Manatee Technical Institute culinary students learn from France’s finest (Bradenton Herald)


MANATEE — Chef Didier Corlou leans over a massive pot bubbling with broth, fans the fragrant steam to his nose and sniffs.

“This is good,” he says.

Soon, pounds of blue crab meat will be dumped in to make a crab soup.

“I’m from Hanoi,” he says in a thick French accent. “We don’t throw because throwing is messy.”

Ten students are gathered around a table covered in crabs. They rip open the crustaceans one by one, digging for meat.

“Work together and move fast,” Corlou says.

• • •

Preparations are underway for the Village de Chefs Food & Wine Fest happening Wednesday night at the Powel Crosley Estate in Sarasota and culinary students from the Manatee Technical Institute are learning more than ever.

They’re working with 20 members of the Village de Chefs, a group of French-trained chefs from around the world, to create dishes for 350 people who will attend the fete.

This partnership is nothing to sniff about.

The prestigious group of cuisiniers came to MTI by choice: “We wanted to share our passion with the students,” said chef Jose Martinez, president of the association and co-owner of the well-established Maison Blanche restaurant in Longboat Key. This is the first time the group has met in the United States.

Guests of Village de Chefs will feast on dishes such as Caribbean bouillabaisse, kangaroo tartar, jambalaya shrimp. They’ll drink wine and enjoy praline truffles and macaroons.

“Tomorrow the students will show all that they’ve done today,” Martinez said Tuesday.

Student Andrew Westberry was eager to learn how to make an apricot glaze from chef Eric Bedoucha of New York.

“It’s big industry experience because they don’t baby us,” Westberry said. “It’s an honor to learn from an international chef because they can teach us things we can’t learn here.”

In the next kitchen, chef Marc Claerbout from Belgium couldn’t speak much English, but with his hands and a bit of French he taught students how to make truffles: plain, praline and coffee.

“I’ve never been in a kitchen with experienced chefs so it’s nice to get that first pulse of experience,” said student Aniria Williams.

•  •  •

Corlou, the Brittany-born chef with a knack for creating sumptuous French-Vietnamese cuisine, is now explaining the difference between a male and female crab — the lines on their underbellies.

“The taste of the juice is different in the male and female crab,” he says. “And each one makes the soup taste different.”

Students listen as they crack, dig, crack, dig.

“For them, to have a view of something different is very important,” Corlou says.

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