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Le Cordon Bleu.

When you hear the term "Cordon Bleu" it instantly brings to mind incredible gastronomic delights of exquisite taste, aroma and beauty. This is a worldwide phenomenon and for good reason. Le Cordon Bleu has been the top cooking school in the world for over 100 years. Many of the world's top chefs sport the blue ribbon.

The Founding of Le Cordon Bleu

Le Cordon Bleu, which is the French phrase meaning "blue ribbon", was originally started as a weekly magazine in 1895 by Marthe Distel, a french journalist. It's official name was "la Cuisiniére Cordon Bleu". Published for over 70 years, its mission was to serve as a basis and reference for those who wished to learn the high art of french cooking. The magazine contained articles on food preparation techniques as well as detailed recipes for some of the most exquisite dishes of haute cuisine.

The publication's name was carefully chosen to associate the magazine in the minds of readers with a sixteenth-century French knight's order, the Ordre du Saint Esprit. The members of this order, many of whom were royalty and all of whom were considered the most valorous members of French society, wore broad blue ribbons and dined extravagantly at sumptuous banquets replete with extravagant culinary creations of the highest quality, appearance and flavor. The banquets were the talk of Paris in their day. The term "cordon bleu" thus became associated with excellence, chiefly in the field of fine cooking. What better name for a magazine that aspired to showcase the best in French culinary arts?

The cooking school was originally formulated as a free service for those who subscribed to the magazine, where readers could come to get hands-on experience in their French cooking techniques. The first Le Cordon Bleu cooking class was held in January of 1896 on the rue St Honoré in Paris, not far from the Palais Royal. The cooking class was an immediate success. It's also notable that an electric stove was used in one of the demonstrations, a newsworthy event at the time.

From the beginning Le Cordon Bleu was known for having the best chefs in the world instruct there, including Chef Henri-Paul Pellaprat, who was a disciple and longtime friend of Master Chef August Escoffier. Chef Pellaprat taught at Le Cordon Bleu for 32 years. During that time he wrote "L'Art Cullinaire" and "La Cuisine Familiale et Pratique". Both of these cookbooks were bestsellers of their day and continue to be modern classics.

Other famous professional chefs who taught there included Chef Barthélémy, who was a director of a professional pastry chefs' publication, Chef Charles Poulain, who ran a very distinguished and fashionable Parisian catering house, and Chef August Colombié, an author of a few popular and notable cookbooks. The classes were overseen by Chef Charles Driessens, who was one of the most respected chefs of that time, and who later became Directeur des Cours de Cuisine du Cordon-Bleu.

It became obvious within a few years after the classes began that the cooking school should become the focus and the magazine should become the support for the school, rather than the reverse as was originally planned. Less than ten years after the school was opened it took prominence over the magazine and the magazine became the school's official publication. The importance of the magazine steadily diminished until it was finally discontinued in the late 1960s. The school went on to become the premier cooking school in the world. Some of the most famous and infamous world class chefs earned their toques from Le Cordon Bleu.

The Early History of Le Cordon Bleu

After its founding, the renown of the cooking program at Le Cordon Bleu spread worldwide. Students flocked to the school from Russia, Japan, China and the US. This fame was aided by the success of the cookbooks authored by Chefs Pellaprat and Colombié. Prior to WWII L'Art Culinaire sold over a million copies.

L'Ecole du Petit Cordon Bleu was established in Victoria, London in England in 1933 by one of Chef Pellaprat's students, Chef Rosemary Hume. The teaching at the London school was also of the highest quality, with the only difference being the occasional introduction of historically British ingredients and fare. What most people don't realize is that the London school was not officially a part of Le Cordon Bleu until 1990. There were many strong unofficial ties between the two in the years before 1990.

The Paris school, which was closed during the Occupation, was taken over and relocated after World War II by Elizabeth Brassart. She was the Grande Dame of Cordon Bleu for many years. The London school was also reopened around the same time, and then relocated to 31 Marleybone Lane. Eventually it moved to larger quarters at 114 Marleybone Lane.

The Recent History and Growth of Le Cordon Bleu

In 1945 Le Cordon Bleu was approved by the US Military for training of US GIs after their tour of duty. One of the US Military members who took advantage of that training was a former member of the OSS named Julia Child, who later went on to demonstrate the art of french cooking on US television after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu. More than any other in America, Julia Child defined haute cuisine cooking as an art form in a way that made it accessible to the middle class. Her bestselling cookbook entitled "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" which was written with Simca Beck and Louisette Bertholle, two of her classmates, was the cookbook of choice for many new brides after its publication and through many subsequent printings. Chef Julia Child was also the most visible ambassador of Le Cordon Bleu due to the overwhelming success of her first and subsequent TV cooking shows, many of which were syndicated and aired worldwide. Julia Child not only taught people all over the world how to cook well, she did it with style and self-deprecating humor, which endeared her to all who watched.

