- 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.
- December 29, 2007
This week I started my 2nd period of training in La Fontaine Gaillon kitchen – Wednesday to today (Friday) to be more exact. I was a bit apprehensive on Wednesday morning whilst going to work, but in the end, I picked up pretty much where I left off over 6 weeks ago. The team hasn’t changed, the menu has (with essentially the fish changing – no merlan / whiting, for instance) and the number of customers has dropped off dramatically – all restaurants in Paris (maybe all of France for all I know) seem to have a long quiet time during the festive period – something which is not the case in the UK…..at least not when I was a waiter 20 years ago !!
The big change for me since my return is that I am finally “au chaud”, as they say over here. That means that I am finally working on the hot plates / gas rings. My job is essentially to serve the mashed potatoes, heat the vegetables in the poêle, cook the ravioli and dress the plates (heating the leek julienne and the beurre fondu and truffle sauce in the process). Since I’ve been back we’ve had between 11 and 50 customers each midday service…in other words, very few !! However, given that I have just started au chaud, the lack of customers has been a bit of a blessing for me, at least. Just to list the things that I’ve been doing this week (I haven’t done this for a while !),
One of the complications of running a kitchen during the festive period is the lack of customers (at least, during the midday service), lack of fresh supplies (we had no fish delivery on Wednesday, our first day back after Christmas) and, thus, managing the stock – pretty obvious, I know, but for a restaurant like La Fontaine which is so reliant on fresh produce which arrives daily, this festive period is a bit tricky to say the least.
I’d like to say that it was great to be – finally – at the hot stove / plate / rings, but to be honest, it was a bit of an overload….even with very few customers, my head wasn’t prepared for the different things that I was meant to remember
……”2 bowls of creamed potatoes, put out the plates for the next 2 orders going out…that’s a bowl for the scallops….ohh, you get the sauce ready for that by the way…..and a plate for the cod……3 raviolis….get the juliène heated up in the poêle which you then dress in a bowl with a little beurre fondu and truffle….why didn’t you get the vegetables for the bass ?!….no, don’t bother, I’ve already got them…”
……phew, way, way out of the comfort zone…however, strangely, I most certainly don’t want to stop being with the guys “au chaud”. Anyway, I’ve never been one for liking the comfort zone.
On that note, I’ll say goodnight and here’s to a rousing finale to my culinary 2007 tomorrow at Le Zephyr….I want it to be a good end to my 2007…a big 2008 awaits !
- November 26, 2007
Yep, I know it seems a pretty improbable combination, but seriously, since starting my chef training (7 weeks ago) I have lost approx. 5 kilos (just under 1 stone) ! I still don’t really know why, because I’m still eating as much as before, if not more. The only differences that I can see are that
Actually, reading thru this short list, I guess that it’s not surprising that I’ve lost weight. Especially when you take into account that 9 or 10 hours at a desk is replaced by approximately the same time (well, when I’m working at either the Fontaine Gaillon or the Zephyr) standing, carrying….or even running, during the service !
The problem is that I can’t really afford to lose weight since I’m already not exactly what you’d call a “muscle man” ! So, to remedy this issue, I’ve renewed my gym membership, and I’m going to get back into a basic 2 or 3-times a week routine, at least when I’m at school. Monday and Friday mornings will now include a 1 hour session at Club Med at République which isn’t too far from my home near La Villette, Paris. My aim ?….get back up to 68 Kilos (11 stone)….my normal, “fighting” weight before my 2nd period of placement at La Fontaine Gaillon.
Just a footnote – of course, I know that some of you will be saying that I’m a lucky thing losing weight without doing anything in particular. Well, maybe that’s one of the positive side-effects of working in this trade (thought I’m not really convinced of that….how many skinny chefs do you know ?). Just bear in mind that working in kitchens for 10+ hours is also very tiring….and I’ve bearly even started….I know that the real hard work is sitting there waiting for me. Anyway, alot of my friends are telling me at the moment that I’m looking very drawn and tired….and, so that you all have an idea of how I am, I thought that I’d add a “mug shot” of me at the moment…that way I’ll let you decide if I’m tired or not !
- November 18, 2007
Cette semaine nous sommes tous rentrés à l’école pour reprendre le rythme scolaire – beaucoup plus doux, c’est clair, que mes 2 semaines de travail à La Fontaine et au Zephyr. Par contre, je commence à trouver une certaine calme au fourneau à l’école (….parce que soyons clair, je ne suis que très rarement au fourneau quand je suis au restaurant !) et au poste des entrées / desserts quand je suis en cuisine aux restos. Je n’ai tjrs pas la rapidité de geste autour du poisson (préparer le merlan à l’anglaise, désarrêter le saumon – avec un econome, que le chef m’a appris ce soir – et retirer sa peau me prendre bcp plus de temps que les chefs), mais je pense que je commence à enterriner le besoin de tjrs vouloir trouver les raccourcis, toute en respectant les étapes à suivre. A l’école, M. Charron (l’un de nos profs pour nos travaux pratiques – TPs) veut nous guider de moins en moins, qui va nous rendre de plus en plus autonome – une progression qui me plaît énormément. Du coup, nos TPs vont devenir de plus en plus intéressants (parce que parfois, il faut le dire, le référentiel du CAP Cuisine n’est pas passionnant !).
