "knife" chart/samples made of wood blocks. I haven't even heard of some of those cuts before. The 7 sided cut sounds hard! Did they use the potatoes to cook with or just for knife practicing? It's cool and insightful to see all of this! I don't think covering my Journalism classes would be very interesting to anyone - it was mostly practicing writing anyway. :)

    1. The tourne took practice! With my very first attempt, I remember thinking that it looked so easy. But when I actually got down to trying it, it just wasn't looking anything like that example and I was getting frustrated lol. We actually didn't cook any of the cut potatoes. We just practiced and then they went in the garbage. Were your intentions of attending culinary school for fun or were you considering becoming a chef? This school has a Master Chef program now for home cooks that want to take their cooking skills to the next level. They didn't have that when I enrolled, or I would've looked into that instead.

      I took a couple of Journalism classes in college and found them to be pretty interesting. I actually thought about doing a double major in either psych or journalism, but it didn't happen.

    2. Mostly for fun - they have a bunch of free classes here at the adult continuing education center where they had baking classes - I was freelancing at the time but was looking for another job so I wasn't really able to do it.

      I guess it was too much trouble to save/cook the potatoes, but thinking it could have gone to a homeless shelter or something so it wouldn't have been wasted! Oh well, maybe the logistics of that would be too much since potatoes turn a weird color when exposed to air.

      I found that when going for a BS in Journalism you didn't really take a lot of actual writing classes - they wanted us to be "well rounded" so I took a lot of different kinds of classes.

    3. Oh I took a cake decorating class once at the adult school around here and it was like $30, meeting twice a week for a few months. Yes, the poor potatoes....all going to waste. You won't believe how much food goes to waste at that school. But that's part of what you are paying for.

  2. I died laughing about your conspiracy theory with the Idaho potatoes and the school. Seriously too funny/awesome. It's hard to believe how much this culinary program costs a student. I think I've seen their commercials from time to time. Has the school ever reached out to you? I wonder if they've read your blog. It's funny because alot of the cooking terms and cooking techniques I've heard/seen/learn on FoodTv. Not to insult your school but just saying that someone like me, who likes to cook, learned a bit just by watching cooking shows. I enjoyed reading the stock techniques though !

    1. Lol we were free to take home potatoes to practice with too. For the exams, we were always each given two potatoes, had to produce three tournes, and the rest would be the other four knife cuts. Feel free to insult the school as much as you want. You wouldn't be the only one. And you know I have my share to say about the school too.

      The school never contacted me about anything. I am sure they are too busy convincing students to sign enrollment papers to make time to contact each student that has something to say about them. I am just one of many. This school is notorious for being a fraud, always getting sued, and the internet is just exploding with horrible reviews about them. It's like that out in the real world too. Chefs have terrible things to say about this school, including ones that have worked there.

  3. "Exercising sound judgement". Isn't that a key to success in ANY field! lol :-) We've already talked extensively about Le Cordon Bleu. My Husbands scare tactic on the phone worked, btw! They never called again after he picked up.

    I really do want to lear how to make the perfect dice and julienne. Perfection makes me happy.

    1. Lol I hate solicitors. My favorite line to use is "No English!" Good for your husband for scaring them away. But it might be too soon to tell. You might get a call from them in a year, or even ten years from now. They don't seem to ever take people off their call list. So IDK. I've heard too many stories about how they wont bother you for a while if you yell at them or curse them out....but after some time has passed to "cool off", the calls will start again. But I really really hope they did take you off their list.

  4. I enjoy cooking but culinary school seems a bit too much. I prefer the friendly cooking lesson like the one at pirch where you participate and ask questions directly. I kinda feel that the online recipe blogs/website are the place to be since they have control of their own kitchen and time without the pressures of restaurant diners!

    I could use a tip here or there for the basics. The classic knife set guide looks helpful because I always just guess when following recipes. Maybe there's a magnet aid like my 'measurement conversion' one. Although, that tourney cut is kinda pointless cuz I've never seen it at a restaurant before! Or, never noticed if it was...

  5. Haha yeah! That was what I was looking for, initially...friendly cooking classes for the home cook. But I wanted one that was ongoing, at least a few times a week. At the time, culinary school (meeting M-F), seemed to be a good option. I'd get to cook and learn new recipes everyday and more. So at times, when I'd be rushed and yelled at, I'd be like "Geez...I'm here so I can be a better home cook, not to work in the professional kitchen. So chill out on me and go yell at the other chef wannabes!" I didn't actually say that, but thought that many times. BUT with all the money I had spent on the school, I figured why not give working in the kitchen a try at least once? I actually felt more comfortable in the real world kitchen than I did in the classroom kitchens.

    Keep posted for more notes from the program! I'm glad I never had to actually use the tourney cut in the work kitchens, but it was good practice while at school. I've seen them people do it though. If cut perfectly, it pretties up a dish.


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