Alyssammayhew’s Blog

January 22, 2009

French chef brings diversity to Houston, Texas

Filed under: Uncategorized — alyssammayhew @ 6:08 pm

French chef brings diversity to Houston, Texas

By Andrea Sutton, Examiner News

“As he walks through the halls of his namesake culinary school, Memorial resident Alain LeNotre greets students, faculty and staff with an authentic “Bonjour.” Coming from a long line of French chefs, he has helped diversify both Houston and his family’s culinary legacy with the Culinary Institute Alain and Marie LeNotre, 7070 Allensby.

Owned and operated by he and his wife Marie, the school prides itself on fast-paced, hands-on culinary programs that are designed to get students out of school and into a professional kitchen much faster than its competitors.

CULINARY MASTERS: Memorial residents Alain and Marie LeNotre own and operate the Culinary Institute Alain and Marie LeNotre, which has recently become an accredited junior college. Alain’s family founded a chain of noted restaurants and pastry shops in Paris.

REALLY COOKING NOW: Shannon Palmer, pictured, left her job at an investment firm to study culinary arts at the Culinary Institute Alain and Marie LeNotre because of its fast-paced, hands-on program.

The school recently expanded its educational reach by becoming an accredited junior college. On June 26, it will offer associates of applied science degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry. Students can still earn “diplomas” (less hours) in Cuisine, baking and pastry and culinary arts.

The corresponding associate’s degrees at a competitor Houston school requires a minimum of 21 months to complete. LeNotre’s programs only require 60 weeks, or 15 months, if the student attends classes full-time.

“I wanted the school to be known for learning the maximum number of recipes in the minimum number of weeks,” said Alain, who also emphasizes the business side of restaurants in the school’s curriculum.

“To be a chef is not enough to run a business,” said the third-generation chef. In order to move up the corporate ladder, a good chef needed to know management, he said.

When Shannon Palmer left her job at an investment firm to become a chef, the Houston resident was impressed by the school’s fast-track, hands-on program.

“I wanted to cook because I just love it,” she said. “There’s less classroom time here and you spend more time cooking.” She added that it’s great being able to cook all day without having to do the dishes.

Palmer began the diploma program in November and will finish this month.

She wants to first work in a high-volume kitchen and then do personal cooking. She believes that with the LeNotre name on her resume she can get a job anywhere.

Although the school is not affiliated with his family’s French pastry and cuisine franchise LeNotre Paris or its associated school, Alain has drawn from his upbringing and teaches many family recipes and kitchen techniques at the school.

His father, Gaston LeNotre, created the Parisian chain with eight pastry shops and two-star Michelin restaurants using recipes from his own parents, Alain’s grandparents. Alain grew up in the bakery, and it was tradition for him to take part in the family business.

With his father, Alain created the first continuing education school for chefs in Paris. The father and son were the first French bakers to franchise their businesses, which are now in 12 countries.

Just as the LeNotre businesses have spread throughout the world, students from many countries have learned of the Houston school and come here to attend.

The LeNotres have taught students from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Japan and, of course, France.

“We didn’t know we’d have so much help on the Internet,” Alain said.

“We are making Houston known for famous culinary training,” he said of the city usually known for energy and space.

The couple, who raised five children in Hedwig Village, met in Paris while Athens-native Marie was studying French. Having an empty nest, the couple has relocated to a high rise in the area.

Years after marrying into a family of chefs, Marie still considers herself an outsider.

“I am not a chef,” she said. “I don’t want to be one. I want a chef at home.”

That’s fine with Alain. He said she’s a good taste-tester. Just because Marie is not a chef doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her hands in the field. She is the director of the school, and the recent accreditation is a result of her work.

She is also the 2005-’06 president of the Houston Chapter Les Dames d’Escoffier, a society of professional woman of achievement in the food and beverage industry.

Continuing the family tradition, two of their children, Charles and Cecil, are chefs in France.

The institute also offers summer camps for teens and adults, which begin this month. For information about the school, visit or call 713-692-0077.”


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