This may all have come as a great surprise to the Master Chefs who initially taught Julia since even she admitted many times that her French was truly awful when she first arrived at the school. Her language failings early on had some disastrous consequences in the workshop kitchen. But her perseverance and spunk saw her through, her mastery of the language paralleled her mastery of the art of cooking, and she eventually went on to become a very highly respected and loved master chef and teacher. Up until the advent of Julia Child's TV shows, the school had a worldwide reputation, but mainly among gourmets and those in the industry. After Julia became a TV personality the school gained a worldwide reputation among the general population and assured that the Le Cordon Bleu name would be associated with excellence in culinary skills long into the future. Julia Child died in 2004. Her beloved kitchen, complete with her copper pots and known to so many across the world, is now on exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

From the very beginning Le Cordon Bleu master teaching chefs stressed individual hands-on experience, often working individually with each student to assure understanding and a personal level of culinary discovery and mastery. Three levels of classes eventually evolved in each of the areas of expertise, which are cuisine, pastry and baking. Passing of all three levels in all areas of expertise assure the graduate the reward of a chef's toque and the blue ribbon, a high honor.

The Cointreau Acquisition

In 1984 Le Cordon Bleu was acquired by André J. Cointreau, a descendant of both the Rémy Martin and Cointreau families, recognizable names among those who appreciate fine spirits. This was a marriage made in heaven. Fine spirits and fine dining are almost always paired, and as a result Cointreau already had an instinctive understanding of how the school and its alumni could be made even more influential.

Extensive changes were made after his acquisition.

The most notable change at the Paris school was that while classes were still given in French, there was added a translator who translated the classes into English while they were in progress. The school was also relocated to larger quarters in the rue Leon Delhomme in Paris in 1988. Workstations were redesigned and fitted with the most modern top of the line commercial kitchen equipment.

Cointreau also introduced commercial promotions and advertising endorsements. The Pierre Deux, an upscale home furnishings company owned by Cointreau's wife, began featuring Le Cordon Bleu's cookbooks and newly launched line of kitchen ware.

After introducing these changes, Cointreau began acquiring other cooking schools around the world and revamping them to feature the Le Cordon Bleu method of teaching, while also respecting the variety of the regional cuisines offered by each school. One of the most delightfully unexpected results of these acquisitions and the interaction between the old faculty and the new at these schools was the Fusion revolution in gourmet cooking.

The first acquisition was the London school, a natural fit. The London school already had a fabulous reputation after having created and served "Coronation Chicken" to Queen Elizabeth II and her guests at her Coronation Banquet. The school was relocated to larger quarters with much larger modern workstations outfitted with the best stainless steel kitchen equipment.

Tokyo was next and opened in 1991. Cointreau had seen that roughly 20% of the graduates of the Paris school over the years were from Japan and made that his priority. Much care was taken in the location, building and equipping of the Daikanyama school. Many of the furnishings and equipment, and even ingredients, were imported from France, to make the school as much like the Paris location as possible to give Japanese students a fully authentic experience.

Adelaide followed in 1993, and Le Cordon Bleu was represented on three continents. The invitation by the government of New South Wales to train the cooking and hotel staff for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney brought the newest branch of the school huge prestige.

Expansion of the School's Mission Statement and its footprint

With the release of its cookbook "Le Cordon Bleu at Home" to the American Market in 1991, the company began its expansion into other areas. This cookbook was the first released by the school in a language other than French, and included both elementary recipes and techniques as well as advanced. The cookbook also reflected the American bias against heavy cooking and huge amounts of time taken to prepare foods, and hearkened back to some of the nouvelle techniques developed by Escoffier.

When the partnership with the Royal Viking Line was developed and the chef exchange program began in 1994, the school's mission statement was broadened considerably. The partnership had Le Cordon Bleu master chefs working guest chef stints on the Royal Viking cruise ships, while Royal Viking chefs visited Le Cordon Bleu as guest instructors. Eventually the school opened Signatures, a restaurant aboard a Radisson Cruise Ship.

Eventually the curriculum was expanded to include both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and to include degrees with specialties in international restaurant and catering management, international hotel and resort management, and gastronomy.

Le Cordon Bleu School in Ottawa, CA.

The purchase of the $1.4 million home of the former Le Cercle Universitaire d'Ottawa brought Le Cordon Bleu officially onto North American Shores in 2000. Ottawa was chosen by Cointreau as the home of the first North American branch of the school because of the bilingual talents, tolerance, and sophistication of the Ottawa population. Coupled with the opening of the school on this Ottawa property was the opening of Signatures, its first North American Restaurant.

