RECENTLY, I was priveleged to be invited together with a group of fellow bloggers to participate in a series of enjoyable and informative workshops at the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) recognized as the world’s foremost educational institution for hospitality and hotel management.
Since 1893, the EHL has pioneered managerial training for careers in the hospitality industry and its current stable of three university-level study programs is set to expand to four with the addition in February 2017 of its new Master Class in Culinary Arts.
The Master Class transforms passion for culinary arts and a business mindset into a successful career.
The goal of this new six-month certificate program, designed for young professionals with a post-secondary education, is to provide the perfect balance of industry and technical knowledge, practical experience, managerial skills, and an EHL alumni network that will form the foundation for a successful career in the food and beverage industry.
It particularly answers the needs of those who want to forge a new career path but who don’t have the time to devote to the four-year Bachelor program. So if your dream is to open a restaurant or café, launch a catering service or invest in a food and beverage establishment, this intensive course aims to provide you with all the skills you’ll need to achieve success at the highest level.
The pursuit of excellence to the smallest detail
The workshops that I enjoyed along with my fellow bloggers introduced me to the same key competencies that students in the Master Class in Culinary Arts will acquire: operational expertise, hands-on experience and management training.
They also helped me recognize the philosophies that makes EHL so special: a service orientation that focuses on satisfying — and even anticipating — the clients’ needs and desires; the pursuit of excellence; a respect for quality produce and ingredients; and of course, achieving beauty even in the smallest detail.
Workshop 1: Immersion in the world of bars with Mr Christophe Gully
Success in the hospitality industry, I quickly learned in the workshops, depends on having a keen business sense and developing our five human senses — particularly sight, smell and taste so that we can appreciate and innovate with quality ingredients.
With his extensive international experience, Head of Bartender Training Mr Christophe Gulli took us through the business aspects: a service philosophy, people skills, mastering the “practical arts” like stocking and billing, comportment, and technique.
He then put our noses to work sniffing the samples of alchohol we found in six glasses to try and match the scents we discovered with those emanating from bottles of alcohol at the bar (vodka, gin, elderflower, pastis, vermouth, etc). Training our noses in this way helped us to appreciate the various ingredients that make up some of the world’s most famous cocktails such as the Martini, the Negroni and the Americano.
The goal is to help students develop their knowledge of drink varieties and preparation techniques, allowing them to apply their creativity to develop their own signature specialties.
Workshop 2: Wine tasting and pairing with Mr Gildas L’Hostis
Our noses already primed, we then headed into our second workshop and the experienced hands (and nose) of Mr Gildas L’Hostis, who helped us understand the importance of focusing on wine sales in order to improve a restaurant’s revenue.
At our own pristine work stations, Mr L’Hostis invited us to sniff and sample three top-notch wines: a 2014 Gamay from Christophe Abbet in Valais; also from the Valais a 2012 Marsanne roussane (“Metaphusis”) and lastly; a 2013 Sauternes Domaine de l’Alliance from Bordeaux. We would later be served these same wines with the meal we prepared in the EHL’s gastro kitchen in order to assess their compatibility with our menu.
Learning to describe a wine, I discovered, is tantamount to learning a new language, one that borrows from everday vocabulary — who knew that a “nervous” wine means an acidic one? Recognizing the flavor characteristics of a wine (acidic, floral, citrusy, “caudalie” or long lasting, earthy, balanced, etc), being able to appropriately describe it to a customer, and knowing whether it can be successfully paired with the proposed menu is absolutely essential for a restaurant’s success.
Workshop 3: Gastronomic Discovery with Chef Fabien Pairon
By the time our last workshop rolled around we were ready for some culinary delights, but first we had to roll up our sleeves and share the task of preparing them under the expert guidance of Chef Fabien Pairon, one of seven Meilleur Ouvrier de France teaching at EHL.
This exercise brought home the important point that a professional kitchen succeeds when the finest quality produce is combined with expert technique, coordinated teamwork, speed and preparation, and the guidance of an inspired and organized chef.
After years of watching masterchefs on TV at last I had the chance to work alongside one. While other blogger-chefs worked on the main and dessert courses, my two colleagues and I prepared the entrée of “Fried Easter egg with mushrooms and a thyme milk espuma”.
Preparation, technique and timing were key to success and I never would have thought myself capable of achieving it had it not been for the patient and good-humored guidance of Chef Pairon.
It takes more than passion alone to succeed
Chef Pairon previously ran his own catering and receptions firm and knows what it takes to achieve success in the food and beverage industry.
“Food entrepreneurship has become increasingly popular…due to the various cooking shows probably,” he says. “So we see a growing interest from people of very diverse backgrounds to enter this industry. Unfortunately, we also see a lot of them fail…because, like any other industry, the food and beverage industry has its specific economics, rules and regulations, vocabulary, etc.
“It’s therefore not enough to have a passion for food to open a restaurant. With this new program, my colleagues and I truly aim to give our students the essential tools to succeed,” he explains.
The world’s most Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon has been named patron of the EHL’s first Master Class in Culinary Arts.
As we prepared our dishes, nearby a team of young Bachelor program students set a beautiful table for us under the watchful guidance of an instructor. What I found most impressive of EHL in addition to the expected level of professionalism and high standards was the warmth and camaraderie between staff as well as the genuine warmth, interest and support shown by staff towards their students.
A graduate of the Bachelor program told me that the mentoring relationships made during their studies continue to exist into the graduate’s professional career and watching staff and students work together I could appreciate how that must be true.
A warm thank you to the wonderful staff and students at EHL who made my visit to this exceptional school such a special, enjoyable and instructive one. ♠
EHL Master Class in Culinary Arts
Duration: 6 month certificate program with optional 6-month internship
Specialization: Entrepreneurship OR Food & Beverage Specialist
Course size: 20 students
Registration deadline for visa applicants: 15 November 2016
Registration deadline for non-visa applicants: 1 December 2016
Program start: 20 February 2017
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org / EHL Tel: +41.21.785.11.11
All photos courtesy of EHL except as otherwise indicated.