I have never cooked French food before. Yes I’ve made some French desserts like soufflés and macarons, but I’ve never touched upon French cooking. It just feels incredibly intimidating for some reason. I feel like I would’ve stayed within this mindset for a long time had Enderun Colleges not invited me to attend one of their ‘Introduction to French Cuisine’ classes. This class is under their Ducasse Signature Series, and it teaches bits and pieces of the techniques and recipes that have turned Alain Ducasse himself into a Michelin-decorated chef.
Today, I want to give you a glimpse of what you can expect from a Ducasse Signature class based on the things I personally experienced attending one. 🙂
I’ve been to Enderun once before for an event and I remember being quite impressed with their culinary education facilities. Back then, it was just the chef doing all the demo work, but this time, I was expecting to do some hands-on work in the kitchen. I was quite excited about that.
Enderun Colleges has been the home of Ducasse Education in Asia for nine years already, and The Ducasse Signature Series is one of the major culinary programs created out of this partnership. To create a good learning environment, students are only limited to 14 per class. The classes are all hands-on and feature quality ingredients, so they usually range from Php 4,800 to 5,800 per session, or Php 24,000 to Php 29,000 for a 5-day Bootcamp.
As you can see below, there are currently 11 chef instructors teaching Ducasse Education here in the Philippines. To be qualified to teach any Ducasse course, chefs must have attained the Ducasse Certificate and must also have worked in a Ducasse property prior to teaching. Chef Marc Chapolin, who is the representative of Ducasse Education here in the country, ensures that those who teach the Ducasse Signature Series have the necessary skills and background to do so.
We managed to attend only the tail-end of this particular program, but honestly speaking, I learned a lot in this one session alone that I went on their website to browse what other short courses they offer. Turns out, there are A LOT. There are short courses and bootcamps that range from 5 to 10 days, for anything from Japanese cooking, culinary essentials, and even pastry.
You guys all know I love to bake and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making entremets, so maybe one of these days I’ll be joining a class about that. I’ve been told the pastry courses all use Ducasse recipes. Kind of a big deal! But for now, let’s step into the kitchen for‘Introduction to French Cuisine’.
[You can browse available courses at Enderun Colleges HERE.]
Not-so-funny story for when my brother and I attended this session: We arrived half an hour late to class. 😐 As if it wasn’t enough to live far from BGC, we had to have car troubles along the way. Of all days! It was a huge relief that despite this, our instructor, Chef Joma Tuaño, still patiently walked us through the first few tasks we had to do to start the recipe.
Our recipe for the day is called Roasted River Prawns, and the first step was to do prep-work for the marinated garden vegetables.
While my brother and I are no chefs by any means, we’re also not entirely clueless in the kitchen, so we were somehow able to catch up to our classmates. (Yaaas teamwork.) I think doing the work by pairs really makes a big difference not only with how fast you can accomplish the recipe, but also in the experience of taking the class. You won’t feel too pressured to do everything on your own.
Once everyone was done with the first part of the recipe, Chef Joma gathered the class at his station to demonstrate the next steps. It was time to take out the star of the show: Meet them giant freshwater prawns. As big as a hand, these are!
I have eaten dishes made with these huge prawns before, but I have never cooked with them, so this was entirely new for me.
Chef Joma taught us how to remove the shell and keep the entire shrimp, from head down to the tiny tails, intact. We were even able to neatly take out the fat from the shrimp heads. He also taught us some really great techniques to get the cooked flesh out of the shrimp’s larger front legs.
We skewered the shrimp to stop them from curling as they cooked. Another good trick to have in mind!
The shrimp’s front legs we cooked for about five minutes in boiling water before we cracked them open. I was pretty amazed when Chef Joma was taking the flesh out of the shrimp legs. He made it look so easy! Of course we couldn’t do it as fast as he did, but it’s not exactly difficult either once you get the hang of it. You have to cut and crack the legs in certain places so you can pull out or tap out the meat inside. Now I can do this same thing when I eat King Crab in Sapporo on my next trip. :p
At this point, all the ingredients we needed to actually cook the dish were ready. We took a little break and it allowed me a bit of time to appreciate everything we’ve done so far. Because the chef instructor broke down the recipe into parts, demonstrating the recipe by chunks in a clear manner before letting us do it on our own, the entire process felt very doable.
When we returned to the kitchen, it was time to actually do some cooking. Chef showed us how to cook the shrimp, first searing it in a pan with butter and olive oil, then putting it into the oven for 5 minutes to cook fully.
And then he cooked the vegetables. He actually added the crab fat to the pot with the diced veggies for more flavor, while most of the flesh from the crab legs went to the other pan. The last step was to season with salt and pepper.
Finally, it was time to serve the dish we had been laboring over the entire morning.
Chef Joma really pulled some stops during this part; complete with fancy plating you only usually see in a fine-dining restaurant. The final dish looked incredible. How can you not love the colors present on the plate? You can almost taste how good it is just by looking at it!
Chef went and made another plate for us students because there were seven of us that day. Both plates looked gorgeous of course. As a final touch, he drizzled on some truffle oil. And then he told everyone to dig in!
Plating and presentation is one of the things I love most about cooking and baking, so I was very appreciative of how these dishes looked. I felt a little sad as I watched everyone enthusiastically smash into the beautifully plated dishes for the taste test part. 😀 I suppose this is the best part of the class!
Look at my brother’s happy face after trying out chef’s cooking:
The shrimp was nice and juicy, with buttery undertones. It’s definitely best eaten with the vegetables, which were also a little buttery but had this slight savory richness that I can only assume came from the shrimp fat added in. Now that we knew what the dish was supposed to taste like, it was our turn to cook.
We followed everything that Chef Joma did, although I might’ve added too much oil into my diced vegetables… Nonetheless, I was happy to see we made something that resembled what our chef instructor was teaching us to make!
We didn’t get to do any plating since we put our cooked dish straight into out take-out box, but I still tried to make it look like fancy to-go order. That’s candied lemon on top. I was super proud of what we accomplished today we decided to take these home to share with the family!
I know we probably made a very basic French dish here today, but as someone who has shied away from French cooking for so long, this felt like a good start for me to change those feelings of intimidation. Taking a class like this helped make me feel that French cooking doesn’t need to be terrifying. Yes, it’s very labor-intensive, but it’s also more interesting than it is scary. Sometimes we just need to be in a proper environment when we’re trying something new in order to change our misconceptions.
Huge thank you to Enderun Colleges for this great opportunity. We learned so much more than we expected!
Full disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Enderun Colleges. I received no monetary compensation to write this post. All opinions above are my own.