“Quiet, We Are Cooking” – Lessons In The Art Of Excellence At EHL

Walk through the kitchens of Berceau des Sens, the Michelin-starred educational restaurant at the renowned EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, and you are struck by the intense concentration, nimble preparation and attentive respect. But you won’t hear any shouting.

Head Chef, Cédric Bourassin wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many of us have been raised on the stereotype of fiery kitchen tyrants, screaming for the next dish, hurling pans away in disgust, and reigning through fear and intimidation. The larger-than-life personalities that have dominated TV screens in MasterChef or the aptly named Hell’s Kitchen may make for entertaining though often painful viewing.

“I wouldn’t trust you running a bath, let alone a restaurant,” is one of the milder Gordon Ramsay reviews.

But for Cédric Bourassin, the sign in the kitchen at Berceau des Sens, “Quiet we are cooking” sets the tone for the learning path in the art of excellence that students at EHL will experience.

“It is essential to stay focused, to concentrate, and be involved in what you’re doing. It is going to be stressful, but it is a positive stress, and it is a way to instill confidence and maintain the absolute highest standards in quality and consistency. ”

They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and in 2019 Berceau des Sens was awarded a coveted Michelin star – the first training restaurant to have ever achieved this accolade. More important to Bourassin is the fact that the school has maintained the Michelin rating every year since. That achievement is all the more remarkable because the teams of EHL’s preparatory year students, which consists of over 125 nationalities change every week.

Bourassin is no stranger to culinary success working across different cultures. After learning his trade in France, he worked for prestigious hotels and restaurants throughout Europe and Malaysia before heading to Japan as Head Chef and Director for the Michel Bras TOYA restaurant, obtaining the ultimate 3-star Michelin rating. His time in Japan shaped him into the chef that he is now, both humble and kind. And calm down.

“In Japan, it’s different because it’s more about Yoshi – they have a huge amount of respect and they will never say no. I learned a lot over there in terms of how to behave, ”he says. “It’s a culture shock because they don’t talk at all, you need to talk to them to get an answer back.”

In 2016, Bourassin joined EHL as Lecturer in Practical Arts and Head Chef at the Berceau des Sens (BDS) to transmit his knowledge and share his passion for cooking. With a dedicated team, Berceau des Sens was quickly awarded 16 out of 20 points by Gault & Millau, with the Michelin star three years in a row. But Bourassin has never lost sight of his true pedagogical objectives.

“I tell my students all the time that we may have a Michelin star, but my priority is you.”

The constant pursuit of excellence is a hallmark of EHL Hospitality Business School, which for the last four years has been ranked number one among hospitality management universities worldwide, according to the QS World University Rankings. Every EHL student on the Bachelors course needs to spend a week working in the kitchens of Berceau des Sens but despite the turnover the kitchen keeps running smoothly.

“We are well structured and organized within the kitchen, and I have an outstanding team. We have one professional chef for every three students – this is the best way to not ‘over-care’ for them, but be able to have an element of oversight of what they are doing. ”

Cédric Bourassin gives individual feedback to each one of his students at the end of the week. “This is very important to me because not only does it help them, I’m also nourishing myself both pedagogically and professionally from them. When you have so many different nationalities in front of you, you are learning daily. This way both sides are progressing. ”

One thing Bourassin is keen to point out is that EHL is not training cooks, but future managers. The time in the kitchens and the front of house ensures hands on learning about the subtleties of service, food preparation and the art of welcoming guests.

“Our teaching staff, all experienced professionals from the finest restaurants and palaces worldwide, accompany and coach each student on their learning path to become top-of-the-class managers in the hospitality industry.” It is a great source of pride for the EHL staff to see that through perseverance and practice, they see new talent blossom as the rituals in the art of excellence are mastered.

“The message I really want to give my students is ‘you are the future managers of tomorrow, so please behave accordingly’ I don’t want to see people shouting, because this does not work well, and definitely will not work well in the future. ”

Cédric Bourassin believes that EHL has a significant role to play in the industry to place greater value on staff. “Staff members are the most important in your company, and if you don’t take care of them then for me you are turning your back on true success.”

This emphasis on talent management has come into sharper focus since the pandemic. For the Head Chef of the Berceau des Sens at EHL, Covid has accelerated the concept of promoting a better work environment, offering people a better work / life balance, and not settling for anything less. Bourassin tells of students coming back from their internships and explaining how they don’t want to go into a particular industry because they weren’t treated with respect or felt taken care of.

He has many more examples though of students who have been inspired by their managers, and have been allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. This is something Bourassin encourages in his kitchen, as it is the best way for his students, and indeed for anyone to learn.

“It is very important to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes. There’s a quote in Japanese, ‘Nana korobi, ya oki’ which means fall down seven times, stand up eight. So my advice for people is to choose to never give up hope, and always strive for more. ”

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