- May 6, 2008
This weekend, with its fine warm Parisian weather (though as far as I’m aware, it was the same in the UK), was the chance to invite friends to spend an evening eating a salad and drinking wine on our balcony.
Monique and Peter were the friends that we managed to tempt out of their parisian flat in the 6th arrondissement, which also gave us a good chance to catch up on Monique’s restaurant project (last year she did the same CAP Cuisine as me) and also gave me the chance to speak a bit of English (Pete being Australian, though he speaks French too).
So, given that Monique worked in La Fontaine Gaillon (see my posts with category Fontaine Gaillon) for her professional training, I decided to concentrate on fish (anyway, I love working with fish), whilst keeping a salad theme given that I knew that we were in for a warm evening.
As per usual when preparing fish for dinner, I went to my fishmonger to see what was in / on offer / looking good, before deciding what to make. As it turned out, it was the red mullet that looked best and was on offer (13€ the kilo). Given that I work regularly with Mullet at the Fontaine, I knew straight away how I wanted to prepare the fish – cut off head, take out spine, take out bones, leave skin on (out of interest, in general, you lose between 40-45% of the weight of the fish when prepared this way, but it means that you have very little work to do once you start to eat the mullet….and I hate having to work even more on something once I’m sitting down to eat….mussels and oysters being one of the rare exceptions)
As well as using fish, I wanted to reuse a salad recipie that I had concocted a few days earlier – courgettes cut into a julienne / fine spaghetti, mixed with coriander (stem and leaves) and mint leaves (finely sliced), bound together with a warm walnut and shallot dressing (straight out of the Tom Aikens “Cooking” book – thoroughly recommended, by the way).
The final touch to the fish, by the way, was a couple of batons of rhubarb, pan-fried in a calvados syrup…..I wanted to add a bit of sweetness with the mullet, and it worked pretty well (this idea came from a visit to a restaurant – thoroughly recommended, by the way – in Paris, “La Carte Blanche” where they mixed macarons with mullet and chocolate)
- May 2, 2008
dis-donc, début mai 2008 déjà et mon stage à La Fontaine Gaillon terminé…que ça passe vite !!!…j’ai quitté pour la dernière fois (en tant que stagiaire, en tout cas !) un bel après-midi Parisien avec les immeubles du 2ème arrondissement resplendissants avec le soleil de “tea-time”.
Une dernière journée qui sentait bien de la fin d’une étape….soleil, tranquille, 40 couverts, tout le monde de bonne humour…..ceci dit, le chef n’a pas raté l’occasion ce matin de me dire qu’il fallait tailler les rougets plus soigneusement (question de perdre le moins de chair possible quand on section la tête……normal)…”quand vous aurez votre propre affaire ces réflexes vous épargneront bcp d’argent”. Il a raison, bien sûr.
Quand j’aurais mon propre affaire…..phew, je suis bel et bien sur le chemin. Je me sens totalement dans ce métier, et pas du tout dans celui de consultant. C’est dingue.
Je suis très satisfait de ma prestation à La Fontaine Gaillon, et je suis triste de quitter l’équipe. Ça n’a pas toujours été facile pour moi (et probablement pas, non plus, pour mes collègues), mais avec le recul que l’arrivée de la fin nous apporte, je vois que j’avais de la chance de passer 4 mois au sein de cette équipe. Certes je n’ai pas cuisiné assez, mais j’ai vu plein d’autres choses qui vont rester avec moi jusqu’à la fin de ma carrière de ce beau métier.
Je ne sais pas si l’équipe se rend compte du fait qu’ils m’ont accompagné sur le premier pas d’un changement météorique dans ma vie (et celle de ma famille)…..je sens bien que, là, ça commence pour de vrai et que je suis sur le bon chemin…..je peut cuisinier, je peux écouter, suivre et reproduire ce que l’on me montre, je peux m’organiser dans le feu du service (enfin,…je suis d’accord que ce n’est pas tjrs le cas, mais je sais que je PEUX le faire !), je commence à connaître pas mal les produits et avant tout, j’aime bien cuisiner (quand je cuisine c’est presque exclusivement pour le personnel) et faire plaisir au gens.
…mais, c’est possible que l’équipe me voit simplement comme étant un autre stagiaire….
En tout cas, avant de partir, les autres cuisiniers m’ont offert un super cadeau de départ – 2 couteaux, des ciseaux et une pierre en inox pour enlever les mauvaises odeurs des mains…..le tout de Hennkel, la marque allemande exceptionnelle.
Donc, au cas où qqn de l’équipe lirait ce billet – merci bcp pour ce cadeau…..ça m’a vraiment fait plaisir.
