Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bleu murder

Cordon Bleu logoWith Martinborough and Masterton fighting it out to be home to New Zealand's only Le Cordon Bleu International School of Cuisine, I had to ask: why not Wellington? Sure, Wairarapa has the wine, but Wellington has the population, the infrastructure and a formidable culinary reputation. For the 300 students, wouldn't it be more educational and inspirational to be based in a city with a thriving metropolitan restaurant scene? After all, the major Pinot Noir NZ events aren't held in the vineyards, but in the capital.

The promoters seem to be looking for a greenfields site for a purpose-built facility, and while such sites are rare in the city, there could be plenty of places at Harbour Quays or on the waterfront (Kumutoto sites 8-10; the OPT) that would make fantastic locations for such a school. Cordon Bleu schools around the world often offer top restaurants and public cooking courses, both of which are likely to attract more customers in downtown Wellington than in the Wairarapa.

All this speculation is presumably too late, however. According to the press release from UCOL, "The International School of Cuisine is a central component of the Major Regional Initiative (MRI) developed in partnership with UCOL, Go Wairarapa and the Wairarapa Wines Promotion Group", so the school was always intended to be in the Wairarapa. Of the two, Masterton might be better for Wellingtonians, since it's directly accessible by rail. On the other hand, Martinborough is more visitor-friendly, and represents the new, gentrified side of the Wairarapa. I remember a Speights ad on the outskirts of Masterton not that long ago: the young Southern Man said "I could murder a Pinot Gris", and the grizzled Southern Man replied "You hold it down, son, I'll shoot it". Hardly Cordon Bleu!


At 3:28 pm, January 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I dislike having to agree with you Tom, the idea of Le Cordon Bleu International School of Cuisine being in the Wairarapa does seem a somewhat odd decision. The schools in Australia are the Le Cordon Bleu culinary and management school located in Sydney (1), New South Wales; and the management and gastronomy courses provided in conjunction with universities in Adelaide (2), South Australia. I would have thought that if it was deemed a wise decision to place such schools in the wine regions then the Australian schools would be in the Hunter Valley or similar. There is also the point to be made that UCOL has traditionally been seen as somewhat more of the "black jeans and holdens" demographic you have spoken of recently rather than a home for Cordon Bleu.

Is it too late to lobby for the school to be in Wellington?

At 3:57 pm, January 04, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Oh, I'm not that hard to agree with, am I?!

The existing Le Cordon Bleu schools are in Paris, London, New York, Ottawa, Tokyo, Yokohama, Seoul, Sydney, Adelaide, Brasilia, Lima and Mexico City. All major metropolises and/or national capitals: Masterton just doesn't seem right in that company. As you say, if other schools had been in the Hunter Valley (or Napa, or Bordeaux), then the Wairarapa (or Hawkes Bay or Marlborough) would have made sense, but this seems out of character.

> Is it too late to lobby for the school to be in Wellington?

Very probably, I'm afraid. It looks like it was a Wairarapa initiative from the start, and since it's received regional development funding, I don't see any way of grabbing it now. I have to congratule the people behind this, since it's a fairly bold venture and would be a great boost for their region, but it looks like Wellington could have been more proactive in attracting the school rather than making a doomed attempt to grab the V8 races!

At 4:09 pm, January 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have been known to be very hard to agree with, but then some of our beliefs on certain subjects are poles apart. That aside, it appears, as you say, that Le Cordon Bleu school is lost to Wellington - such a pity.

Any other ventures on the horizon for Wellington that should be encouraged?

At 4:36 pm, January 04, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

> You have been known to be very hard to agree with, but then some of our beliefs on certain subjects are poles apart.

Well, it's good to know I'm not just preaching to the converted. So, are you a motorway supporter, or do you prefer your Martinis shaken? :-)

> Any other ventures on the horizon for Wellington that should be encouraged?

Not that I can think of, but then, I don't know whether the Cordon Bleu school was looking around for a NZ location, or whether the Wairarapa people just went ahead and asked them. I'm trying to think of other fields where Wellington already has a reputation but where there's room to take it further.

Film's an obvious example, and the whole "Silicon Welly" thing could be poised to get much bigger. Both of those are industries where education and commerce could get together, perhaps with council help, to produce something bigger and more exciting than the sum of their parts.

Another thought would be to create a centre for sustainable design, concentrating on ESD in architecture but also in re/up-cycled product design and renewable energy technologies. The Schools of Architecture could get together with MfE, the councils, private enterprise to create a combined research and education centre, one that physically embodies its principles and acts as a testbed for new technologies as well as a showcase and public education centre.

Other possibilities, such as the School of Music, Institute of Modern Letters and the Marine Education Centre, are already happening, but I'm sure there are plenty of other possibilities to think about.

At 4:39 pm, January 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just tell me somewhere that makes a quality cup of tea in this coffee obsessed city.

At 4:58 pm, January 04, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Hmm, with your domain name, I wouldn't have suspected you to be a tea drinker...

Roxy in upper Cuba St has a good selection of t-leaf-T, but last time I was there they didn't seem to know how to brew it. That was when they'd just opened, so maybe they've learned by now.

I always notice various teas and tisanes behind the counters, but I've never really tried them. I used to drink Earl Grey, but I don't bother now. I guess I could make it at home easily, whereas making a decent espresso is a big investment in effort and equipment.

Perhaps Wellington's obsession with coffee is related to being the world headquarters of the verb. Coffee just has more of an association with activity and dynamism, and tea with calmness and settling down. Imagine the phrases: "a nice cup of ristretto and a lie down" and "wake up and smell the English Breakfast". Doesn't quite seem right, does it?

At 11:31 am, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must fit into the motorway supporter category because I have been much better trained than to ever contemplate shaking a Martini ;-)

I would suggest that Brenda try Matterhorn for a good cup of tea.

At 7:00 pm, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wellington restaurants could use some work. I consumed a very doubtful curry at the Shaminia indian restaurant a few days ago and they were generous enough to add a dash of gastroenteritis. It's a food court restaurant in Courtney Central so I guess I deserved whatever was going. My doctor said that he has being encountering a really high number of similar food poisoning cases recently.

At 7:02 pm, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious me.....

At 1:47 pm, January 06, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I'm not sure that a Cordon Bleu school would do much to lift the standards at the Courtenay Central food court! Then again, Wellington's seen some strange things (like a Michelin-starred chef tossing pizzas in the suburbs), so you never know.

It does make you wonder why the council won't publish the hygiene reports, though.

At 8:37 pm, January 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Afraid of being sued I suppose. ooppss..have to keep this short....off to the karzi...oooh ker-rist....that one squeezed by without saying excuse me....phew...woof woof....sorry...no this isn't the sreen writing audition for the upcoming series of 'Bottom'...oh well never mind....

'appy new year by the way you old souse.


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