Culinary Sagacity

~Thought for Food~

The Cathayans believed that the soul or mind is located not in the head but in the stomach.

Doubtless this explains why they fret so much about the preparation and serving of food.

It may also explain why their memories are so much better than ours.

Information is stored not in the finite head, but in the expandable stomach.

--Cyrus Spitama in Gore Vidal's Creation



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fresh Cranberry Bread

Fresh cranberries aren't in season for a long time, but fortunately their bright red color makes them perfect for holiday baking.  This is my mom's recipe for quick cranberry bread and as kids my sisters and I would beg her to make it as long as fresh cranberries were around.  Over the years I've adjusted it and made it my own, but it will always take me back to childhood and that wonderful feeling of being a kid at Christmas time.

Fresh Cranberry Bread
Makes 2 loaves

114 g (1/2 cup = 1 stick) unsalted sweet cream butter, plus more for greasing pans
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice (no pulp)
200 g (2  cups) walnut halves
440 g (about 4 cups) fresh  cranberries

Measure in the bowl of a stand mixer:
480 g (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur or 365 brand)
400 g (2 cups) granulated sugar
1tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Heat oven to 350.

Grease 2 loaf pans with butter and set aside.

Melt the stick of butter and remove from heat to cool.

Toast walnut halves on a baking sheet for about 5-8 minutes, shaking the sheet pan a couple of times for even toasting.  When you begin to smell the scent of toasted walnuts in your kitchen, they're usually ready to come out of the oven.  Set aside to cool.

Rinse the cranberries in a colander under cold running water.  Remove any bits of stem and discard any cranberries that are mushy.  If you have to throw out too many mushy berries, you may want to add some more from another bag.  Dry the berries in a clean kitchen towel by rubbing them inside a folded towel with your palms flat, in circular motions.  This will also help you find any mushy berries you may have missed during rinsing.

In a food processor, pulse the cranberries to roughly chop them.  Do this in two batches.  You don't want them finely chopped, so if you have some whole berries this is fine.  Put the chopped cranberries in a bowl.

Next, roughly chop the cooled walnuts using the same machine, no need to rinse it before adding the walnuts.  As with the cranberries, you don't want them finely chopped.  Add the chopped walnuts to the bowl with the berries and set aside.

Crack the two eggs into the orange juice and whisk by hand until blended.  Set aside.

Whisk by hand all of the dry ingredients you've measured in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Using the paddle attachment, run the stand mixer on low and drizzle all the melted butter into the bowl in a steady stream.  Continue to mix on med-low speed until the dough becomes crumbly.  Add the orange juice / egg mixture all at once and beat on medium speed until the dough is evenly moist, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  The batter will have lumps in it, this is fine, you'd don't actually want a completely smooth batter.  Fold in the cranberries and walnuts by hand using a large rubber spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans and level it with the spatula.  Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes turning the loaves halfway through baking.  If you have a convection oven, the bread will take less time to bake, and you won't need to turn the loaves.  The bread should be golden brown and firm to the touch, and a tester inserted in the center should show no wet batter—a few crumbs stuck to the tester are fine.

Cool the loaves on a cooling rack for about 2 hours.  After about one hour, you can slide a small metal spatula or paring knife around the edges to loosen the bread from the sides of the pan.

The bread keeps in the loaf pan, covered in aluminum foil (or out of the pan and wrapped entirely in foil), for up to one week, at room temperature.  To remove the bread from the pan when it's completely cooled, slide a knife or small metal spatula around the edges again and turn it upside down on a cutting board.  Tap the pan against the cutting board until the bread slides out (you may need to give it a firm whack, but it'll hold together fine).

The best way to eat this bread is to cut it into ½ inch thick slices, using a serrated bread knife, and toast it in a toaster oven or broiler.  It's a very crumbly bread, so you don't want to slice it thin or put it into a normal toaster, it has to lay flat and be turned with a metal spatula.  If you use a broiler as I do, then place the slices on a metal cooling rack over a jellyroll pan.  With this bread, you actually want to broil it until the corners get slightly charred.  For some mysterious reason, this tiny bit of char on the edges of the bread make it super yummy.  Butter the slices of bread and gobble it up while it's warm!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gordon Ramsay Wants YOU!


Are you a talented home cook with nerves of steel?  Or, like me, can you injure and burn yourself while preparing dinner for guests and just keep on cooking as if nothing happened?  Then maybe you should try out for Season Two of MasterChef on FOX, and put your skills (and nerves) to the test under the eagle (or is it evil?) eye of Gordon Ramsay.

