Learning To Cook With COVID-19

A chat with Le Cordon Bleu’s John Daly

When Australia began implementing lockdowns it quickly became apparent that many businesses would have to change the way they operate drastically. This was no different for the education sector, with most schools pivoting to online learning to help students complete their courses.


Le Cordon Bleu, one of Australia’s top culinary schools, has adopted such a model and despite initial challenges it is finding success with a virtual approach. We wanted to know more about the school’s experience during the pandemic, so we talked with the Head Teacher of their Patisserie Program, John Daly.


Like many of the teachers at Le Cordon Bleu, John brings a wealth of foodservice experience to the classroom. His journey from Ireland to Australia led him to Sydney, taking up the opportunity to be a head chef of a waterfront bar in Manly.


“When I first came to Australian in the early 2000s, I was the head chef then in Manly. It was there I met Marco and Jason, friends and eventually business partners. We all worked together and just kept talking about how much we wanted to open a place ourselves,” John explains.


So Our Place On Darling was born.


“It was a bit of a rollercoaster, but it gave me a lot of insight into restaurants and how they worked. I’d been head chef in a few places, but never owned my own place. It’s hard work but was a great experience,” John says with a grin.


After over a decade of running Our Place On Darling, John decided that it was time for something new and began dipping his toes into teaching. In 2016 he started teaching full-time, whilst dedicating the rest of his efforts to his business. Then in May of 2021, John made the tough decision to move on from Our Place On Darling entirely, in what one could argue was fortunate timing.


“We just wrapped up the restaurant, luckily before this (Sydney lockdowns) all happened. The restaurant is finished now. It was great to have that experience and be able to share it with students.”


Now happily settled into his life at Le Cordon Bleu, John has embraced the challenges of running a virtual programme and has enjoyed picking up a few tricks himself.


“The future is going to be a lot more virtual. It has been a massive adjustment in the last year, but that’s going to continue. We have to accept that. But throughout the process I’ve learnt a lot, so that part of it’s fantastic.”


“Trying to apply some of the practical elements of a class in a virtual sense has been challenging, but also exciting at the same time. It’s completely separate to any way that I would have ever learnt.”


“You always want to make sure that deliveries are engaging the students, and upskill in those deliveries. So we’re always trying to use different ways and technologies, and incorporate as much of it as we can..”


It can’t be easy operating given the current circumstances, but it’s amazing to see how the school has been able to adapt. John credits his students when explaining what motivates him.


“Seeing student development, seeing students just take it and grow, it’s without doubt the most rewarding thing. You know, you see students going on and maybe open their own business and just really progressing. It’s really great.”


If you want to learn more about Le Cordon Bleu and what courses they offer, you can visit their website here.