Aside from the massive safe in the Banque de France, probably the toughest place to get in to in France is the Ecole de Grand Chocolat Valrhona in the little town of Tain l’Hermitage. Admission to the professional cooking program I attended is by invitation only, and several times of the year, pastry chefs and chocolatiers from all over the world come to Valrhona to watch and learn how their chocolate is made. And even more important, to discover the best and tastiest ways to eat it.
Our chef-instructor was Philippe Givre, who was good-natured, but never let us forget that we were there to work-work-work. And he was perhaps the best example of the hard-driving pastry chef.