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apprentissage – La Gourmandista

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Etiqueta: apprentissage

Talent Developer: The Industry-School Link You Always Dreamt About… In Paris

HR recruiters in all industries around the world often complain that school programs don’t always match what the world of work and industries require. For Talent Developer, an agency that is at the service of the professional development of students who want to enter the workplace, speaking with the HR departments is key to the professional success of young graduates in their first professional experience, which in this case , it is often outside of their country of origin.

Estrella Maillet, Founder, and Philippine Freiman, Director of Operations of the firm, are open to have a remote conversation with me from Paris, to explain what Talent Developer is and how they serve the gastronomy and luxury hotel industries, mainly. Between the two, they have more than 35 years of experience in the profession and particularly in accompanying students to liaise the teaching classroom with their first job. They assure that the key to the success of their offer, as well as that of the apprentices who frequently come to request their support to find not only an internship, but the most suitable one to be successful and build a promising future in the demanding world of luxury lies in the kind of accompaniment they provide.

What is Talent Developer?
Talent Developer is the first coaching and employment placement agency for both internships and apprenticeships in all areas of gastronomy, the restaurant industry and the hospitality industry in France, and more specifically in Paris.

Is there any other agency similar to Talent Developer around the World?

There are others who might be considered our competition around world. Nonetheless, they are not specialized agencies in our domain, meaning in helping students gain professional skills. The objective others have is, as far as we can see, more aligned with the student having the experience of working abroad that may or may not be related to their studies.

How is Talent Developer different when compared with the competition?
What sets us apart from the competition is that we place talent where we are sure they will gain the skills they require for the industry in which they want to pursue their career.

It is no secret that gastronomy in France is a reference, but is doing an internship or an apprenticeship useful for foreigners?

Yes. Having professional experience in the gastronomy or hospitality industries in France, given that there is a particular level of excellence well known in the world, allows recent graduates to become quite professional, even when they stay for a short-term. They learn and take what all this savoir-faire to their countries or even to other countries and the industry appreciates it. They recognize the French level of excellence.

¿Qué hace particular el trabajo que Ustedes hacen para que los candidatos sean exitosos en estas primeras experiencias laborales?
Professions around gastronomy are of passion. It is imperative that the young graduates find even more passion to grow into their new profession, develop skills as much as possible and thus manage to live off their passion. Our mission is to find both the right company and the right tutor for each apprentice.

It is terrible when students go back in time and tell us they left the profession because their experiences were bad.

Estrella, how did the idea of creating an agency like Talent Developer come about?

Philippine and I used to work together at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I was the coordinator of the Bachelor’s program. As a matter of fact, It was I who created the program. Philippine was in charge of finding internships for students and dealing with alumni. The idea, back then, was to visit the tutors to follow up. To our surprise, a tutor showered our student with praise. Now this was not the best in the class, however, it was the most suitable for the company and vice versa. The tutor did not stop flattering his practitioner saying that he was the best he had ever had in his life. Unfortunately, doing this type of placement is not always possible for different reasons for both, the school and the restaurant business environment. However, at that time it became clear to us that making it personalized and with a case-by-case analysis guaranteed success and growth for everyone, especially for the students.

Must students have certain characteristics to get positions as interns or trainees?

No. Our job is to fight against the stereotypes of age, of nationality, of what is linear. We like to work with the open spirits of foreign students and what they bring. Fortunately, both the restaurant and hotel industries today are tremendously versatile and allow us to find places for all styles.

Gastronomy, Sommelier or Wine-Pairing, Hospitality, but what other careers can get internships or apprenticeships through Talent Developer?

It is true that most of our students belong to gastronomy and hospitality careers, but in reality any profession that we find in the sector can. Thus, we find positions for finance, marketing, communications, sales, human resources, and obviously, all profiles of hospitality.

How are the internships offered? Are they paid, short term?

As you know, the law in France states that professional internships will last for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 6 for each school year. We abide by this law, regardless of where the student comes from.

