first student dinner

Every term, students from each level (Basic, Intermediate, and Superior) get together for a formal student dinner at a fine dining restaurant right here in Paris.  A handful of chefs and administrators from the school join us at this event and in a way, it allows us to get to know the chefs on a more personal level, despite it being at a rather formal setting.

For the students of Basic cuisine and patisserie, our student dinner would be held at L’atelier Maitre Albert, a restaurant in association with Guy Savoy, located at the end (or beginning, depending on which direction you’re facing) of a tiny residential street, just across the bridge from Notre Dame in the 5eme.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this dinner actually.  On the one hand, Guy Savoy is a famed restaurant chef and owner, so you’d think any restaurant that’s associated with him would have to live up to his high standards, but on the other hand, our prix fixe menu for the night seemed rather plain and uninspired… roast chicken as a main course and vanilla ice cream for dessert… bleh ><

Since we were such a large group, the entire back room of the restaurant was reserved just for us.   We arrived at the restaurant around 7:30 and started mingling, sipping on glasses of champagne while waiters went around with platters of little amuse bouche, or appetizers… foie gras on mini toasts, gougeres (guyere cheese puffs), and slices of salami.

In this relaxed, casual setting, under a whole different light, the chefs actually became human and personable!  No longer scolding us for making stupid mistakes or criticizing us for lack of seasoning, the chefs were definitely all smiles and compliments that night =)

Once we all sat down at our tables and toasted our glasses of red wine from Guy Savoy, the feast began!

First up was chilled pea soup with a perfectly poached egg floating on top.   Feeling just a tad bit ravenous from starving myself all day long, I gulped down the entire bowl of soup before the idea even crossed my mind to take a picture of it for memory’s sake.   Oops.   Let me just say the chilled soup was very light and refreshing, a suitable starter for a spring menu, and the poached egg looked and tasted like perfection.

First course came shortly after and was my favorite dish of the night.  Grilled cod and potato puree with an herb-infused olive oil.  Since the potato puree was so smooth and creamy, I’m sure it was loaded with butter and cream, but hey, what’s another 100g of butter when we’ve already got like a kilo of it in our bodies =P  The cod was succulent, flaky, and cooked perfectly, and since I just absolutely love olive oil, I soaked up every last drop of it with some crusty French bread.

I think I had already satisfied my hunger at this point, but there was still more food to come =/  The dreaded roasted chicken and vegetables came next and didn’t fall short of expectations.  Of course, that wasn’t really a good thing since my expectations were already pretty low.   I honestly think the roasted chicken we made in practical tasted more flavorful, tender and juicier than the ones we were served tonight, which is a shame considering the roasted chicken is supposed to be one of the restaurant’s specialty dishes.

Filling pretty stuffed at this point, I excused myself from the table to walk around the restaurant and take a few more candid photos before they brought out dessert.

I had pictured in my mind, a bowl of vanilla ice cream with some whipped cream on top and a couple sticks of rhubarb, but I was in for quite a sweet surprise =)  The poached, chilled rhubarb was layered neatly in a row on the bottom of the plate, cushioning for the scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, and a cornbread madeleine cookie was delicately placed on top like a mushroom cap.  It looked as adorable as a Smurf’s house!  The flavors of this dish, unfortunately, didn’t really come together for me, but still, I gotta give props for presentation.

Given that this student dinner was designed to suit the tastes of Basic Level students, I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh in my review of L’atelier Maitre Albert.   After all, it’s never easy to cook food for a large crowd to be served at the same time and even then, it never really tastes extraordinary.   Nevertheless, this was a memorable experience, and I can’t wait to find out which venue the school has planned for us in Intermediate and Superior Levels!   (That is, if I pass this term ><)


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