Expat chef becomes pure Parisienne

Kaye in Le Cordon Bleu Paris classroom

Ex-pat  Kaye Baudinette is unassuming about her extraordinary life in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu where she is the long-time manager of the Resource Centre at the world-renowned Academie d’art culinaire de Paris.

Thirty years ago when she arrived in Paris on  the next hop of her planned 12-month world tour, she simply decided to stay a little longer.

“I couldn’t speak a word of French when I came here, and after a few years, I thought I had better make plans to stay,’’ says Kaye.

Behind her is an exceptional career path since she clutched proudly her Food and Food Service Diploma from the Gordon Institute of Technology at Geelong, Australia in 1977.

Within a month of arriving in 1981 she was a private chef in Tours which triggered her to learn both the language and obtain a Grand Diplome de Cuisine at Ecole La Varenne in Paris. By the end of the 1980s she was Chef de Cuisine for the Austrian Ambassador to the OECD and for the 1990s decade she was Chef de Cuisine at the Australian Embassy in Paris.

It was  her springboard into Le Cordon Bleu were she  has worked for  10 years.

Her world is and always has been food and she has moved from hands-on chef de cuisine to management.

Details of her exciting life need to be extracted like teeth as we stand in one of  the practical classrooms at Le Cordon Bleu on a tour of the school. Each work station  on a huge slab of marble,  is already set up for 10 students with a neat pile of vegetables, ingredients and utensils.

 Kaye’s pivotal role organising the various courses in the school meant that I have been slotted in to speak for 15 minutes on the evolution of Australian cuisine in the class of Chef de Cuisine, Chef Philippe Clergue, whom I met in Adelaide during Tasting Australia.

“It’s like any job, sometimes the chefs do yell at me,’’ says Kaye.

She exudes “l’air’’ of calm confidence as she moves graciously around the school showing the various classrooms.

We meet the head of chefs, a charming middle-aged French man, Chef Patrick Terrien, in another classroom and she speaks in fluent French one minute, and English the next.

Her language skills reflect how she has moved effortlessly from one world down-under to the heights of the culinary and gastronomical world.

Kaye has all the exotic mannerism of a native-born Parisian – and the bearing of the quintessential French woman – tall, slim, impeccably-couffed in the popular short style of mature Parisian women and superbly dressed in tailored steel-coloured silk jacket.

Yet, she still has the warmth of personality, so familiar at home in Australia because Kaye has made today possible for me.

We are linked back to 2001 when Kaye at Le Cordon Bleu  in Paris worked with our own celebrity chef, Maggie Beer on  the Australian menu for  the launching in Paris of the Encounter 2002 celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the meetingat sea of French captain Nicolas Baudin and English navigator Matthew Flinders back in April 2002.

In Adelaide, I was the cultural issues reporter at The Advertiser, who wrote up the Paris launching for the paper. This was also the beginning of my own odysses into Frenchness and into becoming an author – and thus to today when I speak to the students at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

With a French surname like “ Baudinette’’ and her fluent French, it was a delightful surprise to discover she is Australian and still bears her nationality with her gracious friendliness.

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