Ce soir nous avons fait 70 couverts et nous étions 2 (même si JB – qui vend les coquillages devant le resto le soir – est venu parfois pour me donner un coup de main, et le chef m’a pas mal aidé avec des remarques du style “le pain grillé pour le fois gras, mettre toute de suite les oeufs coquotte quand le bon de commande arrive….”) en cuisine – moi et le chef. Donc, j’ai dû assurer les entrées et les desserts (avec l’aide de JB), et je m’en suis sorti assez bien (l’équipe est bien gentile avec moi, il faut le dire).
Au final je découvre que je suis assez calme – ceci dit, je cours parfois parce que je n’arrive pas à garder en tête l’ordre de mes tâches…donc, je perds le fil parfois. Mais globalement, je ne panique pas, qui me rassure déja. Encore plus rassurant, c’est que j’aime bien la pression quand le service commence et les bons de commande arrivent sur l’imprimante…..il y a une énergie que je n’ai jamais eu quand j’étais consultant. Je me rappelle quand j’ai lu “Kitchen Confidential” (de Anthony Bourdain, cuisto américain avec un papa Français) l’écrivain parlait avec fièrté de la capacité de l’équipe en cuisine de sortir 200+ couverts le soir (si je me souviens bien). Il parlait bcp de l’énergie en cuisine – souvent la musique était un symbol de l’identité et de l’énergie de l’équipe / du chef. En tout cas, je découvre cette passion pour le moment quand il faut courir tout en restant calme et lucide.
Ca m’intéresserait de savoir comment c’est “l’heure de pointe” dans un resto étoilé…..moins de couverts, je suppose, plus de précision dans l’assiette, plus de rigueur peut-être….des gestes bcp plus techniques…..peut-être. En tout cas, avec La Fontaine et Le Zephyr, je vois pas mal de technicité, d’imagination et de qualité (d’équipe et de produit), et tout cela avec des chefs qui sont très humain.
Ma femme et ma famille continue à m’encourager et me montrer qu’ils sont avec moi 110%…..sans cela cette évolution ne serait pas possible. Je leur remercie pour cela.
Un petit souci pour mon financement par le FONGECIF – j’ai eu une lettre avec un nouveau contrat disant que mon niveau de financement a été ajusté…..on me propose 50% de ce que l’on me proposait il y a 2 mois. Cela me poserait un vrai problème. A voir lundi avec le FONGECIF.
Une dernière remarque concernant mes “posts” dans mon blog. En lisant les blogs d’autres passionnés de la cuisine, je me rends compte que “le coeur de métier” est la publication des recettes. C’est logique puisque, au final, la cuisine et la création et la découverte de recettes est au coeur de ce que nous aimons faire. Par contre, comme vous l’avez déjà constaté peut-être, je ne parle pas vraiment de recettes. Pour l’instant cela ne me passionne pas…..ce qui m’intéresse en ce moment c’est, d’un côté, le partage de ce que je vis, et de l’autre côté, ma découverte du métier, des produits….de la culture cuisine. A terme je vais naturellement passer vers les recettes, je suppose…..on verra bien.
Bonne nuit et à très bientôt.
- November 15, 2007
…..not all at the same time, though, of course !
Slow Food as a concept is something that has interested me (from afar, I hasten to add, since I have never actively participated at any actual event and I am not, as of yet, a paying card member) for quite some time. Why ? Well, purely because their philosophy corresponds pretty well with what is at the core of what is important to me in cuisine. For those who don’t know the Slow Food movement, here’s a brief list of the key aspects of their philosophy – those that correspond with what’s important to me, anyway…..
informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it – this is something which will be at the heart of my restaurant, when my time comes, be it produce from France or the UK
responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture – another key point for me since la cuisine is a means of sharing and understanding culture and tradition. Again, my current vision of my future restaurant has at the heart of it an exchange (between me, my customers and my suppliers / producers) of cultures, notably the English and French cultures.
good, clean and fair food – that is, food produced in a way which respects the environment and the produce, and the producer is fairly compensated for their work
Bacteria, detergents and disinfectants were the subject of today’s class on Science Applied to Cuisine. I have no intention of sharing the detail of this class with you, but simply, each of these classes on Hygiene in the kitchen reminds me of the big difference between what is stated in the regulations, and what is actually applied in a real traditional restaurant. The kitchens where I work have very good standards of cleanliness – to the point where I arrived at work to find the chef cleaning the kitchen with a high pressure water spray to get the grease and grime out from under the work surfaces and behind the ovens. But it is clear that all of the measures mentioned in the guidelines (1995 restauration traditionnelle and 1997 restauration in the community, and soon to be replaced by 852/2004) are difficult to put in place when the kitchen is not designed and built from scratch – which of course is usually the case. I have at least promised myself (and my tutor) that I will studiously respect the 7 point plan for washing my hands (including nail brush) for when I arrive, leave and come back from the toilet or having eaten.
