Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Adventures in Venlo, The Netherlands Part 2

                             Over the Halfway mark 

So heres my second blog of my time here in Venlo. I have over half way there already which is crazy to think its gone that quick. Since my last blog post we really have settled in so well.

We are currently studying Semester 2 of International Fresh Business Management  in Fontys University. The Course consists of 6 Modules ; Fresh Business Knowledge, Marketing, Statistics, Economics, Fresh Supply Chains, Logistics, Study and Career Management and Dutch Language. All modules have a food aspect in the study which makes it quite interesting to learn new information. One of aspect I love about the course is tha there are lot of presentations involved in class work which is a great way to improve your public speaking skills but also to build your confidence.  The college itself is very modern state of the art college with all means of transactions threw card payments ( but unfortunately do not except visas) All around the University there are many comfortable seating areas to sit down to catch up with friends or to get up to date on some college work.

So since the last time we were talking we have been lucky enough to travel to Brussels on a day trip which the University kindly arranged for the exchange students. There was no schedule set out for the day which I would prefer because everyone will want to visit different  tourist attractions then others.  We ate some delicious Belgian waffles ( both sweet and savoury because you know just for future reference on which one we preferred 😉). During the holidays seven of us decided to jet off to the beautiful city of Milan, Italy where we spent five nights there. We travelled around Milan itself the first day but we also visited Lake Como and Bergamo. Lake Como was my favourite part of the trip, the beautiful scenery of the mountains and lake was beautiful.

So Venlo itself it quiet a big town. Im still discovering so many areas of it still. It is quiet busy town especially during hot weather because they such big outdoor sitting areas for the restaurants and cafes here. Our favorite place to go is to Burgers&Beers Restaurant for a delicious Burger it’s a great place for students as they offer very reasonable prices for lunch and dinner. We do also love going to Locomotif Gastro Bar for cold beer and play some card games with friends.

That’s all for now I will be checking in next time for my last blog post of this semester !

Aine 😊

Monday, 22 April 2019

Lyonnaise adventures and getting down to the French hustle..continued 

    Coucou tout le monde! We meet again. :) 

I have finally gotten a chance to sit down and update everyone on our French adventures and culinary advancements in Institut Paul Bocuse! 
Place Bellecour-Lyon. 

As always, everything said in this blog is a reflection of my own personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. 

Having finally made the advancement to third year, I can say that is has been a hell of a ride. After having been moved up, I continued on to a week of "la Patisserie" which was a week spent making traditional French entremet's and gateaux's . As (recently discovered) pastry and boulangerie are my passion, I have learnt an immense amount and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I have also picked up on a phrase that may be some food for thought : " Pastry is international but patisserie is French" - anyone who has been to/studied pastry in France may be in agreement. ;) 

Patisserie - Gateaux St. Honore 
Following the week in patisserie, I began a 4 week rotation in the Institut Restaurant Place Bellecour. 
IPB has several restaurants around Ecully/Lyon which are either run by or related to the Institute. This particular restaurant is situated in one of the busiest and most affluent parts of the city,Place Bellecour. This area holds a large amount of the city's restaurants, theatres and cinemas and whilst they are spread out all over Lyon, Bellecour seems to be a personal favorite for a lot of people. The restaurant is situated inside a hotel run by the Accor group and serves roughly 45 for lunch and 50-65 for dinner. 
Patisserie - Chocolate tart. 

I must say that personally, my time in Bellecour was one of the more enjoyable periods of being in Lyon, and I know the experience is similar for Derek. Working hours are 8am to 3pm(including mise en place and service), there is a pause from 3-5 and the day continues from 5-11/midnight. I was in pastry during my 4 weeks in Bellecour, and it must be said that the pastry chef was one of the least French-like chefs that I have ever met and we got along extremely well. The quality of the food is that of a fine dining bistro, with traditional French touches, finished in a modernised fashion. 
Restaurant Bellecour - Macaron dessert 

