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Sacré Cordon Bleu: What the French Know About Cooking


A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week (published in paperback as Doing Without Delia, Vintage)

Michael Booth has had his fill of celebrity chefs and their recipes. He wants to know how to cook, not just to follow recipes. So, he burns his cookery books and, together with his young family, heads for a new life in Paris – reasoning that, if anyone can be trusted to make food complicated, it’s the French.

He embarks on the ultimate foodie fantasy, enrolling at the world’s most famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, whose wise and cranky French chefs begin to transform him into a professional, tutoring him in the fascinating, bizarre and occasionally arcane ways of classical French cooking. Meanwhile, he and his family try to adjust to the challenges of life in Paris: dealing with the park Nazis, sweet-talking the Metro police and trying not to look when the neighbours start having sex out of their window.

In this riveting and hilarious book Booth introduces us to his fellow food-obsessed students from around the world; meets Gerard Depardieu (who reveals why you should never eat vegetables from his grandmother’s garden); and hears the extraordinary predictions of the future of food from Hervé This, the founding father of molecular gastronomy.

Booth shares with us the secrets of his training at Le Cordon Bleu and of French cooking itself, explaining how to make the perfect sauce; the secret of great stocks; how to win a fight with a lobster; and how to avoid maiming yourself while cleaning your knives. He explores how France rose to culinary pre-eminence and asks if Paris still deserves its reputation as the culinary capital of the world.

Following both traumas and unexpected triumphs at school, Booth embarks on the ultimate chef’s challenge, he goes to work at the Michelin-starred Paris restaurant of the most famous chef in France, Joël Robuchon.


“The most enjoyable book about food I’ve read since Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.” (Mail on Sunday).

“Michael Booth’s entertaining romp through Parisian kitchen life.” (The Daily Telegraph).

“…as sharp as a Michelin chef’s collection of knives… A flavoursome offering.” (Time Out).

“Hysterically funny account of an English cook’s experiences at the Cordon Bleu in Paris … Bill Bryson for gastronerds … I loved it.” (Bookseller).

“Fast-paced, laugh-a-page … [with] more tips than a library of Gordon Ramsay books.” (Metro).

“Hilarious account of a Brit chef’s time at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.” (The London Paper).

‘Mouth-watering and hilarious.” (The Good Book Guide)

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Sacre Cordon Bleu