Loara. 35 years of Franco-American friendship around the kitchen

“This friendship is pretty crazy,” smiled Jean-Pierre Tholonat, as he consulted his phone to review a few clichés in a few weeks. Since 1986, the Loire Chefs’ Association, of which he is president, has held a cultural exchange with Des Moines University in Iowa, USA. This year, they were 31 to come trec few days in France as part of the 35e anniversary of this partnership (postponed to 2022 due to Covid, ed.). Among them, chefs, donors, the vice-president of the university, especially special apprentice cooks, who came to the Loire to offer a 5-day experience in different restaurants of Ligerian chefs.

This rather unique partnership was created in parallel with the twinning between Saint-Étienne and Des Moines in 1986. “The University of Des Moines had a culinary center. (35,000 students in total, ed.), Iowa Culinary Institute. Chief Robert, who is now retired, did not know how to boost this American formation, ”said Jean-Pierre Tholonat. “There was a French teacher, Maura Nelson, who had studied at the Sorbonne and was well acquainted with French culture. She had the idea to see with the Ligerian leaders if they could not set up a partnership. They saw this with the chefs of the region and the Chamber of Commerce, and in January, they decided that 2 chefs from the region went to give classes for 1 month “, he continues.

“The Best Formation of All American Midwest”

From then on, multiple Ligerian chefs left the Iowa side each year to teach French cuisine to American students. “We have had a university chair in Des Moines for 35 years, it is unique in the world. We are the only association that can teach in America. “, Emphasizes them responsibly. And now, les chefs ligériens only leave for 15 days, it continues to do every year. “It has become the best formation in the entire American Middlewest,” he said.

Teaching is done in the amphitheater, with the help of a translator who is there while the chef explains the recipes. “We make a gala menu.” There are demonstrations of the whole menu, from appetizers to fish, to meats or desserts. All this is done in a week, there are classes in the morning and in the evening, ”continues Jean-Pierre Tholonat. “The following week, all this is put into practice by these students who will serve 3 French gala menus at the school for a hundred people.” »

The president of the Loire Chefs’ Association has already left the Atlantic on many occasions as a teacher. While he insists that Americans are very technical, he admits that they “have less of the artistic and fanciful side here.” La culture culinaire is quite international. When you start cooking all together, you don’t need words to work well and be in agreement, ”he says.

The distribution of the 9 trainees in May

The 9 American trainees (6 girls and 3 boys) who came to France on May 23 were distributed in a draw in various Ligerian restaurants.

At Jérôme Baron-Pélossier’s La Grignotière restaurant in Marclopt: Jesse Paulsen

At Julien Magne’s in Le Clos Perché restaurant in Montarcher: Mackensie Frush

At Jérôme Baron-Pélossier’s La Grignotière restaurant in Marclopt: Caroline Held

At Alexandre Cipriani’s Le Pont Nantin restaurant in Saint-Chamond Alex Rosch

Chez Sylvain Roux for 1 week at Château Blanchard in Chazelle sur Lyon and 1 week at Sophie Rosnoblet du Carré Buffet restaurant in Saint-Galmier: Alissa Charp

Chez Ludovic Guinand for 1 week at Le Chêne à Violay restaurant and 1 week at Loïc Picamal du Picamal à Violay restaurant: Brittany Anderson

At Maxime Chaffangeon’s Le Ginkgo restaurant in Balbigny: Katie Bass

At Fabien Gauthier’s restaurant Rongefer’s workshop in Charlieu: Jordan Forster

At Fred Stalport’s Ma Chaumière au Côteau restaurant: Taylor Naughton


A graduation ceremony for apprentice cooks

On Monday, June 6, at the Gingko Inn in Balbigny, Chef Maxime Chaffangeon welcomed the 9 apprentice chefs in training in the Loire for the graduation ceremony. Each year, the Loire Chefs’ Association awards these young students a diploma attesting that they have completed a training course in the Hexagon. «. It is not a diploma of competence, it is a diploma proving that they have done a good internship with French chefs “, insisted Jean-Pierre Tholonat. “It’s important for them, it allows everyone who came to France to boost their careers,” he added.

That’s how Jesse, Mackensie, Caroline, Alex, Alissa, Britanny, Katie, Jordan and Taylor were able to share a smile with another little memory in their hands.

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