….et la suite ???
eh ben, je ne sais pas. J’ai dit au chef que je voudrais travailler en “extra” chez lui en juin (ils ont tjrs bcp plus de travail en juin et juillet)….il m’a dit qu’il verrait……donc, on verra !?! Si non, c’est interim et puis Newcastle Upon Tyne (Jesmond Dene House) en Angleterre pendant 3 mois, sans oublier la visite de mon père au début de juillet (j’aimerais bien faire un tour de France gastronomique en voiture avec mon père).
Une bonne journée….je vais au lit et l’équipe sera en train sortir leur 130-ième couvert….chapeau !
- April 24, 2008
ehh ben, pour y répondre, regardez ce petit film
Ceci est une synthèse d’une journée typique au restaurant La Fontaine Gaillon. Vous verrez le début de la journée avec bcp de préparation (notamment des poissons, bien sûr….ici les merlans, les merlus, les St Pierres et le Cabillaud), puis le repas du personnel (souvent préparé par moi, et pas toujours la plus belle production du monde !!), suivi par la période où l’équipe attend le service et finalement…..le service !!
En l’occurrence, les images du service (au tour de 13h) ne démontrent pas la véritable énergie et intensité que nous avons connu 10 minutes plus tard (c’est pour cela que j’ai dû arrêter d’enregistrer le film !!!).
- April 24, 2008
Yep, I’m nearly there….the end of my CAP Cuisine will be upon me in 3 weeks exactly !! That’ll be the end of the first step towards my own restaurant.
Well the first bit of news is that I’m not stopping there. The overriding aim of me spending 8 months doing this CAP was to give myself a “test run” to see if professional cook was my “thing”. I have to say that the CAP has totally lived up to my expectations – the school has allowed me to build up the basic skills and to meet other people embarking upon a new cuisine career (my fellow students), whilst the stage (Fontaine) has given me a good feeling for what life as a cuisinier in Parisian kitchens is about…..and I like what I see.
In order to take the next step, I have to postpone my return to Capgemini…which I have managed to do this week since I have been given the go-ahead by my boss at Capgemini to take 11 months off on sabbatical (thus my contract remains intact should I ever want to go back to work, which is a great form of security).
So where am I at with my plans for life after my training and how is my current work in Parisian kitchens ?
Well, first off, the Parisian restaurants that I work in….I am still at La Fontaine Gaillon where I finish my “stage” in just over 1 week. My overall feeling is that this is a great place to spend the 1st 4 months of my cuisinier career, but the underlying frustration of not actually “cooking” during the service never goes away. I’ve loved working with the fish and some of the fantastic other products, such as some beautiful green asparagus, the very fresh “italian purple” artichokes and the magical flavour of the sea urchins (oursins). I feel more confident amongst the other cuisiniers, and I’m taking part a lot more in the general “banter” within the kitchen…..but I’ve never been able to become indispensible for doing one particular thing in the team (that said, the whole ethos of the team is that if one person isn’t there, others absorb his work). When I leave I will miss the team, their unassuming expertise and the “buzz” during the service. I would have liked to stay to get to the point where I feel in “control” during the service….that I know follow all of the orders coming in and anticipate all of the moves necessary to complete those orders. When I left today there were 150+ reservations for tonight’s service….I would have liked to be there.
The new thing is me working in a restaurant in the 13th arrondissement of Paris – La Zygothèque, and the chef / owner M. Noel. For an idea of what dishes are concocted in M. Noel’s cuisine, his menu is available on-line. We’ll see what happens here…..the idea is to work in a small restaurant (30+ covers) have more opportunities to work on the hot plate / stove. I’ll be there tomorrow night (my 3rd time), so fingers crossed that I continue to work my way towards cooking the main dishes. What I can say is that M. Noel has a good attitude to food, products and the customers, and he likes to share….so, if I stay it should be a good learning experience.
As for my life after the training course, there are 2 things which have happened this week,
So, all in all, I feel as though I’m making progress and that this desire to create my own restaurant in 3 years time is getting stronger and stronger in my mind and in my heart…..and what’s more, my family are becoming more and more involved in this whole cooking conversion !! The implications for me and my family of what I am doing and what I am trying to set in place are enormous…..
As I said in the title, one step for me and a giant step for the Family Quirke !!!!
- February 29, 2008
OK, la fin de ma 3ème semaine de cette 3ème période à la Fontaine s’approche vite, et notamment, la fin d’une semaine de 2 coupures (qui n’est tjrs rien par rapport aux autres dans l’équipe qui font au moins 4 coupures sur 5 jours de travail !).
Je ne voulais pas écrire une tome sur le déroulement de cette semaine – suffit de noter que votre “apprenti chef anglais”…
Pour vous donner une petite idée de l’environnement dans lequel je travaille, ci-dessous 2 photos du “chaud”….
Enfin bon…je me lève dans 5h et demi pour ma dernière journée (cette fois-ci, “en continue”) de la semaine.