Of course, our advice is that internships should ideally last from 4 to 6 months. This is because in order to understand, learn and develop the necessary skills, tutors require time. Of course, sometimes students can’t stay for many months and so we find short 2-month internships for them. However, companies prefer 6-month internships because the law requires they pay interns when the contract exceeds 2 months. Therefore, a 3-month candidate who must receive payment and who they know from the beginning won’t have the time to learn and develop enough for him to evolve and take on responsibilities isn’t as attractive.

Are all the options you offer in downtown Paris?

Most of our network is around Paris. Given that we are downtown, this allows us to visit and be in touch with employees and employers at all times. However, Estrella constantly works to develop agreements both in the region as well as nation-wide so that there are options that include free accommodation for our students as well. It is no secret that Paris is an expensive city and the 600 Euros per month pay is not enough for an apartment in the city.

How much should each student invest to be able to afford the accompanying services of Talent Developer?

It’s very attractive to come to Paris and have professional experience. And that is precisely why we work with our partners so that everyone can come and pay for it, because we know that this is an important investment.

We have packages for foreign students starting at 900 Euros. This package includes a free online interview to present the offer. If the student accepts, they will have our personal accompaniment for 10 hours in-person, including access to someone from the team who is at their disposal at any time by phone whenever they require it. We accompany them before, during and after their experience with different procedures. Also, we set up follow-up and feedback interviews at the end of the internship.

Additionally, we have created packages that provide other services for those who require them. For example, for those who need to improve their level of French, we have an agreement with the Alliance Française with a two-week immersion program in language and culture. Similarly, we have a package for those who need help with finding housing or opening a bank account with our business partners. It is real personal accompaniment for the students in order for them to have a unique and positive experience. We hope, obviously, that anyone who wants it can afford it without forgetting that the budget to currently live in the French capital is around 1500 Euros per month. Again, if this figure is unattainable, we do our best to support students and help them find something that is convenient and doable.

How can students get in touch with You?

It’s very easy. Download our app at and create an account and profile of the person interested in our services. We need contact information and a little about the professional and personal project of the candidate. By email, they will receive an link to request an appointment for an interview. Our agendas are shared on the site, so it is a matter of finding the time slot that suits the student, as well as the language in which they prefer the interview (French, English or Spanish – these are the languages we can offer at the moment). From there, we do the interview and assess whether or not we can help the candidate and their project. We cannot assume that we have something for everyone, but we do seek to have options for everyone.

Talent Developer’s offices are on 36, rue du Mont Thabor, 75001, Paris and their contact email address is

Chocolate, Gift of the Gods

It is difficult for me to conceive life without chocolate. I know very few people who don’t like it. I love it; the bitter the better.

At the age of 15 I learned how to temper and crystallize it in a very artisanal way, but I very little did I know about the work of cocoa beans. For me, it was just a game, or so I said.

This time, I received the beans and toasted them to grind them little by little with the help of the metate stone, fire, and the friction I did with the metlapil -the grinding hand of the metate stone. Hours of work, an incalculable amount of energy until I physically felt exhausted, together with the magic of ancestral knowledge shared by my cuisine professors who enabled me to make chocolate out of these cocoa beans.

Now I stop for a moment and think about the history of chocolate, as well as mine, and I can only conclude that today, I respect Mr. Chocolate a whole lot more.

Amélie: An Example of Inspiration

No. This is not about the French actress, Audrey Tatou and her very famous 2001 movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. It is about the young lady I mentioned in my last entry who from a distance, taught me more than she would probably imagine.

The day I arrived to work as an intern in a professional kitchen, my eyes were stunned by a lot of things. Why? I wanted to learn as much as possible of what happened in there. I wished to be as attentive and alert as possible to understand all the dynamics of the place.

Firstly, it was evident that us girls were greatly outnumbered in all positions available in the restaurant… the kitchen, the dining room, everywhere. I think the only place where there were more gals than guys was the pastry lab. But I will focus on the kitchen, since it is where I was spending my time and efforts.