The casting scouts of MasterChef are making their way across America on cattle calls for contestants.  But before you show up, be sure to visit the website to complete the application. You don't want to get yelled at when you arrive unprepared, do you?

Here's the list of cities and dates, for exact times and locations, follow the links provided below.

Los Angeles - Saturday, November 6
New York - Saturday, November 13 & Sunday, November 14
Boston - Saturday, November 13
New Orleans - Saturday, November20
Orlando - Saturday, November 20 
Chicago - Saturday, December 4 & Sunday, December 5 
Dallas - Saturday, December 4 & Sunday, December 5
Denver - Saturday, December 11
Portland - Saturday, December 11


If you can't make it to one of the open calls, then you can still apply by sending in a video submission.  Since there's plenty—if not more—fabulous home cooks who don't live in a big city, just follow this link to instructions on how to submit your video!

Good luck!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

13th Annual Chocolate Show in NYC

The 13th Annual New York City Chocolate Show kicked off last night with a Chocolate Fashion Show.  While not quite as spectacular as the fashion show at the original Salon du Chocolat in Paris, the models sporting chocolate couture still wowed the audience.  Among the pastry chefs who participated last night was Top Chef Just Desserts contestant, Zac Young.

The Chocolate Shows began in Paris 16 years ago, and have gone international, with events in Shanghai, Tokyo, Bologna, Madrid, and New York City.

The New York City Show is being held through Sunday, November 14 at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 W. 18th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenue).  Tickets are available online for $28.00.  In addition to last night's Fashion Show, the event includes a marketplace with about 70 chocolatiers, as well as demonstrations and workshops from chocolatiers and pastry chefs, including Jacques Torres, Nick Malgieri, François Payard, Johnny Iuzzini, Zac Young, and Carl Warner (the man who does the cool food landscapes--"Foodscapes").

Links:

Check out these pics from last night's Chocolate Fashion Show!
























Monday, November 8, 2010

Eating Lamb Belly on Day Two of The International Chefs Congress

Day Two of StarChefs International Chefs Congress had a high-energy buzz. Maybe it took everyone a whole day to get into the swing of things, but there was a definite upswing in the energy level inside the Park Avenue Armory.

I started my day at the interactive workshop conducted by Ken Oringer of Boston's Clio restaurant. A regular to the International Chefs Congress, I first became an admirer of Ken when he made the most delicious oyster chowder for the cocktail hour in 2006. Served inside a hollowed-out egg shell with tiny straws, I must have consumed at least twenty of them.

Ken Oringer's Lamb Belly

Read the full article on my Huffington Post Food Blog:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/regina-varolli/international-chefs-congress_b_745638.html

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Snorting Cocoa on Day 1 of the International Chefs Congress in NYC

The first big event on the main stage was the highly anticipated panel discussion on Art vs. Craft. Sitting in directors chairs at the center of the stage were David Kinch of the two Michelin starred Manresa in California, uber chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se, and farm-to-table chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The discussion was moderated by food writer Michael Ruhlman.


 To me, the best part of Day One at the StarChefs ICC were Bernard Lahousse and Dominique Persoone of The Chocolate Line in Brugge, Belgium--the guys who invented the Chocolate Shooter for snorting chocolate. On the main stage, this chocolatier/scientist duo discussed food pairings with chocolate, and demonstrated to the audience how the experience of tasting chocolate, or any food for that matter, is greatly affected by our physical surroundings--the sights, sounds, and smells in our environment at the time we're eating any product. They used the example of eating seafood on the beach versus eating seafood in a restaurant, arguing that the fish will always taste better when it's consumed sitting on the sand in front of the ocean, smelling salt water and hearing waves crash on the shore. In their presentation, the audience sampled their chocolate-Tequila bonbon while they played Mariachi music and filled the main stage with the scent of lime.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/regina-varolli/international-chefs-congress-snorting-cocoa_b_745429.html

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Food Trucks Are Hot, But Gourmet Ice Cream Trucks Are Cool

There's something about gourmet ice cream trucks that makes them cool. No pun intended, a gourmet ice cream truck is just more hip than an ice cream shop. Maybe it's the quirky people who operate them, maybe it's their funky flavors, or maybe it's their high quality ingredients. Whatever it is, this new breed of ice cream truck has adults chasing after them, or at least following them on Twitter.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/regina-varolli/food-trucks-are-hot-but-g_b_700546.html

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cesar Ramirez Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare Gets Two Michelin Stars


I just heard it on good authority that the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, the one year old home of the talented Chef Cesar Ramirez has been given two Michelin stars in the 2011 Guide Michelin.