Bonne nuit et à bientôt.
- February 24, 2008
Ma 2ème semaine de ma 3ème période de stage s’est bien passée…..oouff, je n’arrive pas à le dire souvent, hein ?!
Mes évènements de cette semaine étaient,
Et voila…..c’est tout.
Salut et au prochain billet.
- February 17, 2008
Reading Aidan Brooks‘ (newly qualified chef) latest article in the Observer Food Monthly blog, I got to thinking about what I have experienced these last few months – notably when eating with either the team from the Zephyr or the Fontaine Gaillon.
Surely, when eating with 15 other “foodies” the food should be pretty decent – and certainly when those foodies are French chefs, non ?
Well, it is not always the case.
Generally speaking, at La Fontaine we eat better than at Le Zephyr, or atleast we eat a bigger variety of things. We eat what is left over from the previous couple of days of work, which in the case of La Fontaine means usually a mixture of line caught sea bass, cod as well as, quite often, either mussels or squid. There’s also a fair bit of lamb (the top end of the ribs) which is left over from preparing the rack of lamb main course for the restaurant menu – this usually goes into a ragout, such as a curry. All of this is served with the ubiquitous pasta / rice / cous-cous / chips.
At Le Zephyr, the staff meal is simpler, and prepared in much less time – usually 15 minutes maximum, consisting of 1 meat / fish with pasta / chips or sometimes rice, accompanied by a salad.
The preparation of the staff lunch at La Fontaine is always left to the saucier / rotisseur, but I often help with the prep, and sometimes I do the whole thing from start to finish (a lamb curry that I did once went down particularly well, much to my relief !). Given that we eat at 11am, this prep starts usually around 10 in the morning and consists of
Whatever is concocted, one must not forget that feeding the staff and keeping them happy is absolutely vital – so, if you are responsable for a meal that has not been well received, you will know about it straight away, believe me !
The challenge of the staff meal is to be able to transform the leftovers into a decent, tasty meal for 15, in 1 hour – pretty intimidating for anyone, but certainly for a trainee English chef !!!
Before starting my training I always imagined that professional chefs would be chatting about food, restaurants, products and food experiences from travelling……well, not at all !!! I very rarely hear my colleagues talking about any of these things. I’ve not been in the business long enough to be able to say why food is almost totally absent from all discussions at the table, but it’s certainly the case.
- February 17, 2008
OK, la fin de ma première semaine de la 3ème période de formation en entreprise (c’est à dire, la période où je travaille à la Fontaine), et ce n’était pas terrible ! Je dirais que cette semaine s’est caracterisée par
Donc, sur le dos de la mort de ma mère, ça faisait pour une semaine un peu difficile.
Pour finir, je voudrais simplement vous tenir au courant du w/end à Londres que j’organise pour moi et qqs stagières sur ma formation. L’idée étant de montrer à mes collègues où on en est à Londres (et donc, en Angleterre) avec tout ce qui concerne la bouffe. Donc, ci-dessous une copie d’un mèl que j’ai envoyé qui explique le programme prévu.
- Bonsoir à tous,
- jeudi 27 mars – départ Paris en voiture en passant par Eurotunnel, hébergement chez un copain
- vendredi 28 mars, 8h30-10h “Tom Aikens”
* rencontre Tom Aikens pour parler pendant 30 minutes
* visite guidée du restaurant et ses 2 autres restos (qui sont dans le même quartier)
* petit déjeuner à l’anglaise à “Tom’s Kitchen” (je suis en train de voir si ce petit déj serait offert !….si non, je n’ai pas trop envie de payer £££ pour un petit déj)
- vendredi 28 mars, 11hrs-14hrs “Westminster Kingsway college”
* présentation par le responsable de la formation des cuisiniers
* déjeuner offert
* visite en cuisine
- samedi 29 mars, le matin “Gordon Ramsay at Claridges”
- samedi 29 mars, après-midi “Fromage Français contre Fromage Rosbif chez Neils Yard”, un fromagerie à Covent Garden
* acheter qqs fromages “British”
* parler avec leur expert sur le fromage “British”
* trouver qqpart dans le quartier pour déguster et comparer les fromages
- dimanche 30 mars, le matin, visiter les marchés de l’est de Londres (http://www.londonmarkets.co.uk/)
* Colombia Road marché des fleurs
* Brick Lane marché aux puces et restaurants indiens
* Spitalfields marché (nourriture et vêtements et autre)
suite à la confirmation de qqs restaurants / fournisseurs / école, un petit mot pour vous dire quel sera le programme pour notre petite visite à Londres à la fin de mars.
- January 19, 2008
At the end of my second period at the Fontaine Gaillon, working with Chef Audiot and his team, I’m feeling more at home there, understanding better the relationships that exist within the team, seeing more calm in the chaos of the midday service.