In total – not including myself- there were three, THREE! The brigade was made up of about fifteen people and only three were women when I worked in the kitchen. One was a commis in the cold section, the second one was an apprentice in charge of the appetizers, and the third one was originally in the fish section, but later moved to work with meat products. I assume she was a demi-chef. She worked for the Sous-Chef. Her work included not only mise en place for meats, but also protein distribution during service, as well as some specific tasks for other preparations.

Her name: Amélie. A tiny young lady probably in her early thirties. She, like myself, reconverted to become a cuisinière. Originally a lawyer with a Master’s Degree, she worked for the State, I understand, but didn’t ever really enjoy it, so she decided to go back to school, but this time, to culinary arts school. She attended her classes and passed her exams like any other student, however, by the French system’s standards, she was already behind. Cooks start apprenticeships at 15 years old, no exaggeration. So, to be in her in her twenties… late, late, late. Nonetheless, she took up the challenge.

Through her, I learned that being a girl in a professional kitchen is harder than one would expect. The job is very physical, and among her daily tasks was the distribution of pantry supplies… meaning that coming up the stairs with very heavy stuff was part of her routine. But hey, don’t panic, this was no form of abuse. This is a standard task in a restaurant, and someone has got to do it. In this case she had just gotten the short end of the stick.

Then, there’s the fact of dealing with a brigade mostly made up of men. My perception is than in many professional kitchens in France, women are not seen as serious workers sometimes, so picking on the so-called ‘weaker sex’ might be common. And guess what? Yes, in order for her to be seen as a serious hard-working cook, she had to demonstrate there were no weak bones in her body, that her character was strong at any and all times, and that emotions were nonexistent, notwithstanding the comment of her counter part.

Once, I remember telling her “I think you are a very strong woman, Amélie”. She responded with a humble “Not always”. Yet I still think she is strong, and I just hope to see her in charge of her own kitchen one day. It would be a pleasure for me to dine at her Chef’s table.

French Cuisine History: The “Grande Table”

To talk about a French “Grande Table” is to talk about a spectacular place in the broadest possible sense of the word. It indicates that from the moment we enter the establishment, our experience will be unique; a once in a lifetime kind of thing. We should enter with the knowledge that even if one goes back to the same restaurant, there is a big chance that at least the menu will have changed.

Therefore, when I could understand what these restaurants were about, beyond the luxurious dinners full of delicacies coming from the most exclusive places around the globe, I knew that it was in such a place that I wanted to do my Internship to work as an Apprentice Cook. I wanted to witness firsthand if the abundant smiles, politeness, and sense of peace in the main dining room would also reign before the burning piano during service. In other words, I wanted to know what happens “behind the scenes”.

Many times I heard that if I wanted to learn as much as possible, it would be better to go to a small restaurant, for it is there where my workforce would truly be useful and required. However, my mind was made up. My wish list was full of legendary Parisian places; some of them with more than a century’s worth of history. My argument: I was interested in being in an exceptional ‘cuisine’, one where breathtaking plates would be prepared, where guests would dream with their eyes wide open. I am still not sure if the internship coordinator was convinced, or if she just gave up and presented me with some options.

I had to do a little bit of research, and selected one of those places called ‘a maison d’exception’ for their tradition, techniques, and awards. Yet I truly had no idea what awaited my arrival.

From Ensenada To Mérida and all the Way to Paris: Ven a Comer (Come to Eat)

Me and my classmates have been learning how to cook meat ‘saignante’, which literally means it has to still be bloody for months. We’re learning how to differentiate between Pont Neuf and Anna potatoes -both of them are very different, yet they’re both potatoes. Thus, when the administration employees went looking for volunteers to talk about habanero and pasilla chiles, and even black recado, I don’t have to emphasize how much I wanted to help out, since surely I was not only going to learn, but I would have the chance to get to know and work hand in hand with some of the big ones from back home.