This was almost immediately followed by the partnership in the US with the Career Education Corporation (CEC) which owned a number of culinary schools in the US, including:

Le Cordon Bleu took over management of the curriculum in all these locations, and lent the blue ribbon name to each of these establishments.

Cointreau didn't stop there. New school branches in the following countries followed:

  • Korea
  • Mexico
  • Taiwan
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • India
  • Lebanon
  • Peru

A partnership with Wüsthof of Solingen, Germany, was created for a line of knives with the school's logo. Bakeries and restaurants sporting the company's logo opened all over the world as well. And many of the world's top luxury hotels and restaurants now and for years past have proudly boasted master chefs who wear the blue ribbon.

Most recently Le Cordon Bleu acquired The Kitchen Academy's schools in Sacramento and Seattle.

The reach that Le Cordon Bleu now has is as legendary as the food prepared by its chefs, and the name will be associated worldwide with fine dining and hospitality for a very long time into the future.

Famous Alumni of Le Cordon Bleu

  • Julia Child, American Master Chef, Bestselling Cookbook Author, and Worldwide TV Personality. Her tv show entitled "The French Chef" premiered in 1963. Julia graduated from the Paris school.
  • Kiri Tannenbaum, NY writer, editor and restaurant critic, and former contributing editor at The James Beard Foundation. Tannenbaum has written for Time Out New York, Food & Wine, the New York Post, In New York, Metromix, Citysearch and other publications. She's currently a Web Editor at Hearst. Tannenbaum graduated from the Paris school.
  • Ming Tsai, Chef and Owner of the award winning Blue Ginger Restaurant in Wellesley MA. Blue Ginger was named "Best New Restaurant 1998" by The James Beard Foundation. Ming Tsai is host and executive producer of the Emmy-nominated cooking show "Simply Ming" on PBS, was the Emmy Award-winning host of "East Meets West with Ming Tsai" on the Food Network, and is currently host of "Ming's Quest" on the Food Network. Ming Tsai graduated from the Paris school.
  • Giada De Laurentiis, Host of the wildly popular "Everyday Italian" tv show on the Food Network, celebrated Italian Chef, former chef at Spago, current Ambassador for Oxfam America. De Laurentiis is a Paris school graduate.
  • Nancy Silverton, former pastry chef Spago, founder and former owner La Brea Bakery, and helped open Campanile in Los Angeles, 1990 James Beard Foundation Pastry Chef of the Year, partner with Mario Batali in Pizzeria Mozza, and Osteria Mozza. She's the author of numerous bestselling cookbooks, most notably her "Breads from LaBrea Bakery" which celebrates sourdough. She's won numerous awards including Best of Food and Entertaining "Food Artisan of 1999 from Bon Appétit, the 2006 LA Times The West 100, and many others. Silverton is credited with starting the Artisanal Bread movement in the US. Silverton is a London school graduate.
  • Roberto Santibañez, former executive chef of Fonda San Miguel in Austin TX, former culinary director of Rosa Mexicano Restaurant Chain, culinary director of Maria Maria Mexican Restaurant Chain, contributing writer to Gourmet and Martha Stewart Living. He also owns Truly Mexican, a consulting firm in NYC dedicated to Mexican food and culinaria. Santibañez is a Paris school graduate.
  • Nathalie Dupree, author of ten cookbooks which have sold over half a million copies, host of a multitude of PBS and the Food Network Cooking Shows, she's achieved two James Beard Foundation awards as well as others. Dupree is the only one who has broken Julia Child's record of the number of TV shows in syndication. Dupree founded the New Southern Cooking movement. She's currently director of Rich's Cooking School in Atlanta. Dupree graduated from the London school.

Le Cordon Bleu Campus Locations and Programs

  • US Locations
    • Atlanta, GA
    • Austin, TX
    • Boston, MA
    • Chicago, IL
    • Dallas, TX
    • Las Vegas, NV
    • Los Angeles, CA
    • Minneapolis, MN
    • Miami, FL
    • Orlando, FL
    • Pittsburgh, PA
    • Portland, OR
    • Sacramento, CA
    • San Francisco, CA
    • Scottsdale, AZ
    • Seattle, WA
    • St. Louis, MO
    • Online
  • US Programs
    • Culinary Arts Program
    • Patisserie and Baking Program
    • Hospitality and Restaurant Management Program
    • Bachelor of Arts in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Management Online
  • Paris, France

