First of all, 1 week without a single post….I can only apologise to my faithful following in France, Switzerland, the UK, the US all the way thru to China ! It’s not that I’ve been particularly busy – simply no juice for writing. Don’t know why.

Having said that, I have been pretty busy during the spare time that I get – mainly trying to organise a trip to some top kitchens and markets in London for me and some fellow students (and teachers !). As well as that, I’ve also spent a fair bit of time trying to organise the Christmas dinner for the people from our training course – students, teachers and admin staff included.

So, to give you an idea of what is being planned for the visit to London, first of all a copy of the email that I sent to Gordon Ramsay Holdings, followed by a forum post that I put on the Jamie Oliver web site.

I am writing to you following the advice of one of your colleagues, who I spoke to this lunchtime.

I am currently training to be a chef here in Paris (oct 07 – may 08). As a part of this training, I suggested to my fellow students (aged between 21 and 48) and teachers that it would be very interesting to visit some of the top kitchens in London. Being an Englishman in Paris for over 6 years, I am always trying to promote our chefs and cuisine wherever possible. My idea is to organise a couple of days to visit 2 or 3 top kitchens run by British chefs, as well as some markets (Borough, New Covent Garden, Smithfield, etc) and suppliers. My visit is fully supported by my catering school – Greta Métiers de l’Hôtellerie.

I am in the early days of planning the visit where I need to identify those restaurants which would be interested in allowing a group of 5-10 French cookery students/teachers to meet members of the staff in the kitchen of one of your restaurants (Royal Hospital Road, Petrus or Maze would be of particular interest) – the aim being 2-fold :

  • show the French students and teachers that good food and great ideas are alive and well and being pushed to their limits in the UK
  • to give us a good idea of what differences (if there are any) there are between French and British kitchens (we are all working in different Parisian restaurants). It would also be very constructive to be able to “feel” the passion that drives your staff, and also to see what kind of training your staff receive.
  • I am currently talking with a friend of mine who is a journalist for a major British national to see if our visit would be of interest. Given that Gordon Ramsay is planning a new restaurant in the west of Paris, maybe our visit could be a source of publicity for you ?

    Anyway, this is an initial contact to see if the general principle would be possible. If this is OK, then we could talk about the details.

    Working already in 2 restaurants, I know that time is difficult to find in kitchens. However, if I have choosen the Gordon Ramsay restaurants for our visit it is because, not only is he the best (and British), but you clearly have a serious respect for training, encouraging and developing new culinary talent.

    Thanks in advance for your time, and hopefully we will speak soon

    By the way, I have to say “hat’s off” to the backroom staff at Gordon Ramsay Holdings – they have been extremely polite, quick in their response, and willing to find a way of accomodating us. As it stands at the moment, we have at least got a visit to Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, with an interview with Mark Sergeant (Head Chef) and one of the trainees, and then a Head Office visit to meet the people who organise the training for all Gordon Ramsay staff. So, a big thank you.

    The other restaurant that I am trying to organise a visit to is “15” – the Jamie Oliver inspired restaurant which is a base for the “15 Foundation”. Why ? Well, because Jamie Oliver has been a great source of inspiration – not always for his cooking, but 110% always for his energy, his passion, his willingness to discover (and show that he is not the master of everything) – and also because I admire the principles upon which the “15 Foundation” bases itself….principles which seem to me to be lacking a little bit here in France. Before copying the message that I sent to one of the top men at the “15 Foundation”, a quick reminder of the principles of the foundation…..

  • all young people have huge potential
  • a person’s past need not define his or her future
  • learning by doing is more important than qualifications
  • real training happens in real businesses
  • whatever you do, have as much fun as possible!
  • I find this approach pretty damned refreshing, and very British (it’s my French wife who said that, in fact). I know that I’m just at the beginning of my cuisine career (so I have a lot of things to see here in France, and elsewhere – so this is simply a general impression about French attitude to diplomas, age, number of years experience, background), but I’m not sure that the above principles are omni-present in French society.

    Anyway, the discussion about differences that I have noticed between British-French cultures is for another post. Onto the message that I sent (to which I am yet to have a reply !),

    my name is Dom, I’m 38, English and currently 8 weeks into an 8 month French Cookery diploma (CAP Cuisine, it’s the main entry-level qualification here in France) here in Paris (I’ve been in Paris for 6 years as an IT consultant and am at the beginning of changing my career path – computers to cookers !).

    I know that, being 38, I do not match the “15 Foundation” selection criteria, however, I do have 2 questions concerning the Foundation.

    1) are there any plans to set up something in France – possibly one of the regions where there is a particularly high % of Brits ? Given that Ramsay is heading over here soon, and also taking into account Jamie’s growing profile over here (good exposure on “Cuisine TV” on cable telly), surely the time is right to take on the “French Challenge” head-on ? The Foundation’s ethos of investing in youth / not letting the past dictate the future / paper qualifications not being as important as real life experience / having fun are things that are often lacking in the traditional French system. What you have all done over the last 5 years would really be a breath of fresh air to a trade which is in difficulty (not enough people attracted to fill the many vacancies, more restaurants closing than opening….).

    2) As I said at the start, I am currently 8 weeks into an 8 month traditional French cookery training course (at the Greta des Métiers de l’Hôtellerie, in Paris). I have proposed to my student colleagues, and equally to the teachers, to organise a 2 day trip to London to visit the kitchens of some of London’s top “British” (that is, set up and inspired by home-grown chefs) restaurants. My aim is to show the French people that I study with that good food and great ideas are alive and well and being pushed to their limits in the UK. I am currently in discussion with Gordon Ramsay Holdings, and would like to know if you think that “15” w

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