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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

Le Cordon Bleu - A Little History

Posted: March 31, 2007
by: T.Alexander

ibiblio is a public library & digital archive full of well researched information. You may click on this link and read the full history of Le Cordon Bleu or you may enjoy snippets I’ve pulled for you. Enjoy!

Le Cordon Bleu is a well-established Parisian institution, as venerable as the Eiffel Tower, and almost as old. It dates back to 1895 when a woman named Marthe Distel formed a weekly publication called La Cuisinière Cordon-bleu, in which famous chefs gave courses via articles they wrote and in which she and others shared recipes, gave advice and discussed the pleasures of the table. 

The title had been carefully chosen. It derives from the sixteenth-century French knight's order, Ordre du Saint Esprit the most exclusive in France, whose members - royalty included - were called Cordon-bleus after the broad blue ribbons they wore. Nothing was too good for a Cordon-bleu, and the dinners that accompanied their ceremonious meetings were legendary.

In 1827 the first Cordon Bleu cookbook was published called Le Cordon bleu ou nouvelle cuisinière bourgeoise. It remained in print for fifty years, teaching the art of cooking through its recipes. Madame Distel realized that an even better way to teach cooking would be to organize classes where students could see the chef at work and practice under his trained eye. In December 1895 subscribers were informed that "the ever-growing popularity of La Cuisinière Cordon-Blue makes the management feel that it has a duty to find new ways of satisfying those who have faithfully supported our enterprises; hence we have decided to offer free cooking classes to our subscribers and to publish the recipes taught in those classes in future issues of our magazines".

The first Cordon Bleu cookery class was held on January 14, 1896, in Paris's Palais Royal. Its organizers proudly announced a glimpse of the latest in culinary technology - electricity was installed in one of the kitchens! Le Cordon Bleu grew, changed, and flourished in the following decades. Originally a purely Parisian institution, the school quickly became international, and by 1905 students were coming from as far away as Japan to learn French cooking. An article in the London Daily Mail, dated November 16, 1927, described a visit to the school in Paris where, the author writes, "It is not unusual for as many as eight different nationalities to be represented in the classes.... the purpose of the students vary; some are instructors desiring to add further to their qualifications, while others are novices who intend to become chefs".

After the Second World War, Le Cordon Bleu continued to prosper and grow under the direction of Madame Elisabeth Brassart. She welcomed two generations of cooks to Le Cordon Bleu, revised the curriculum, and saw the school receive official recognition. One of the female students who was enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu did more than sense the trend towards "good cooking and eating," she made it a reality in millions of homes across the United States. That woman, a tall energetic American, to whom Madame Bressart awarded the Grand Diplôme du Cordon Bleu was Julia Child.

By the 1950s Le Cordon Bleu represented not only the highest level of culinary training but was a symbol of Paris itself. It seemed only natural for Audrey Hepburn to attend a cookery school in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower when she played the role of Sabrina in the film of the same name. The reference to Le Cordon Bleu could hardly have been more explicit, and the scene in which she learns to make an omelette was yet another illustration of the growing interest in French cooking and Le Cordon Bleu in particular.

Located in the culinary capital of Europe, in a city whose cultural and artistic importance never ceases to grow, Le Cordon Bleu is more than a cooking school. It is an institution devoted to promoting and preserving a fine art - French cooking. The school's name is synonymous with excellence, and it is easy to understand why there is a long list of prospective chefs and cooks eagerly waiting to be admitted and why each year enthusiastic men and women from fifty countries are so eager to cross the threshold at No. 8 Rue Léon Delhomme. These new students know they will be a part of a great tradition and that French cuisine will soon hold no mysteries for them. As time passes, they gain confidence in their skills and, if they apply themselves, they will be awarded one of the school's prestigious diplomas. Those who pass their examinations can feel proud; they are now members of a very special group - graduates of Le Cordon Bleu.

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