    • The Cuisine Diploma
    • The Patisserie Diploma
    • The Grand Diplome
    • Basic Cuisine Certificate
    • Basic Patisserie Certificate
    • Intermediate Cuisine Certificate
    • Intermediate Patisserie Certificate
    • Superior Cuisine Certificate
    • Superior Patisserie Certificate
    • Wine Essentials Module I (12 course hours)
    • French Wines and Vinyards Module II (12 course hours)
    • Wines of the World Module III (12 course hours)
    • Diplôme de Sommellerie Le Cordon Bleu
    • Continuing Education

      • Plated Desserts (2 days)
      • Macaroons (2 days)
      • Cakes and Variations (2 days)
      • Viennoiserie (2 days)
      • Entremets (3 days)
      • Chocolate Sculpting (4 days)
      • The Art of Sugar (4 days)
      • International Influences (1 week)
      • Natural and Light Cuisine Techniques (1 week)
      • Modern Star Cuisine (1 week)
  • London, England
    • The Cuisine Diploma
    • The Patisserie Diploma
    • The Grand Diplome
    • Basic Cuisine Certificate
    • Basic Patisserie Certificate
    • Intermediate Cuisine Certificate
    • Intermediate Patisserie Certificate
    • Superior Cuisine Certificate
    • Superior Patisserie Certificate
    • Continuing Education

      • Demonstration & Practical- Taste of Le Cordon Bleu (1 day)
      • Practical- Viennoiserie (1 day)
      • Practical- Boulangerie (1 day)
      • Demonstration & Practical- Pâtisserie à la Carte (2 days)
      • Practical- Techniques (4 days)
      • Demonstration & Practical- Essentials Course (4 weeks)
  • Tokyo, Japan
    • The Cuisine Diploma
    • The Patisserie Diploma
    • The Bakery Diploma
    • Basic Cuisine Certificate
    • Initiation Cuisine Certificate
    • Basic Patisserie Certificate
    • Intermediate Cuisine Certificate
    • Intermediate Patisserie Certificate
    • Superior Cuisine Certificate
    • Superior Patisserie Certificate
    • Diploma of Language and Culture of French Gastronomy
    • Restaurant Management Seminars- A variety of 2 hour to 12 hour courses in Restaurant Control, Marketing, Menu Engineering, and Human Resources
    • Short Courses- 1 day Practical and Demonstration Courses in a variety of special preparations.
    • Wine and Cheese
      • Foundation Certificate in Wines (Extended) (1 day)
      • Intermediate Level Certificate in Wines and Spirits (4 days)
      • Cheese Basic Course (6 days)
      • Cheese Intermediaire Course (8 days)
      • Level 3 International Higher Certificate in Wines and Spirits (16 Days)
      • Cheese Superieure Course (20 days)
  • Kobe, Japan
    • The Cuisine Diploma
    • The Patisserie Diploma
    • The Bakery Diploma
    • Basic Cuisine Certificate
    • Initiation Cuisine Certificate
    • Basic Patisserie Certificate
    • Intermediate Cuisine Certificate
    • Intermediate Patisserie Certificate
    • Superior Cuisine Certificate
    • Superior Patisserie Certificate
    • Short Courses- 1 day Practical and Demonstration Courses in a variety of special preparations.
  • Adelaide, Australia
    • Bachelor of Business in International Hotel Management
    • Bachelor of Business in International Restaurant Management
    • MIMH Master of International Hospitality Management
    • Master of Business Administration- International Hotel and Restaurant Management
  • Melbourne, Australia
    • Associate Degree in Culinary Management
    • Bachelor of Business in Culinary Management
  • Sydney, Australia
    • Advanced Diploma of Hospitality (Cuisine)
    • Advanced Diploma of Hospitality (Patisserie)
    • Basic Cuisine Certificate I
    • Basic Patisserie Certificate I
    • Intermediate Cuisine Certificate II
    • Intermediate Patisserie Certificate II
    • Superior Cuisine Certificate III
    • Superior Patisserie Certificate III

  • Seoul, Korea
    • The Cuisine Diploma
    • The Patisserie Diploma
    • The Grand Diplome
    • Basic Cuisine Certificate
    • Initiation Cuisine Certificate
    • Basic Patisserie Certificate
    • Intermediate Cuisine Certificate
    • Intermediate Patisserie Certificate
    • Superior Cuisine Certificate
    • Superior Patisserie Certificate
  • Ottawa, Canada
    • The Cuisine Diploma
    • The Patisserie Diploma
    • The Grand Diplome
    • Le Grand Diplôme Professionel
    • Basic Cuisine Certificate
    • Initiation Cuisine Certificate
    • Basic Patisserie Certificate
    • Intermediate Cuisine Certificate
    • Intermediate Patisserie Certificate
    • Superior Cuisine Certificate
    • Superior Patisserie Certificate
    • Short Courses- 1-4 day Practical and Demonstration Courses in a variety of special preparations.


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