Cumbernauld catering students enjoy taste of life in Lyon

The catering students and their tutors
The catering students and their tutors

FANCY working in the high pressure cooker environment of a hotel or restaurant kitchen in France while not having an exact grasp of the Gallic tongue?

How’s about spending three weeks helping out a top chef in the gastronomic capital of the nation that is singularly choosy about food? And trying not to get nul points at the end of it?

These singularly hard task have all been successfully completed by keen-as-mustard trainee cooks from Cumbernauld who recently spent three weeks in Lyon.

Set up in in part by Cumbernauld College and the Cumbernauld Bron Twinning Association, this is an annual fixture in the life of the Chef 2 City and Guilds Diploma.

This annual link-up is helped in part by Cumbernauld’s twin town of Bron, which of course is a suburb of Lyon itself.

Chef lecturer Paul Clark said: “Because we are a smaller college and we have the twinning link it’s something we are able to offer our students.

“The twinning association is particularly good – you have the security of knowing that there’s someone there if anything goes wrong. A lot of the students had never worked in a kitchen, never mind one in France. Some hadn’t been away on their own before. And you are talking about a place where standards are really high.

“Obviously food is such a big thing in Lyon itself. The local dishes are things like tripe and pigs’ trotters that we don’t really eat here, so they had to learn how to prepare things like that.

“We did teach them some basic French which is useful in the kitchen but that was it. It worked out well. Now they are back, the students are more motivated and better able to organise themselves.

“They were a credit to Cumbernauld, Cumbernauld College and themselves,” added Paul.

Student Jaqueline Tait helped out at the kitchen in the five star Sofitel - arguably the city’s plushest hotel which has Michelin-starred superchef Alain Desvilles at the helm.

The Glasgwegian who now lives in Seafar said: “Wow – it was amazing, I loved it! We were shown how to do things like prepare tiny crabs, how to display the food on the plate in a certain way – all that is very important as is the preparation of the food itself.”

She added: “I would love to go over and work there again.”

Kildrum’s Alanna Murphy (20), who is a former pupil of St Maurice’s High School, worked in a Mediterranean restaurant called ICEO which certainly has a varied menu.

For it could easily pride itself on serving up a Sicilian starter, a Corsican main course and a sweet from Morocco – a challenge for any chef.

It was within this culinary melting point that Alanna turned her hand to plenty of tasks she hadn’t focused on before.

“I was involved in making a lot of desserts – making things like chocolate fondant, meringues and putting smaller portions of this sort of thing on the one plate to be served with after-dinner coffee.

“I really enjoyed it. The bar staff who could speak more English were really friendly too. Although I did miss home, it was fantastic. And we did get good reports!’’ she said.

The students have an occasion coming up which is an excellent showcase for all they have learned – when a Michelin-starred chef pays them a visit before their end of term.

He is Scot Martin Wishart, who will share some of his techniques with the students – but after their crash course in cooking Lyonnaise-style, perhaps they could show HIM a thing or two!