Open for just one year, and not holding a liquor license when the Michelin reviewers came to dine, those two stars are be based solely on the talent of Cesar Ramirez and his team at Brooklyn Fare.

Ramirez took a big risk when he left the Manhattan fine dining scene for the borough of Brooklyn, but that risk has evidently paid off, big time.

Congratulations to Cesar Ramirez and his team, Douglas Kim, Christopher Ramos, and Michele Smith, and to co-owner Moe Issa!  I know first hand how hard you have all worked for this, and you completely deserve it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cold Summer Soups, Vichyssoise

Lunchtime Vichyssoise
This has been the hottest, most humid summer in recent memory, so I'm always craving cold soup—especially when I've been running around the sizzling and steamy city all day. Cold soups are refreshing, simple, and delicious—all of which are a must when you need a serious pick-me-up. Cold soups keep well in the refrigerator for easily a week, if they last that long, and their flavors intensify over time. For me, one of the best things about cold soup sitting in the fridge is that it makes a great, quick lunch, of course with some nice, crusty bread to go with it.

My version of Vichyssoise is thicker than traditional Vichyssoise, because when that's all I'm having for lunch I want it to really fill my belly. If you want it thinner, like you might for a first course at dinner, you can always add more water or cream just before serving.

Vichyssoise (makes about 3 ½ quarts)

700 g russet potatoes (about 5 large potatoes)
700 g leeks (about 6 thick leeks, white and pale green parts only)
140 g unsalted butter (about 1 ¼ sticks)
1 pint organic heavy cream
3 quarts water
sea salt
chives
fresh ground black pepper

Remove the dark green parts of the leeks and discard (or save for later use in a vegetable stock). Cut the white and pale green part of the leeks into quarter circles of the same size and rinse them completely under cold water. Leeks have tons of dirt in them usually, so you really want to wash them well. The best way I've found is to use a salad spinner, completely submerge them in water, swish them around a lot, then dump the water. Submerge them a second time, swishing again, and dumping the water. Depending on how much dirt you see (or how clear the water is when you dump it the second time) you may want to give them a third rinse. Then spin/strain them to get out most of the water.

Peel the potatoes and rinse them under cold water. After rinsing them, cut them into pieces roughly as thick as the leek quarters. Don't rinse them a second time, unlike with mashed potatoes, with soups you want to retain a fair amount of the starch in the potatoes and rinsing them a second time removes too much starch.

In a heavy stock pot, melt the butter, then add the leeks and a pinch of salt and sauté to sweat and soften them a little, stirring for about 3-5 minutes on med-high heat. Don't let them take any color. When they've softened, add the potatoes and mix well, then add the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 35-45 minutes until the potatoes are falling apart and the leeks are completely soft and cooked.

With a hand blender or in a stand blender in several batches, purée the soup very well, leaving no chunks at all. Add the cream and whisk to incorporate. At this point, you want to taste it to see if you'd like to add more salt. I always do add some more, but everyone's taste varies with salt, just add it cautiously because you can't take salt away from something that's too salty.

Pour the Vichyssoise into containers, allow it to come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled. When the Vichyssoise is completely cold, it will thicken up, then you can try some and see if you'd prefer to have it thinner by adding more water or cream. I usually make it thinner if I'm serving it as an appetizer, but I do that à la minute and leave it thick in my fridge for lunches. Vichyssoise keeps in the fridge for about a week (just make sure the date on the cream you use is good for at least that long too).

Serve the Vichyssoise (hot or cold) garnished with chopped chives and freshly ground black pepper.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The New Brooklyn Fare Kitchen

After weeks of remodeling, a long wait for the Molteni stove to arrive from France, and a slight spacial expansion, Brooklyn Fare Kitchen, home of Chef Cesar Ramirez, has a knock-down drag-out gorgeous new space.

The space is more like a theater than a kitchen, which is fitting for food that shines like a hit Broadway show.  Yes, Ramirez and his team do cook all day in this space, preparing the food sold in the gourmet Brooklyn Fare Market as well as the Kitchen, but when guests arrive, the place has been so thoroughly cleaned and shined you'd almost think nobody ever cooked a thing in there.

