An American expatriate follows her dream to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
When 36-year-old software executive Flinn got fired in 2003, she was faced with a choice: She could look for another job or pursue her passion. Actually, it’s two passions: cooking, and a man. While a corporate wage-slave, she feared making a commitment to Mike back in Seattle. Now unemployed, single and with no country to call home, nothing held her back. She called Mike, drained her savings, moved with him to Paris and started classes. Part memoir, part insider’s look at the famed culinary institute where the world’s elite chefs have been trained in the art of French haute cuisine, the text takes the form of chronological chapters interweaving lessons learned at the school with lessons learned about life. We meet characters both eccentric and multicultural, from the seemingly bipolar Gray Chef to a roster of far-flung classmates. The range of students from Europe, America, South America, Asia and the Middle East makes it apparent that French cuisine is now global, but Flinn merely touches on that theme. It’s not the only potentially fascinating topic she scants; she barely seems to notice that Paris now competes with London, formerly the butt of many jokes about bad food, as the home of superlative dining. Instead, Flinn attempts to use cooking as a life metaphor, a dicey tactic when your personal revelations mostly resemble outtakes from Sex and the City. The book is best when she sticks to cooking, France’s culinary history, diverse regional traditions and the challenges of meeting the impeccable standards of Le Cordon Bleu’s demanding chefs.
A fascinating look inside a famed elite institution, unnecessarily garnished with lackluster autobiography.