Two days of masterclasses during the afternoon, but we had to be there at the break of dawn in order to have everything ready just as if we were going to have a small service, for a tasting would take place, and we were expecting about a 100 people to attend, and yes, we only had a few hours to get ready. The rendez-vous was in no restaurant, but in a two-story gallery which had been very well prepared for us to work in the lower level, while upstairs everything had been set up as a television studio for the demonstration to take place. The city was just waking up; it was 7:30AM. Mexico was already sleeping; it was past midnight.

Chef González Beristáin giving his class

My role was to give a helping hand as much as I could. I was to peel carrots, score the duck breasts, and serve as a communicating liaison between the organizing French speakers, and the Spanish-speaking cooks. Up to there, no problem whatsoever. I had already learned so much, and the show hadn’t even begun.

The first team began to work. The chef, a big name: Guillermo González Beristáin, and he was accompanied by his sous chefs. His restaurant: Pangea in Monterrey, right there by the Cerro de la Silla. The mission: A duck breast accompanied by a foie gras sauce and red mole, a pickled carrot purée, and a pickled red onion gelatin.

The clock was now striking three o’clock in the afternoon. We’d had lunch and taken a break. The class was about to begin. During that time, the second team arrived. The chef, even though unknown to me, I was very curious to hear to attend his class. His name: Ángel Vázquez. He would be cooking with his sous chef, who was also his wife. His restaurant: Intro, in Puebla, probably the most important Mexican city in Culinary history, I believe. The mission: A ceviche tostada made from dry shrimp, but I would not see their prep work, I would actually get to sit down in their class. How curious was I!

The Chefs & I: Guillermo González Beristáin, Diego Hernández Baquedano, Franck Poupard, and Ángel Vázquez

 The people started to arrive and take their seats. We knew it would be broadcasted via Livestream… ¡I was so excited! Well, up until the moment when the lights, the microphones, the cameras, and the enormous amount of cables made me conscious that we were live and that it was available anywhere around the globe.

The class began sharply on time. Some of my teachers, as well as my classmates were in the audience. I was so proud that they could get to see just a bit of everything my Aztec land has to offer. The chef made his presentation, and then I participated in the plating of his delicacies. Between you and I, everything was sweating -even my earlobes- because I couldn’t deny it, I was shaking, and before all those lamps and cameras, the only thing I could do was focus and act quickly, for this rookie apprentice was next to world-class professionals. In the end, everything turned out marvelously. The second presentation went more smoothly, and since I was without any stress whatsoever, I could enjoy not only the chef’s teachings, but also a small bite of what he prepared, while I had the chance to say hello to all those familiar faces I found in the event.

On the second day we began again at dawn. Today, the trip would take us in a couple of breaths to the northeast part of the country, right there by the vineyards of the Guadalupe Valley in the city of Ensenada, in the State of Baja California, and then all the way down to the southeast to the place where there are no jokes, but ‘bombs’… yes, ‘bomb’ means joke in Yucatán. I got to work with Diego Hernández Baquedano. I had recently watched a documentary about him not long ago, even though I wasn’t familiar with his cuisine. His restaurant, Corazón de Tierra in Ensenada, was already in my ‘go-to’ list and hope I get the chance to go eat there, soon. Diego, who also went with his sous chef, presented a tamal, but this had nothing to do with anything I had tasted before. I understand, however, this is one of the classic preparations in his restaurant, even though some adjustments had to be done due to ingredient constraint. They called it a Celery Strained Tamal with duck and red mole. The tasting was served in a very modern way; in a verrine. It was so good. How innocent had I been, for I thought I wasn’t going to discover much… it was such a great surprise to see my country’s gastronomy have so many new proposals.

Last, but definitely not least, Roberto Solís entered the scene. He brought us a black recado taco. When I read the program I thought it was to die for, and made no mistake. It was awesome! He came from the very opposite edge of the country; from the southeast peninsula. His restaurant: Néctar. Honestly, I had never heard about him or his restaurant, but in my defense, I haven’t been to the beautiful Mérida in over 20 years. I think it’s time to go and discover what people are doing there.