The team, minus Doug Kim, who was behind the camera.
The optimistic Cesar Ramirez had hoped this process would only take a week, so booking was closed from July1-8, but when July 9 rolled around and the place was still a work in progress, he didn't disappoint the people who'd waited months for their seats, and he managed to perform despite the drywall, brilliantly so.

"The Ferrari of stoves."
When Cesar showed me around the new Kitchen, pointing out all the bells and whistles in the custom made counter, he looked as excited as a kid in his own shiny new candy factory.  Showing off the new Molteni stove, he said with glee "This is the Ferrari of stoves!  And we have the only Molteni salamander in America!"

The only Molteni salamander in America.
Even with seating up from 12 to 18, and the price up too, there's still a long wait list.  But with the expansion of the kitchen, and his team, Cesar Ramirez has upped the menu as well.



All photos were shot by Cesar Ramirez's newest team member, the multi-talented Douglas Kim.  Thanks Doug!

The new Brooklyn Fare Kitchen work/eat space was designed by Ken Schimpf, founder of KDS Consulting & Design, Inc.  (http://www.kdsconsulting.net/index.html)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Looking Forward to Letter Grades at NYC Restaurants


Four years ago when David Bouley poisoned his patrons with carbon monoxide because he didn't have any detectors in his restaurant, patrons literally passed out in their plates of fine food. Workers and patrons alike had to be rushed to the hospital and the EMTs evacuated the place as soon as they showed up, leaving the dining room full of half eaten dishes overnight. But that didn't shut the place down. Nor did it's D and F grades from the health department, several actually.

I think New Yorkers would be astonished if they knew the actual grades of some of the finest restaurants in the city. Fortunately, they're about to find out.

I strongly support the mandatory posting of health inspection grades at all the city's restaurants. My home town of LA has been doing it for years and guess what, you'll rarely find an establishment with less than a B because people just won't patronize a C, let alone a D. Now I know that you can lose points for silly things that don't actually pose any health risk, like leaving an ice cream scoop in a receptacle of hot water or having the fridge one degree too high. But other point losers, like rat feces on a counter top, dangerous bacteria found in the lettuce, or the lack of carbon monoxide detectors, do pose health risks.

Overall, to my mind, this is a good thing. The coming of health grades could only be loathed by those who have failed repeatedly to get an A or B, and, well, we don't really want to eat in those places now, do we?

Currently, if you go to the website for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the guys who are responsible for inspecting restaurants, they do have a page where we're supposed to be able to look up the inspection results of any restaurant in NYC. Oddly, when I've gone to this page over the past few weeks, it never seems to work properly, and I can never get the results I'm seeking, yet another reason for these places to have to post their grades.  Give it a try yourself, let me know if you got it to work!

NYC Health Department Restaurant Inspection Results

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brooklyn Fare Kitchen Under Construction

Here's just a few pics of the ongoing reconstruction of Brooklyn Fare Kitchen.  As with all construction and remodeling projects, this one is running a bit late!  But that didn't daunt Chef Cesar Ramirez, who managed to make his marvelous meals despite a half-finished Kitchen space.  "We'll make it work because we have to, we just won't cancel on our customers!" said Ramirez.

Joining the team is sous-chef Jooeon Kim, who worked with Chef Ramirez years ago at Bouley restaurant, and who is also an alum of Per Se.  These photos were taken by Kim.

I'll be posting more pics once the Kitchen is finished (and the amazing new Molteni stove has arrived)!



Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fine Cooking's (to-die-for) Chocolate Chip Chiffon Cake


This has been my favorite home-made cake for years and years. I had saved the Fine Cooking issue from 2000 until I moved from DC to NYC 5 years ago and it got lost in the move. I had told my man about it so many times, but hadn't made it for him, that he started calling it the "legend Chiffon cake." For 5 years this cake wasn't available on the Fine Cooking website, but it's back!

This cake does take a fair bit of time to prepare, but it's SO worth it. My only suggestions are to use a bit more chocolate and sugar glaze than the recipe calls for. You also don't need the cream of tar-tar, this is only for stabilizing the egg whites, but if you whip them correctly, you never actually need cream of tartar in any recipe. It leaves a subtle taste that I just don't like.

I was just so happy to find this recipe again, and to finally make it for my resident patissier (it's proof positive that American cakes can be as wonderful as French desserts sometimes!). The recipe says it serves 12-14, but it served just two in my house, because it lasts for about 4 days, and we eat huge slices.