Having completed the 4 week rotation in Bellecour, Derek and I finally got the chance to work together in our final rotation of restaurant 'Saisons' . This particular restaurant has a reputation of being the toughest rotation out of all of the above to get through. 
It is perhaps the most prestigious, gastronomical and fine dining restaurant of the Institute campus. The food, ingredients used and quality of the produce is undeniably top notch. The production of dishes is very regimented and supervised with Michelin star standards and good waste management techniques in place. The current head chef's aim is to obtain a Michelin star, as a result the students are pushed the same way they would be in a true Michelin star restaurant environment. Wokring hours begin at 8am through to 3/3.30 , after which there is a pause again until 5 and one begins again at 5 through to midnight/1 am. Whilst hours are similar to that of Place Bellecour, the rhythm of work is entirely different. Each student is given the responsibility of a section in groups of 2/3. Derek and I were both placed in garde manger, but were often swapping between the amuse bouche and entree sections. In my honest opinion, the working environment in restaurant 'Saisons' is that of a typical mayhem Michelin star restaurant. The chefs are very meticulous, merciless with the standards of perfection and everything must run as they wish, without interruptions, in the hopes of one day achieving the star on the restaurant's door. 

Saisons - Egg starter. 
Having told you the facts, I will now aim to open up about my own personal feelings and thoughts on the past couple of weeks. 
I came to Lyon with the expectation that I will be getting the true Erasmus experience with regular 9-5 college hours, integration into a group of international students, time to explore the cultural and social life of the city, and most importantly to sample the world-famous French gastronomy. 
To my disbelief, this did not end up being the case at all. 
Upon landing in France, we were faced with multiple complications including the course running in French instead of English, being separated from each other with Derek, cultural and social differences between France and Ireland and dealing with difficult working conditions and very long working hours. 
My incredible roommate Ana
 and a Lyonnaise food market. 
I personally truly had to keep my head and heart in the game as , once again, I prepared for a life of constant hustle just as I did in Budapest. Some days were considerably more difficult then others, and some days I stood back and was amazed at how well we are both dealing with all of the above and the immense amount of learning that is taking place. Derek and I lost touch with each other, sometimes days and weeks on end as our rotations took us on different hours and the majority of days off were spent recovering physically, and enjoying our beauty sleep. 
Throughout it all, I have had the privilege to be immersed in the finest French patisserie, boulangerie and gastronomy, and the things I have seen so far and I am sure will continue to see in France will influence me for months and years to come!
Having such a lack of free time definitely forced us to get out and make the most of our days off, enjoying local French boucheries and the weekly weekend markets, which continue to amaze me to the same level as they did the first time I ever visited them! 

Alors, that will be all for today. 
I will soon be back for my last and final blog post and wrap-up of my period in France and my Erasmus year! 
Until then, bisous! 

Monday, 15 April 2019

From the castle in the Rockies to the castle in the French country side.............

Institut Paul Bocuse

For those of you who are just joining in on reading this blog, my name is Derek Mc Clelland. I’m a 3rd year student from Waterford Institute of Technology studying in year 3 of a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts. This Semester I am currently studying at Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon France.

In this, my second blog here from France I want to be truthful about my experiences in a way the is respectful and that adheres to our blog posting guidelines.

Since I landed here in France, my time here has truly been a roller coaster of emotions. The last three months has been some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do.  My Erasmus here at IPB has been a very different Erasmus experience then others may be experiencing now. I’ve been sad and lonely and wanted to go home so many times, but I have pushed on and continued.

Me and My Mother Vieux Lyon March 19
In March I welcomed my parents for a long weekend, it was great seeing them after 8 months in Canada. They loved Lyon all the bustling’s streets and fresh food markets. We ventured to Geneva in Switzerland for a day trip which was a really nice place to see, expensive but nice. 

Lake Geneva 
If you are reading this as a second-year student and are undecided on where you want your international year to take you I really urge you to consider all your options carefully. I do recommend that you consider studying a semester here at IPB the only advice I can give you is that you look at everything from both sides. Yes, if you choose to come to IPB it will be extremely hard work but the benefits you will gain from that will be greater than anything else you will experience at another college.

Classes here at IPB are moving on fast, before I knew it my 4 weeks at Restaurant experience were over and on to my final 4 weeks at Restaurant Saisons.

Restaurant Experience: 
Experience Restaurant is in the research building of IPB and is run by chef Florent Boivin and chef Olivier Pons two incredibly skilful chefs with a wealth of culinary knowledge.  Each chef here has two weeks with a class group.

The first week of this rotation the students are brought back to basics like I mentioned in my previous blog, working on cuts of vegetables, filleting fish, meats, sauces and stock all the classical French techniques you could think of. At the end of this week you were examined on these skills and scored accordingly.  The next week after this brought on the live service of the restaurant with a max of 30 guests, with a menu of chef Boivin. The last two weeks were with chef Pons who’s is an incredible man so focused on the students learning. The final week at restaurant experience was focused on the students own menu with no involvement from the main chef.

