My favorite dish there was frog nog- it’s your four course meal blended up with your drink and that was your dinner.
From Morgan City, Louisiana to Baytown, Texas, David Rappelet is our December 2015-Student of the Month. He is aiming to graduate with the Elite Diplôme de Cuisine by August 2016.
What inspired you to become a chef?
“For me, cooking has been my life since I was 6. When I was 4-5 my grandparents taught me how to cook all the time. I learned that when my parents divorced I was now officially the man of the house. I had to take care of my sister, the house as soon as I came home from the school, have dinner ready. Dad would come home around 8/9 o clock so I had to make sure her homework was done, dinner was ready, so I had to learn how to cook quickly. Not only did I have to learn from what my parents & grandparents taught me but also to change things. It was hard to figure out what we’re going to cook today, especially on the budget that we slowly came into, with the lack of pay we had to be creative on changing foods. Things like that motivated me to say I can cook, I can experiment, I know what my palate can do, what creativity pops in my head because I see things and I wonder what this and this does.”
David’s family is from France therefore, learning the French cuisine is something he feels has given him a broader view of his families history and culture. The Culinary Institute LeNôtre® has not only given him the opportunity to learn French cuisine but expand his palate.
“I looked at four different culinary schools, even one of them pay as you go. I asked a lot of questions to chefs and it was too “Americanized”. I got lucky too because the relationships I have with the chefs, counselors, Mr. LeNôtre, etc., are great.”
Since David’s father was in the air force, he often traveled as well as he did for work. When they moved from Louisiana to Houston, they were moving here for a better life and all the traveling created many learning experience.
“I did missionaries in training here in Houston. I had to get a huge change in palate opinion as I went to South Africa. Going there you have to learn because every country cooks different, some people just put together what they can. In training they would teach you to eat things that are not typical. In the water they would put corn, basil, just throw things in there. There wasn’t a soda machine or going out, you were locked in the campus, so what was there was what you had. My favorite dish there was frog nog- it’s your four course meal blended up with your drink and that was your dinner. We had things like Kool-Aid that was water with “stuff” in it, sometimes they would tinfoil containers so we couldn’t see what was in it. One of the coolest dishes I didn’t know what we were eating, Ithought were mollejas, it turned out to be monkey brain. It was one of the traditional dishes, it was really good, it had the taste of sweet bread and liver together and the texture was the same as mollejas.”
It’s obvious David has challenged his food palate throughout his career. From his perspective he believes anyone wanting to study at CIL should get some cooking field experience before coming to the school however, he says, there’s a lot more to the art of cooking than he ever expected to learn at Culinary Institute LeNôtre.
“The facility is smaller. The student to teacher ratio is smaller and what they can provide for me is more than what they could provide in any other culinary institute in this area and is more extensive. So I guess all in all this is just a better institution compared to others”
The skills that he is learning at CIL are some that he wishes to apply one day for his business. Currently David has a fishing tour business in which he wishes to expand and one day have a lodge. One of the challenges of that industry is weather and climate
change. Because of this, David says, “it’s provided me a chance to work harder in my culinary skills in order to have clients. If we get the lodge, not only could we fish off the water on the pier but we can do indoor things like Chef Club and people can learn to cook”. His business has also become popular within the school. As David shared what he does with one of the Chefs, they began discussing possibly being partners.
“I offered him a trip and we spoke about it in front of another chef in which he got interested and another chef overheard. I figured might as well ask all the chefs who would like to go and we’d go. That started off and when Mr. & Mrs. LeNôtre heard they were interested as well. As it spread, Mrs. LeNôtre asked to schedule a day when they would go. I took them on a fishing trip, a dolphin tour, and a bird watching trip, took them around the area. We started talking about my interest and why I’m doing it. Ever since then we continuously talk and that’s how it all started. I learned a lot about them outside of school, their very good people, very intelligent, it’s a pleasure to be with them.”
Seeing our student interact and have such a great relationship with everyone , achieve so much through out his life and simply in the institute, there is no doubt why he is Student Of the Month.