Follow this link to the best damn Chiffon cake ever!
http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/almond-crunch-chocolate-confetti-chiffon-cake.aspx

P.S.  Fine Cooking is one of the two best magazines for people who actually want to bake and cook what they're reading, and not just look at pictures (and irrelevant ads).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Butter Bell is a Brilliant Kitchen Gadget


Ok, maybe it's not quite a gadget, but the Butter Bell Crock is one of my favorite counter top residents, and in a small Manhattan kitchen where equipment competes heavily for space, the Butter Bell easily won its three inches of real estate over less frequently used items.

The Butter Bell does one thing, it keeps butter at room temperature while also keeping it from going bad.  If you use a lot of room temperature butter for things like toast, but think butter that's been sitting out for days is a bit disgusting, the Butter Bell is a dream.

By storing butter in a bell-shaped vessel that you then submerge in another vessel filled with cold water, the Butter Bell creates an air-tight environment, preventing any bacteria from growing.  It holds 114 grams of butter (1 stick), and if you change the water every day with fresh cold water, your butter will be beautifully spreadable, and not one bit rancid, for at least a few weeks.

I got my man the Butter Bell as a gift because he already has almost every kitchen tool and gadget and the box it came in said it was a classic kitchen item from France.  He's French and eats a lot of butter, so it was perfect.  When he got it open though, he'd never seen anything like it before (and he grew up in a pâtisserie).  Since then I've asked a few Frenchies, none of them have seen one either, but now they all want one.  "C'est trop cool!" is the common response.

French or not, we're stoked on the Butter Bell Crock.  Finally, soft spreadable butter at our knife-tips, without any yucky yellow butter grease. 

This is NOT an advert!  I just loved this little thing and wanted to share it with my readers!

Butter Bell Crocks start at $19.95, come in different colors and styles to match your kitchen decor, and you can buy them online at http://www.butterbell.com/

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Conversation About Charity with Top Chef Masters Marcus Samuelsson



Why did the producers of Top Chef Masters paint Marcus Samuelsson as the villain in Episode Two, It's My Party?  Just because he chose to focus on his own cooking and not prep for the MIA Carmen Gonzales, who spaced out and forgot her main course at the studio, doesn't make him a bad guy, or an "ego chef" as CultureMap Houston called him.  It makes him a serious competitor who wants to win a chunk of cash for his charity.  As an advocate myself who has devoted much of my own time to charitable causes, I'd have done exactly the same. 

Marcus Samuelsson takes his charity work seriously, and when I met him at last year's International Chef's Congress, we sat down and talked about why he's so actively involved in advocacy. 

Samuelsson is UNICEF's first and only Chef Ambassador, appointed in 2000.  He's traveled to Africa on behalf of UNICEF, and is a strong supporter of both the TAP project, which works to bring clean drinking water to communities throughout the world, and the Believe in Zero campaign, which aims for zero child deaths from preventable causes like malnutrition and malaria.  He's also active with Chefs for Humanity and C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program, which helps inner city high school kids pursue careers in the culinary industry through training, scholarships and job placement.   

When I asked Samuelsson what motivates him to devote so much time to charitable work he replied, "When you come from where I come from, you have to do something." 

Unlike the Samuelsson presented on Top Chef Masters, the Marcus I conversed with was a soft-spoken man who has managed to maintain humility in the face of his huge success.  Hardly an "ego chef," Samuelsson was genuinely down-to-Earth. 

An Ethiopian who lost his parents to Tuberculosis as an infant and was adopted by a Swedish couple, Marcus Samuelsson remains true to his roots.  I asked him why he doesn't try to run from his background as many with humble beginnings do.  He said "Being connected to poverty is one of the richest things I have in life." 

About UNICEF's TAP project—his designated charity for Top Chef Masters—Samuelsson  hit on a truth we rarely want to think about, that people in rich countries like America take clean tap water for granted, we buy tons of bottled water just because it tastes better.  "But in most parts of the world," explained Samuelsson, "clean tap water doesn't exist, and people die every day because they don't have something we take for granted—clean, safe drinking water." 

Samuelsson also talked about "the connection between food in America and internal conflicts and refugees in places like Africa and Asia,"  about how our Agribusiness and government subsidies of crops like corn can literally topple communities and even governments.  "Everyone needs to understand the global consequences of food production, so I try to maintain a dialogue with the public about these things."   

Anyone who understands the politics of food or has seen the documentary Food, Inc. will know what Samuelsson is talking about.  (If you haven't seen Food, Inc. yet, watch it!) 