The concept of this restaurant as the name suggests is to give the guest a culinary experience.  The service happens Wednesday to Friday with Monday and Tuesday being mise en place days. each night of service two students would be placed in the restaurant with the guest they would explain in depth each course to the guest and would have some involvement in finishing the dish in front of the customer for example pouring of a sauce, spooning a foam, or torching the skin of cured fish all the provides an experience for a guest.  Over all I really enjoyed my time in the class rotation. 
Canapes Restaurant Experience Week 3

Restaurant Saisons:
Three weeks ago, I began my final 4-week rotation at Restaurant Saisons by Chef Davy Tissot. Saisons restaurant is in the castle of IPB an incredible setting for it. The Kitchen is impeccable offering up amazing dishes using equally amazing quality of produce. The work here is very hard going you can expect to be working 16 to 17-hour days. The organisation of the kitchen is something that is a constant, everything has a home, labels must go on boxes a certain way etc some things are a bit OCD, but this organisation keeps the kitchen running efficiently.  The chef is aiming for a Michelin star and nothing, but perfection is expected from each student.

For the 4-week rotation I am working in Garde manger, I am responsible for the snacks and amuse bouche. They gave me the easy job. For the first week or so I was working with my friend Hanna also from WIT in Garde manger this was the first time we had got to work with each other since coming to France, unfortunately she left early as she had commitments back in Waterford.
Saisons kitchen

Pigeon as fresh as it gets, being prepared for the meat section.

As I said above nothing, but perfection is expected of each student working here, which in a way is good as the student is pushed to achieve the best that they can. At the restaurant you are classed as a Junior chef de Partie and everyone has responsibilities within the kitchen as well as the execution of the dishes. The students are responsible for the ordering of produce, stock take, cleaning, organisation, everyday kitchen task etc. Last week we had the pleasure of cooking for Anne-Sophie Pic a 3 Michelin star chef.

Anne-Sophie Pic April 2019
This is my final week studying at Institut Paul Bocuse and I can say that its been a very hard learning experience, some moments more enjoyable then others but at the end of the day I have learned from this experience. Success does not come without hard work but to be successful you must respect those that work for you and around you.

I believe that everything happens to teach us something. I’ve certainly had my fair share of lessons this year. If I’ve learned anything in the last year its this, the most difficult and testing of times are the ones you’ll always remember. Not  for the pain, the struggle, the tears, or the heartache but for the strength of your character and the depth of your heart.

I leave you now to return to my final week of classes, I look forward to writing my final  blog very soon on my experience over the last 12 months.

A Bientot,

Derek 😊

Thursday, 11 April 2019

All college no fun, Makes Rob a dull boy.

greetings from the six,
That's Toronto for anyone who doesn't know, I've decided this blog is going to deviate from the norm in a couple of ways. firstly I think we're putting too much emphasis on college in these blogs if we were  only on international placement for learning we could have stayed in W.I.T. so this blog post is primarily focused on what I've been doing for the last month and a half  outside of my culinary management program at Humber College, Toronto. Secondly, I've been taking a few videos and stuff while on my day to day rambles around Canada and have edited them into some form of clip to better convey what we're at.

You may remember in my last blog post about an upcoming winter camping trip in Killarney provincial park. Well, that come and gone now and I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of my entire time in Canada thus far. we spent 3 days in the centre of a national park with 33 other international students from Humber and did so many activities, the below video is only some of what we have done.
it was an expensive excursion but it was a real once in a lifetime kind of experience lying in 2 feet of snow in the middle of a frozen lake in Canada looking at a full moon is something I won't forget soon. so have a quick look at the below video and I apologise for my laugh haha.

of course, Toronto itself is an amazing city and is only an hour away to downtown. due to the perpetual winter, Toronto is currently experiencing most activities are limited to indoor activities so shopping is a major trend we participate in. whether its the Eton centre, a sprawling underground shopping mall 3 storeys deep. walking along the vintage shops of queen street west or the world famous St Lawrence Market in the old town there's always somewhere to pass a bit of time and pick up a bargain. Lawrence market is probably the best place to visit and is a great place to sample some foods and combinations that otherwise would fall under the radar. I've put together a quick video tour of Lawrence market for all you people that cannot make it. apologies that I was stuffing my face at the beginning but the food is just so tasty
of course, we also go out occasionally to pubs and clubs but it's very limited we live quite close to Toronto when public transport is running but when it's over it can be a tad expensive to get a taxi or an uber back to res. one day that we had to celebrate of course was St Patrick's day. we went to the Polsen pier to go to one of Toronto's largest nightclubs "Rebel" it's situated right across the lake from the harbourfront so the view is absolutely stunning. we went with our international group of buddies so there was about 20 of us. two Irish and eighteen pretending to be Irish. as you can probably tell from the below video it was a brilliant day and night and it was nice to have to St Patrick's days in a row when it was snowing. 

