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Learning the art of French Cuisine at London's Cordon Bleu Institute

    Learn how to make pear poached in red wine with chocolate sauce
    Learn how to make pear poached in red wine with chocolate sauce

    Review of Cordon Bleu one-day taster.

    Expectation: The pre-course blurb lists a dazzling array of skills, including French chopping techniques, dry fish curing and sugar syrup preparation.

    On Offer: Behind a period stucco facade, the ultra-modern Le Cordon Bleu School offers a one-day taster course for both beginners and experienced cooks.

    What we did: Canadian chef and Bruce Willis lookalike, John Bakker — once of the Ritz — shows you what to do and you have a go yourself. We poached eggs, learned how to make gravadlax, how to core and poach pears gently in red wine and make a velvety chocolate sauce for dessert.

    Chef style: “Taste, season, taste, should be your mantra,” yelled Bakker as he sampled the chocolate sauce. “This is not lean cuisine, it’s all about taste.” With no time to cure our own salmon, John instead demonstrated a traditional dill recipe as well as how to prepare beetroot gravadlax.

    Who was there: A class of 10, including some there as a birthday treat and younger students mugging up before taking the full diploma.

    Nosh: We had a half-hour lunchbreak to eat our starter of perfect poached eggs combined with gravadlax, asparagus and a truffle vinaigrette, either in the school’s meeting room or in its cafe, where delicious cakes and tarts were on sale.

    Takeaway: We took home our creations as well as recipes, apron and tea towel. And you’ll probably be tempted by Le Cordon Bleu’s small but well-equipped kitchen shop.

    Verdict: Good for novices but experienced cooks may find it doesn’t go far enough. A fun day — if tiring on the feet.

    Top tip: The secret of a perfect poached egg is a gentle simmer and to use a generous amount vinegar in the water.

    Kosher: No. Some non-kosher meat is used.

    Cost: One-day taster £210.

    Information: Le Cordon Bleu, 15 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2LS. Tel: 020 7 400 3900;

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