I don't know Marcus Samuelsson on a personal level, but I do know his record working with charities, and that's enough for me to root for him on Top Chef Masters.  It's just unfortunate that Samuelsson's devotion to winning $100,000 for a charity he's so strongly supported was edited to make him seem uncharitable. 

Marcus Samuelsson is no villain, and he certainly didn't seem like an ego chef to me.  He seems like a driven, talented chef whose appearance on Top Chef Masters is more about helping his charity than it is about helping his career.  Samuelsson's illustrious reputation is already secure, but, as he said about TAP, "We need to secure clean, safe drinking water for everyone."

TAP Project
UNICEF Believe in Zero campaign
UNICEF Chef Ambassador Marcus Samuelsson
C-CAP
Chefs for Humanity


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Esteemed French Pastry Program Offers Courses in English


 
For Americans wanting to study real French pastry, in France, few choices are available unless you actually speak French.  Until recently... 

L'École Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie is now offering several pastry arts programs taught in English.  The school, renowned for 25 years as a program for professionals looking to hone their pastry skills, recently developed an international program geared towards foreign, English speaking students.  Located in Yssingeaux, France (about a 2h 30min TGV from Paris, and 30min from Lyon—the home of the Bocuse d'Or), the courses are taught in the newly renovated Château de Montbarnier (pictured). 

Four specific programs are now offered in English.  Three two-month programs are offered in the summer (July-August) and winter (January-February), and were designed for various levels of experience.  The "Initiation Campus" offers beginners and hobbyists an intensive pastry program covering the fundamentals of French pastry.  The "Perfecting Campus" is geared toward recent graduates of pastry programs and admission requires prior experience in professional pastry.  The "Professional Campus" is also designed for professionals, those with minimum two to three years of experience, and includes added instruction in sugar and chocolate showpieces and ice sculpture. 

The fourth program, The French Pastry Arts Program Nicolas Toulliou, is a six month pastry certification program that provides students with the fundamentals of French pastry and baking, upon successful completion of which the student earns their CCA, Certificat de Compétences Académiques

What makes L'École Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie, and the French Pastry Arts Program Nicolas Toulliou, just about the best choice for people who want to pursue a career in French baking and pastry is the level of instruction—no other pastry arts program has so many instructors and lecturers with the M.O.F. title (Meilleurs Ouvrier de France), the most coveted in the universe of culinary distinctions.  The M.O.F. is awarded to only a handful of masters of their craft, even woodworkers, and in pretty much every culinary discipline from Pastry and Chocolate to Bread and Cheese. 

The most surprising thing about the French Pastry Arts Program Nicolas Toulliou at L'École Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie is the cost.  At 13,000 Euro ($17,500), the pastry program is less expensive than the most prestigious pastry programs offered in America.  A few examples are the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where the six month program costs between $37,000-$43,550.  The Institute for Culinary Education, also in NYC, costs up to $28,000, and Chicago's French Pastry School will set a student back $21,500.  The two-month programs range in price from 5,000 - 5,900 Euro ($6,725 - $7,900).

Considering that housing costs are not included in any pastry program's tuition and fees, a prospective student looking to study in New York City or Chicago will also be faced with high rent on top of high tuition.  For housing, L'École Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie has made arrangements for its students.  At 390 Euro per month ($525), students can live ten minutes walking distance from the campus.  Add to that the fact that breakfast is included in the cost, and lunch can be added at 10 Euro per meal (appetizer, main, and of course dessert), and the French Pastry Arts Program Nicolas Toulliou looks even more affordable by comparison. 

What should make this program even more desirable to English speaking pastry students are the 80 hours of French language instruction.  Not only will French language skills help future pastry chefs communicate with their French peers, students will need those skills when it comes time to do their one month internship.  Another bonus of the program is their placement of students into choice internship positions throughout France. 

One thing to understand about the program is that it focuses strictly on classic French Pâtisserie, so if you're interested in doing wedding cakes covered in fondant, or want to follow in the footsteps of Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman, then this isn't the pastry school for you. 

The French Pastry Arts Program Nicolas Toulliou is accepting applications for its October 11, 2010 session.  For more information, just follow the links... 

International Programs Homepage: 
http://www.ensp-adf.com/ensp-international-programs-classes-in-french-pastry-arts.php 

Overview of The French Pastry Arts Program Nicolas Toulliou:

Brochure for The French Pastry Arts Program Nicolas Toulliou:

Overview of the Three Two-Month Programs:

Brochure for the Two-Month Programs:

Accommodation/Meals Information: