Students explore French, food at Culinary Institute Lenôtre

Students tour the hallways of the Culinary Institute Lenôtre and peer into pastry, ice cream and meat “labs.”

Noura Jabir, Copy Editor

After studying chefs from Paul Bocuse to Remy from “Ratatouille,” French II students experienced the world of French cuisine first-hand at the Culinary Institute Lenôtre.

The renowned cooking school’s 12 French chef instructors train local aspiring chefs on two campuses located north of downtown.

French teacher Shelley Stein arranged the March 8 visit to Lenôtre for her all-freshman French II class to study a pocket of French culture in Houston and meet the French chef who made their lunch.

The tour started with a slide presentation in French by marketing department staffer Sophie Pettazzoni detailing the 20-year-old institute’s history. The Lenôtre culinary empire, originally founded in 1957 by master pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre, expanded to the United States in 1998 when Lenotre’s son Alain opened the Institute.

While the speaker’s quick pace was challenging, most viewed it as an opportunity to test their knowledge of French.

“It was easy to zone out because of the speed and some unfamiliarity with words, but it was really interesting to be able to apply what we’ve learned to understand her,” Sydney Hammerman said.

After the presentation, students toured the school, posing in front of photographs of famous chefs, including the school’s founder Gaston Lenôtre. They sat in on a culinary presentation, where Lenôtre students displayed their dishes to head chefs for critique.

The hallways of the school were lined with specialized classrooms and laboratories entirely dedicated to preparing ice cream and pastries. These pastries include multi-tiered, ornate cakes, one of Chef Lenôtre’s specialties.

Students said they appreciated getting a look at the inner workings of an elite culinary school.

“Getting the chance to see the behind-the-scenes of a real culinary institute was an enjoyable experience,” Bailey Maierson said.

For the pièce de la résistance students dined on soupe à l’oignon, prime beef filet with fries and creamy peppercorn sauce and “Lenôtre Plaisir,” an Institute specialty layered cake. The meal took place in Le Bistro, the student-run restaurant on campus, where students met and chatted in French with restaurant chef and culinary arts instructor Olivier Burgos.

“I enjoyed the tour of the culinary school as it provided a rare opportunity to engage in conversation with many different French-speaking people while eating yummy food,” Grace Nockolds said.

Karli Fisher, who is vegetarian and received a meatless meal, agreed.

“Despite the incredibly rare meat, it was very interesting to be able to to see a culinary institute, stand in on a class and have a conversation with a highly esteemed head chef.”