I must start this post by saying, for those who have always thought “Cordon Bleu” is a chicken recipe let me tell you, you have been always mistaken.
We have all heard about the great French cooking school Le Cordon Bleu, but where does this name come from? What tradition is held behind centuries of history in excellence of cooking?
It all started in 1578, when Henri III of France created the Order of the Holy Spirit.
A group of people with high power from which some were ecclesiastic, some nobles and some knights. They were known as the Cordon Bleus since the badge of the order was worn hanging from a moirée blue sky riband.
Knights had to work really hard to get such a distinction and had to be minimum 35 years old, however some nobles earned it at birth and had to wait until they were 12 to enjoy the benefits.
This group of knights and clerics were famous for their decadent feasts that gathered the most important chefs in france. Many traders would hold their most precious spices and ingredients brought from abroad for the “Cordon Bleus” so they became famous. Every time an item had written “Cordon Bleu” on it, it meant that either it was out of stock for the next feast or that this item was so good that it had been used on a Cordon Bleu feast.
This is how over the years, the blue ribbon became an insignia of excellence in cuisine. It is known, yet not confirmed, that a group of this connoisseurs were in charge of checking the quality of the food to be served for the king Henry IV.
In 1830, the Order of the Holy Spirit disappeared together with king Charles X but the tradition of the Cordon Bleu remained in the memory of French foodies such as Marthe Distel, a journalist that wrote about food (during the late 1890’s) in a magazine called La cuisinière Cordon Bleu.
In order to promote readership, she decided to contact some of the best chefs in the country to hold cooking lessons. On January 1895 the first class took place nothing less than at the Palais-Royal. Only one year later, together with Henri-Paul Pellaprat, Marthe Distel managed to double in size and have its own building.
Le Cordon Bleu 1896
The school was closed during World War II but as soon as it was over in 1945, Élisabeth Brassart reopened it and has been an international success since.
The most important part of being a Cordon Bleu chef is the symbology of the blue ribbon which in French history means the best of the best and it can be found in every Grand Diplome awarded (like mine below!)
Who would have thought there was so much history behind this name! Now you know that Cordon Bleu is a synonym of culinary excellence.
For more on Le Cordon Bleu, go here, here and here.