of course, we do a lot more things but this is just a quick snapshot of a Humber college international student and how much fun we're having in this wonderful country. College hasn't really changed since my blog was last updated so im leaving till my last blog post to wrap it all up in a nice little package. 
Robert Condren 

Friday, 5 April 2019

How to Pack a Suitcase in 30 Minutes…...... Venlo

The ground is lava in Brussels

For those of you who just started following this blog but don’t know me I am Tom. This semester I am doing my exchange semester as the second part of my international year from Waterford Institute of Technology. So therefore, I am attending Fontys International Business School Venlo. Since my last blog a lot has happened, this includes, settling into university, multiple trips and embracing the exchange programme. All in all living life in the moment.
Upside down in Vilnius 
University what can I say, so organised and accommodating. The modules I am studying are all business related, they cover logistics, economics, marketing, statistics and business knowledge. We are also learning Dutch to adopt a bit of the culture.  All the course content is new and challenging. We are constantly been pushed out of our comfort zone with presentations and group work. One of our classes is structured so that we begin the class with a topic, we have to research that topic in groups and present the findings at the end of the class. The only subject we have had a major issue with was statistics. We tried our best to understand it but we failed to keep up with the rest of the class as we had not completed the basics which were taught last semester. I was so confused one day the answer was on the board and I didn’t know if it was another question or the answer. We sat down with the lecturer to air our concerns and he came up with a solution. This solution was for us to go back to the start, self-teach ourselves and meet the lecture once a week for progress report and help us with questions we might have. The university has created a very friendly learning environment where students’ problems are dealt with quickly and efficiently.
The Windmills of Zaanse Schans
Of course, while time is primarily occupied with college, I do occasionally get out from my vigorous study to have a social life. Since my last blog I have travelled to three different countries, Lithuania, Belgium and Germany, as well as travelling to multiple towns in the Netherlands. Each place I went I tried different foods and drinks and experienced some of the culture from the area. I had not traveled to any of these countries before so it was a really great experience. The Netherlands was continued to surprise me. The most ambitious trip I went on was three cities, Utrecht, Den Hague and Amsterdam, the beach and to many trains to count all in the space of sixteen hours. That was my first time in Amsterdam and I was very much looking forward to seeing why Ireland has made it the number one holiday destination. After travelling to other parts of the country Amsterdam was only ok. It was like going into Temple Bar for a cheap drink (non-existent). I have since been to Amsterdam once more by day this time but still wasn’t impressed.  I will however be going back for Kings Weekend at the end of April. I have been to see the traditional windmills in a town up north of Amsterdam also. It has been a crazy month of travel but it is easily achievable and I haven’t missed one day of college yet.
As you can imagine with all the college work and travel my time is pretty well gone. However, I do find the odd night for a social drink or two. One of the biggest weeks in Venlo is the week coming up to lent. It is called Carnival and the circus most certainly rolled into Venlo. To describe this time, it is like St. Patricks day on repeat for a week. Everyone has to dress up, you are not allowed into the city centre without costume. It was a great experience but the number of plastic cups produced was crazy. Each night walking through the city it felt like you were trapped in a ball pit, but instead of balls you were drowning in plastic cups. There have been many other social gatherings, most of which have been organised by other exchange students allowing us to experience their different culture. We hosted a small gathering for St Patricks Day and even had Tatyo crisps as a snack.
Overall, I have no negative points about my life in Venlo. I am learning, travelling and experiencing all the different cultures people have to offer….

Carnival Weekend

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Let the work begin

Hello everyone, Shannon here.

After an amazing four and a half months in Canada, its time for me to get back into the working environment. My work placement is at the Cultra Inn on the grounds of the Culloden Estate and Spa, located outside Belfast in the scenic town of Bangor.

