Le Cordon Bleu, the celebrated 113-year-old French cooking school, is preparing to set up a branch in India.
The school could open its doors to aspirant master chefs and practitioners of French cooking as early as September 2007. “We are speaking to some (local) parties and it would be too early to reveal the location of our school in India,” said a Cordon Bleu spokesperson. He declined to provide any further details.
Over the last few years, Le Cordon Bleu has set up 27 schools in 15 countries, in locations such as London, New York, Seoul, Tokyo, Ottawa and Bangkok. Over 18,000 students attend the Cordon Bleu classes every year.
Le Cordon Bleu, which was set up in 1896, is Alma Mater to some of the world’s best-known chefs, and a diploma from the institution tends to open doors to kitchens around the world.
A person familiar with the situation, but who did not want to be named, said a delegation of senior members of Le Cordon Bleu is due to visit India this month to finalize its local partner, who will operate the school as a franchise.
Every year, a select group of students among the thousands that apply to the institute from more than 50 countries enter the flagship school at Rue Leon Delhomme in Paris. They are trained in the nuances of classic French cuisine, pattiserie and boulangerie by award-winning chefs from the country’s Michelin-starred restaurants.
The group has also set up specialized programmes in 11 colleges in North America and Le Cordon Bleu Australia has developed academic courses to include a master’s degree in gastronomy and a bachelor’s degree in international hotel and restaurant management. The institute’s international curriculum offers its trademark courses as well as training in regional cuisine.
For India’s booming hospitality and food industry, the school comes amid an economic boom that has ensured that the burgeoning middle class has disposable income to spend on food.
Meanwhile, the industry itself is struggling to find trained chefs. Many chefs in India who head kitchens at some of the well-known restaurants, especially in major hotels, tend to be foreigners.
“There is huge potential for institutes such as Le Cordon Bleu in India,” says gourmet cook and entrepreneur Karen Anand, who sells a line of sauces, conserves and preserves under her own brand. Anand, who also writes a column for Lounge, the Saturday magazine of Mint, says she had struggled to find trained cooks for her food business.
Training in food and catering in India was largely limited to government-run catering colleges. A few years back, hospitality industry player Indian Hotels, which runs the Taj Group of hotels, took the initiative in setting up a catering college for aspirants into this industry. The idea behind setting up the college was to train candidates who could work at its food and beverages outlets across many hotel properties. The school, located at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, has become a hot destination for students who aspire to work at some of the world’s leading hotel brands, such as Kempinski, Hilton, Shangri-La, Intercontinental and Le Meridien, across India.
Other large hotel chains, including the Oberoi, Radisson, ITC and relatively smaller players such as Park Hotels, run their own training schools for captive use. A degree from private catering schools in India can cost anything between Rs2 lakh and Rs5 lakh.