STUDENTS at Nowra TAFE’s Commercial Cookery classes were given a rare opportunity on Monday when French pastry chef Severine Meillard staged personalised, hands-on demonstrations.
The students, and in particular teacher Gary Fishwick’s Certificate III Commercial Cookery class, were shown how to
prepare a number of French dishes.
Ms Meillard, who comes from western France, has cooked all over the world during her career.
In fact, she has had two careers. She originally trained as an orthopaedic
surgeon but eight years ago turned to what she described as her real passion: cooking.
Specialising in French pastry and desserts, she created four dishes for the students, including Paris Brest, a dessert made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream, and Tarte Bordaloue with almond cream, a popular French pear tart, said to be named after the street rue Bourdaloue which, in turn, had been named for a 17th-century preacher, Louis Bourdaloue.
She also demonstrated how to make a sable Breton, a French butter cookie or Breton biscuit – a classic French cookie which originated in Normandy.
“Sable” is French for sand, which refers to the sandy texture of this delicate and crumbly shortbread-like cookie and glasage chocolat creation.
Ms Meillard said cooking was all about being creative.
“Sure, you have a traditional recipe that you follow and once you master that, I encourage students to be creative, push the boundaries and try different adaptations,” she said.
“I try to show the students a recipe for a dish they could definitely use in a restaurant and how they adapt it from there is up to them.
“I enjoy being able to come and pass on my knowledge with students.
“I learnt pastry cooking, believe it or not, from an Australian pastry chef, Anthony Lloyd Collar.”
Ms Meillard’s appearance at the college came from teacher Gary Fishwick’s French connections.
“One of my mates over there knew Severine and knew she was coming to Australia so put me in touch with her and we have been able to arrange to stage a number of demonstrations, including one here in Nowra,” he said.
“It is invaluable for the students to be exposed to this style of cooking and expertise.
“Severine is fantastic – she is not like a lot of highly ranked chefs who are often unwilling to pass on their skills and knowledge.
“She is very willing to share what she knows which is invaluable for our
“For the students to be able to learn from someone who cooks in the home of pastry is an incredible experience.
“She has worked around the world in places like Japan, China, Hong Kong, New York and, of course, France, so she has a wealth of experience.”
She is currently working at Hotel de la Plage as well as Brasserie Française.
Her three-week trip is part holiday, part tuition.
“I’m mixing it up with visiting friends and enjoying the trip and also demonstrating to a few classes,” she said.
“Of course I’m also visiting a lot of pastry shops to see what the trends are in Australia and what the chefs are doing.”