After being on study placement, I couldn't wait to get back into the kitchen environment. It was a small bit nerve wrecking at first as it was a new kitchen I was walking into. My nerves were soon at ease once i met the team i would be working with for the next few months. All the staff were so welcoming which really helped me to settle in. The first couple of shifts I did were full on as I was being shown how everything worked and how all the dishes were prepared and presented. The first month in the Cultra flew by! Before I knew it, I was preparing the dished and plating them with my own little spin on them. 

Some of the starters.
Since starting in the Cultra, I have been shown the different sections. By starting on starters and desserts and on occasion the pass and the hot section. It makes it easier being moved around every now and then as I am learning a lot more than just one section. I am learning a lot from all the chefs here, especially how to plate all the dishes in different ways. Everyone has their own style of plating certain dishes. 

A Birthday slate for a Customer.                                                                       Bailey's Cheesecake.

 It has been a very good first month at the Cultra Inn, I am looking forward to learning more in the months to come. I will check back in with more pictures of different dishes and how I am getting on.

Uni Life in Venlo

Over two months have passed since moving to the Netherlands. When writing my first blog about moving to Venlo, I don’t think I realised how utterly content I’d truly feel about being here. In this blog I’m going to talk about what we have been getting up to in Fontys University. This one is for anyone really interested in choosing Fontys as their place of study.

The Library

Our course, International Fresh Business Management, allows us to explore a completely different side of the food industry. It is basically the study of how food can be produced and transported in the most productive and efficient way possible. It’s a pretty technical course, with a lot of unique theory and maths. We study eight modules for our course.
Here’s a little explanation of our modules…

Economics: A basic look at how the financial world works. Surprisingly quite interesting.

Fresh Business Knowledge: An insight into EU food legislation for food packaging and processing. We have covered most of this in WIT already, so this is an easier module for us
Supply Chains: All about finding the most effective way to create flow charts and distribution chains for food processing companies and transportation. Pretty confusing sometimes and requires a very specific way of thinking… still working on it!

Fresh Business: This is a marketing module, with a study of different analysis techniques to measure company performances.

Research Methodology: Slightly misleading name, this is actually statistics. It was initially far too advanced for us but after speaking to the lecturers it was agreed we could study more basic content (much to our relief!).

Dutch: We were initially put in a Dutch class with students who already had been studying the language for quite some time. We were luckily able to move into a beginner’s Dutch class specifically designed for exchange students. Slowly getting the hang of it.

Project Logistics: Love it or hate it, this is one big group project. Throughout the whole semester we are doing a study on a company producing tinned and jarred mushrooms. All of the other modules have a common theme of mushroom companies in order to tie it back to the project. This module requires the most work. We are in groups of five and are mixed in with students from the German course so the language barrier can sometimes be a bit of a problem. Good teamwork experience! This module also has a heavy focus on Excel training.

Study Career Management: We are in semester 2 of this course so the rest of the students are first years. This module is all about personal development and how to work effectively in a team etc. The lecturer of this module has given us permission to not attend these lectures as we have already seen this sort of content a hundred times throughout our education. Instead, we must write an assignment based on goals we have set for ourselves.

Study Area

The teaching style in Fontys is quite different to that of the lecturers in WIT. Even during class there is a lot of self-learning and presentations. I’m not entirely sure if I like this way of working but it is suitable for the type of course it is. All the lecturers are really lovely and any problems we’ve had have been quickly dealt with. The workload is pretty heavy in comparison with what we are used to at home but it’s still manageable.

The timetable changes a good bit here.We haven't a huge amount of time in school, especially since we have been excused from the SCM and Research Methodology classes. Most students timetables usually allow for one day off, but we now have Dutch on this day. Throughout the semester there are just two separate weeks off. 

It is currently ‘Bizz Week’ here in uni. Instead of having classes each day we are spending the week visiting different companies in the surrounding area. We are visiting various different mushroom farms and processing companies in order to gain a better understanding of the industry for when we are doing the project logistics module. This is unique to our course and I think it is a great opportunity.

Monaghan Mushroom Farm

As I have said, the course offers a totally different look at the food industry. While I don’t think it would be everyone’s cup of tea, most of the information is relevant for all professions. If you are thinking about coming to Fontys for your study abroad, you absolutely should. Be mindful that you get the option to do semester 2 or 4 of the course and I definitely recommend choosing to do semester 2 rather than semester 4 as it would be far too advanced.

Pretty scenes along the river

That is all for my blog about uni in Venlo. I am looking forward to sharing all about what mischief we are getting up to during our time outside of lessons!

Until next time,