Last night, Nils Norén, the Vice President of Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute, was kind enough to give Susanna and me a tour of the facilities, and then treat us to a spectacular dinner at the Institute’s restaurant, L’Ecole. It was an incredible evening. (We had met Nils last year when he was a panelist on my round-table about ‘Masters of the Senses‘ at the Philoctetes Center).
We saw students from around the world making the most delicious things, from breads and cakes to pasta and meat dishes. David Arnold, the Director of Culinary Technology, taught me how to saber a champagne bottle. This is a technique for chopping the top off a champagne bottle with a sword (although it can also be done with a heavy knife, as you can see in the photos). It is amazing that it works!
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Nils and Christina Wang, the Director of Education, and afterwards Nils introduced us to the founder of the Institute, Dorothy Cann Hamilton, and the deans of the school, including the legendary Alsatian chef André Soltner, chocolatier Jacques Torres, Alain Sailhac and Cesare Casella. I was asked to do some magic and I managed to secretly remove Dorothy’s watch. Jacques Torres then explained that all the deans had bought her a special Christmas gift. At that point André Soltner opened his hand and there was her watch!
Check out these “sabering” photos (click to enlarge):