An enormous alebrije making an appearance at the park of La VilletteThe event passed by so fast, but I felt as if a truck had run me over. I had worked between 18 and 20 hours between both days. I was so tired, but so happy, and no one could take that away from me. On the weekend and more relaxed, we went with some friends to taste the tacos prepared by the chefs in the food trucks installed at the very popular parc of La Villete. The best, apart from the revisited indigenous delicacies, was to have the chance to talk with them with no formality whatsoever and even share a beer in the midst of the Parisian summer. So much was there to learn from them, so proud was I to share with my friends from all over the world my country’s richness. I’m still grateful for it, and to keep on discovering this universe, that even though I know it isn’t endless, now, I feel it is.

The “Goûter”: An institution in France

In my country, children eat their ‘lunch’ at school mid-morning, and then they arrive home to eat their afternoon meal called ‘comida’ at around three o’clock in the afternoon, while in the United States people call lunch to the main meal at noon, just in the same way as in France, and children regularly sit down at the school table in the cafeteria to eat what they are served. However, in the land of Napoleon, children stay at school until 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon, and obviously, when one has eaten at noon, by 4:00 pm one is hungry, don’t you think so?

Thus, when the school bell rings marking the end of the day, children sit down and meticulously go over the contents of their ‘goûter’ box. Frequently, the loot includes a small cake, a fruit compote, and a small bottle of water or fruit juice. When they are even luckier, candy can be found, but this is not on a regular basis. If the day is inviting, many gather and eat their snack, which, needless to say, is sacred, at the nearest park whilst running and jumping up and down.

With age and the workload increase, adults stop having these snacks, but not long ago did I read that the goûter was not only to be considered as food for children, but also for adults. So, it is no secret that at home, given how sweet-toothed we are, we take every opportunity to sit down and eat these so-called snacks whenever we have a chance. Sometimes we even go the extra mile and find ourselves before a madeleine or a cake at said ‘tea time’ we now call the same way our youngest Gaelic friends do. So, why deprive ourselves from a Danish or a chocolate croissant whenever the stomach starts to growl? A small bite does no harm.

Who doesn’t like a good crêpe with Nutella and banana?

Baking Bread from scratch (Beginner friendly!)

Bread, like most food, may describe in one way or another how people relate to it according to their culture. For example, in Mexico most people will eat a tortilla, if you are in the north it will most probably be a flour tortilla, while in the center or in the south, it will be white corn tortilla, though it can also be of blue corn, and nowadays they have made some with chipotle or poblano added, or using a mixture of corn with cactus -the latter mostly preferred by ladies of all ages because of the lesser caloric intake. In France, like in most European countries, bread is what accompanies a meal. White, majorly, but whole wheat and organic in the poshest bakeries of the Ville Lumière.

When we first arrived here we did not enjoy completely the texture of what is known as a Baguette Tradition. Little by little we not only got used to it, but we learned to enjoy its flavor and textures. Oh, and we also found where the good bread was sold. One of the reasons for choosing to live this culinary adventure was my intention to find the secret to French bread baking. However, and unfortunately, this is not one class I will have for the time-being. It will take place, just not for now. Since the feeling of ‘urgency’, if I may be allowed to use such a term, was a shared with another one of my classmates, we decided to ask a third fellow student who has already gone through the pastry road to show us how to work the dough.

He gladly agreed to show us. We just needed to get our hands on the recipe to avoid making mistakes when measuring ingredients, since bread needs a certain amount of yeast, especially yeast. Got’em. Now we just needed to mix it, wham it, and dry it.

Oh my God! It was like a little piece of heaven. We prepared an insane amount of bread, some were baguettes. Other pieces were pain de mie. We spread butter and ate it as it came out of the oven. It was like a bread feast. We forced ourselves to stop eating it. We sprinkled zaathar to some, oat to some others, a few more were plain. But all of the pieces were equally tasty.

Truly, now my relationship with bread is different, like with most of the food, and although I still can’t bake a perfect brioche, I will keep on trying to nail it -preferably before attending the corresponding class. It’s just pride, I think.

Now, whenever I leave France, another little piece of the Héxagone will inhabit our home thanks to its bread, its home-baked bread. Care for some?