I’ve spent all of this time “au chaud”, as I explained in my end of year post a few weeks ago, working with the saucier / grillardaire for much of the time. My 4.5 hour pre-service work invloves any of the following,
During the 2 hour service (essentially from 12H30 to 14H / 14H30) I look after serving the mashed potatoes, cooking and serving the ravioli (with its beurre fondu), plating the scallops and their sauce and cooking some vegetables and sauté the chicory before serving with the scallops. My main role during the service is to watch and learn. See how the different fish is cooked, how the different chefs organise their production….
The main thing that I have learnt so far is to see beyond the initial chaos that seems to be taking place during the service. Infact their is a strong organisation within the team which allows the 4 chefs who work around the oven and the hot plate (a space of 1 metre by 5 metres, approx.) to get the meals out for the 100+ covers. I am now starting to be able to make the link between what orders come in, the fish that is being taken out in anticipation of a dish to send out in 10 minutes time, the plates that are being taken out ready to receive the fish which is now in the pan / oven / under the grill…and, most importantly (but this is the part that I currently find the most difficult…maybe because I don’t always understand the French which is zapping around the kitchen) I’m starting to listen to the chef (who calls out all of the orders when they arrive – those that are to be sent out straight away and those to be sent once the starters are finished) and be able to build up a waiting list of dishes in my head…though this has only just started so I’ve still got a good bit of progress to do on this point.
So, the service doesn’t seem a “crazy” as it did, even if sometimes it still gets a bit out of control !
Then after the service, it’s 3 hours of preparation time for the evening service.
When I go back for my 3rd period in 1 month’s time I will be moving onto “cooking” !!! I will ask to spend more time with the poissonnier – I want to spend as much of my time prepping the fish and learning about them….feeling them. I will also be working a couple of split-shifts (en coupure). So overall I feel that things are going in the right direction. During my evaluation this week (my 1st of 2 evaluations during my time at the Fontaine) the chef was very happy with my progress, but stated simply that sometimes I try to go too fast. I am aware of this, but I explained that I am also in a bit of a hurry given my overall plan to open a restaurant in 3 to 5 years !
- January 9, 2008
3 days into my first week back at La Fontaine Gaillon after the New Year break back home in Newcastle, and I’ve already been “ok”, “down and pensive” and “up”. The good news is that I have finished my Wednesday session with a positive day where I managed to find my place in the team – and that when everybody was there…all 11 of us.
Yesterday was a difficult day for me because we had an extremely busy lunch session (110 covers, with 100 of those between 13h-14h !!) and yet I missed all of it because I was stuck in the back prep area peeling Brittany asparagus (which the chef had had Fed-Ex’d on express delivery because we had run out….they arrived at 12h30 and we needed a whole box peeling before the 13h rush…not sexy but a reality in professional kitchens). I failed to be single minded about keeping my place at the hot plate serving the mash and the ravioli, and thus I missed out on observing the team in motion.
I was “gutted“, as we say back home.
That said, I did actually go back into the kitchen 2 times when everyone was in full flow…..and frankly, it was like witnessing a tornado on the TV….you are naturally drawn towards it but at the same time, I couldn’t help but be glad that I wasn’t actually in it !! Clearly things weren’t going smoothly for the team and the sous chefs and the chef were literally running between their different posts…..there was so much movement that I was unable to find the good time to “slip” into my position at the hotplate…so I retreated to my prep area, feeling downhearted and out of place. I should have been there, with the others, in amongst it.
Today, however, was another day and a much more successful one in terms of my role in the team. A busy morning of prepping, as per usual. I am now pretty decent at working the “haut-côtes” of lamb…basically, the top of the ribs which is usually only used as a secondary meat in a lamb dish, but we use it for one part of the staff meal. As the service approached, I was determined to stay at my adopted position by the hotplate, and stay I did. We had fewer customers today…maybe 60 or 70….but it was still pretty “dense” from 1pm. I did my stuff, but essentially, my main role is to observe and learn…..and keep out of the way, restricting my movements to a minimum. I then finished today by preparing the veal stock (4 onions, 4 leeks, 4 carrots, 2 pigs trotters, veal bones, water, salt, pepper) and putting together a lamb masala curry for the staff (for the 6pm meal).
I even managed to have a brief exchange with Gérard Dépardieu (one of the owners of the restaurant, and the only one who takes an active interest in the team, the food, the kitchen) who probably knows me as “the Englishman”. I told him about my culinary activities this Christmas and New Year, and some of the magnificent seafood products from the North East of England (smoked kippers from Craster and oysters from Lindesfarne north of Newcastle).
So, upon returning home tonight I was feeling much more positive about my role in the team and tomorrow beckons…..goodnight.