Hands up those who have heard of l’Ecole Ferrandi? I might not have either, were it not for a friend who enrolled in its intensive course in pastry. While l’Ecole Ferrandi might be better known in France for its national basic and postbaccalaureate diplomas in cuisine and pastry, offering some 1,200 students a very solid footing in the culinary arts, there are reasons why those considering Paris cooking classes should not ignore this almost century-old school.
The number of students loitering outside the school’s entrance hints at the activity that goes on at this school, but it was not until the communications manager Audrey Janet gave me a trip of the premises that all these numbers became more than just statistics. Whisked from floor to floor, I lost count of the number of laboratories and kitchens (20 in all) that we popped into. The kitchens were impressive in their spaciousness, with plenty of elbow room for the students, be they apprentices prepping lunch or first-year pastry students trying their hand at piping. I noticed, for example, that at the bread section, students work with professional kitchen mixers and ovens, and in the savory section, students are expected to know how to cook on all types of stoves. Hands-on experience, it seems, is very much the focus here.
Aside from its national-level CAP and bachelor’s courses in cuisine, pastry, boulangerie and restaurant management—for which the school has an excellent reputation—Ferrandi also has an astounding array of shorter professional courses. These can range from courses tailored for companies to accelerated programs for adults making a career switch and master classes by leading experts. These courses cover all the bases, from cuisine to pastry, wine and management. There is a definite practical and industry slant—not surprising, perhaps, given the school’s links with the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry—and I imagine targeted courses like reinterpreting bistro classics or menu conception would be widely appreciated. There are numerous other courses, too, with an eye on trends, such as sous-vide cooking and bento box cuisine. In all, a whopping total of 2,000 adults troop through these classes each year.
While the above courses are in French, international students are also catered to, with classes conducted in English. Attracted by the intensive hands-on training and obligatory apprenticeship expected of them, some 200 students from all over the world vie for places on the French Cuisine and French Pastry program every year. In the pastry class I sat in on, the enthusiasm of the students, a mix of nationalities and backgrounds, was palpable. Then, there are the very well-subscribed three- to five-day summer courses that range from bistro cuisine to regional cuisine, wines and advanced pastry.
Even if you’re not looking for Paris cooking classes, you still have a reason to visit Ferrandi! Did you know that the school operates two very successful restaurants, le Premier and le 28, both of which have been very positively reviewed? I did not get a chance to try the food—reservations well in advance are necessary—but seeing the front-of-house trainees scuttling about, the young man role-playing hotel manager deep in discussion with his teacher and the junior chefs-to-be huddled over their stoves, I would give them full marks for effort alone.
Ferrandi, l’Ecole Française de Gastronomie
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