As a 20-year-old culinary student, I got to experience my first summer abroad in the culinary capital of the world, France. I have traveled around the US with my family a lot but have never had the opportunity to travel outside the country.
Since I was a little girl I have had a love for food and cooking and have been particularly fascinated with French cuisine. There’s something so special about the respect they have for food from the way a chicken is raised on a farm to the way a chef prepares a classical yet beautiful coq au vin. So to Paris I went to see what it’s all about.
I spent an incredible 6 weeks studying Farm to Table: French Cuisine at École de Cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris. There were 18 of us, from all 4 JWU campuses, combined into a unique and diverse group with one thing in common: Food!
My first week there was a bit of a culture shock, it all started at the airport trying to get around without knowing much of the language. But we all soon realized the three handiest apps we couldn’t have survived without: Google Translate, Google Maps, and Uber.
“Take the Best. Forget the Rest.”
Our first day we went back to basics — stocks, stocks, stocks. Each week we had an area that we focused on — vegetables and fruits, fish and shellfish, meat and poultry. For the last week, we tied it all together into a fabulous week of Mediterranean cookery.
Our teacher, Chef Aly, was an incredible and inspiring chef. He was born in Senegal but grew up in Paris and knows the ins and outs of the French culinary world. We learned so much from him, I could go on and on about the wealth of knowledge that he shared with us. To remind us why we were there and the level of excellence he expected from us, he would tell us, “Take the best and forget the rest.”
When we weren’t in class we would walk around Paris, meeting the locals, finding non-touristy cafes and bakeries, visiting farms, or just strolling through one of the city’s many stunning gardens.
There was so much to do and so much to see. On the weekends we would take mini trips to other areas of France such as Champagne, Burgundy, or Normandy.
In our final week we went to the Loire Valley. This was probably one of the most memorable parts of the trip for me. We spent each day visiting castles, farms, vineyards, wineries and amazing restaurants.
Don’t Limit Yourself
To all you culinary students out there, don’t limit yourself. This is one of the biggest things I have learned this past year. There is a world of possibilities out there — you just have to take that leap of faith and make it happen.
When I first applied to the study abroad program, I thought there was no possible way for me to go because of financial reasons. But I didn’t completely rule it out because this was something that I really wanted to do, so I did my research and found scholarships. I applied to many and was very fortunate to receive the Gilman International Scholarship, which is sponsored by the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to give undergraduate students like me the opportunity to study abroad.
This past summer was one of the most incredible summers of my life and one that I will always remember.
JWU students enjoying a group lunch at Alain Ducasse: Adriana Assenti, Hannah Dinsmore, Heather Klutz + Luke O’Bryan. Photo: Apoorva Prakash