Imagine you’re a young chef. Quite possibly, it is the first time you’ve been abroad. Visiting a French market can overwhelm the senses. Ingredients that are hard to come by in a Scottish kitchen are sold in copious amounts on the markets – seven different types of pears? How astonishing. The sheer quantity of cheeses on sale is amazing – what do they all taste like? The fresh fish stalls are beautiful, teaming with fish – including many langoustines and scallops from Scotland. Now that’s unexpected.
This is all part of the experience for young chefs taking part in the Budding Chefs programme. Now in its 4th year, it is enthusing young chefs, expanding their experiences and leaving them with memories they will never forget.
Vincent Guérin, director of the Institut français d’Ecosse and co-founder Fred Berkmiller of L’Escargot Blanc and Bleu set up the programme to offer budding young chefs from Scotland and France the opportunity to experience a new larder and to work along some of the very best chefs in each country to broaden their horizons.
A French/Scottish Exchange
This year, students from France will spend a week here in Edinburgh and after culinary journeys which will include a visit to Blackford Farms to meet the Wagyu and Angus cattle and meet the fishermen landing their catch at Peterhead fish market.
At the end of the week, on 22 March, they’ll be producing a very special meal for 250 foodies at the Hub, Edinburgh. The pop up restaurant has received the label “Le repas gastronomique des Français (the French gastronomic meal) UNESCO World Intangible Heritage. This is defined as a festive meal bringing people together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking. Student waiters and waitresses will be serving the meal.
On the same day, “Talking Food” will bring together some of the greatest names in food from France, Britain and Scandinavia together to talk about gastronomy, produce, restaurants and all things foodie.
Students studying the Arts de la cuisine allégée course (The art of healthy cooking) from Lycée hotelier Dinard will learn how to work with their Scottish counterparts under the watchful eyes of Craig Sandle from the Pompadour by Galvin and Fred Berkmiller.
Despite invitations to Scottish catering colleges each year, none have decided to take part, so the Scottish chefs who went over to France last October, were from the kitchens of our top chefs in Edinburgh, including Craig, Fred and Martin Wishart. A maddening missed opportunity that Fred and Vincent are continually trying to remedy.
The programme is funded solely through the generosity of the producers donating their time and products, local restaurateurs including Chefs Neil Forbes and David Ramsden providing meals for the students and proceeds from the pop up restaurant and talks. Travel to and from France is self-funded. There’s a great video showing the student’s 2012 expedition on the Lycée website. Just scroll down to The incredible adventures of the French Budding Chefs in Scotland in French and English.
The lasting legacy? Not only have some of the French students come to Edinburgh to work here, but some of our Scottish young chefs have done the same. Something probably unthinkable with out participation in this event. Producers in France and Scotland have thoroughly enjoyed welcoming the students and communicating their passion for what they do. Our chefs believe it is essential that their young chefs experience as much as possible in order to become better chefs.
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Many thanks to Taste Communications and Institut français d’Ecosse for the photographs.