Otherwise, the cleaning of the kitchen is something that will be treated in detail when my restaurant starts to become a reality…but I know that a real headache awaits !
Blogs are pretty much always in my mind at the moment – primarily, at the moment, the content of my own, but also more and more the content and structure of others. One first observation that I have – an obvious one, I suppose – is the personal nature of blogs. Usually 1 person writing about their thoughts on a certain topic (usually food, for those which interest me at the moment). Given the personal nature of the blog, I am beginning to realise that one has to be very careful with the comments that one leaves….or maybe, like in life, it depends upon the nature of the individual ? Anyway, as far as my thoughts in my blog, I intend to remain as open and honest as possible….but I am starting to realise that I cannot apply the same rule to what I write in other people’s blogs….pretty obvious, I guess, but it didn’t occur to me at first.
Anyway, Id better go since I have my cuisine practical class today – potage julienne darblay, carré de porc poêlé avec pommes gaufrettes…..
“My Just Desserts” – Bilan de fin de première partie de stage de cuisine / review of the first part of my cookery placement
- November 11, 2007
La, je voulais terminer sur un point positif, et cela a fini par être le cas. J’ai compris qu’il me faut un rôle là où je travaille – ça ne suffit pas de donner un coup de main à chacun dans la cuisine sans prendre certaines tâches à ma charge. Donc, aujourd’hui au Zephyr j’ai dit que je voulais être la seule personne à préparer les desserts….”just desserts”, ce qui veut dire en anglais “je reçois ce que je mérite”. Donc parfait….je me suis donné une base solide et un objectif raisonable qui était à ma portée. Je n’ai pas tout réussi – ce n’est pas cela le point important….j’avais un objectif et je savais ce que j’avais à faire dans la journée et ce soir.
Il est tard et donc je ne vais pas écrire pendant longtemps…suffit de dire que je suis ravi de ce que j’ai réussi à faire ces 2 semaines en stage. Je n’ai toujours pas encore assez de confiance en moi et mes compétences en cuisine pour être ouvert et partager (je veux dire vraiment – écouter leur conseil et ne pas le vivre comme une critique qui est censée mettre en évidence mes faiblesses) avec mes collègues (soit les autres personnes qui suivent le CAP Cuisine, soit les cuisiniers avec qui je travaille en stage). Mais, je sais que cela va venir….
Nous avons fait 75 couverts ce soir, et 45 ce midi. On était 4 en cuisine ce midi et 3 ce soir…donc nous avons bien fait ce soir. J’ai cassé 1 assiette et une autre petite chose, mais j’ai réalisé tous les desserts qu’il fallait, et j’ai bien travaillé sur les entrées avec Jean-Jean. On n’était pas terrible parfois, mais personnellement, je vois que d’ici peu de temps je vais pouvoir vraiment “bosser”. A partir de ce moment, je vais commencer à sentir la cuisine (vouloir préparer une salade qui est jolie, un fois gras mi-cuit dont je suis fier au lieu de simplement être content de mettre les ingrédients dans l’assiette et la sortir à l’heure….peu importe la présentation).
Enfin bon…..je m’arrête là puisque je suis fatigué et ma femme m’attend dans notre lit.
Demain ma journée de repos – pour l’instant j’ai bcp de respect pour ce rythme de travail où on travaille dur avec des journées assez complètes, et donc où j’apprécie bcp plus mes journées de repos. Il y a une authenticité qui me passionne…..heureusement je vois suffisamment de signes positifs qui me montrent que ma décision de changer de métier n’est pas si farfelou que tout cela !! Ceci dit, demain je vais essayer de préparer une réunion (qui aura lieu mardi prochain) avec un client du secteur pharmaceutique dans mon rôle de consultant sénior BI pour Capgemini….ça va être intéressant de voir comment je vis cette réunion et la préparation.
Bonne nuit et à demain…..au minimum pour la version anglaise !
- November 10, 2007
So, I’m at the end of my 2 week period at La Fontaine Gaillon and wow, what a rollercoaster of emotion !
I’ve been buzzing with excitement, exhausted, aching hands (my right hand is still tingling, quite literally), slightly demoralised, and now quitely confident and content.
In my last post I talked about the need to find my place in the team. Well, this coincided with the departure on 1 weeks’ sick leave of one of the young lads with whom I work. The next day (Wednesday) when we were 1 person less in our little team of 4 who work on all starters / entrées. So, all of a sudden, I had a role in the team – not much of a role, but my own things to do during the service….génial ! So what exactly did I have to do….?
* put on the toast for the warm artichoke and fois gras salad (4 slices), or for the salmon carpaccio (2 slices)
* cook and dress the plate for the langoustine spring rolls / nems aux langoutines
* put the langoustine raviolli in the boiling water (and sometimes take it out and put it in a bowl)
* prepare, cook (plunge them in the deep fat fryer) and dress the plate for the calamaris / petites fritures
* pipe the mayonnaise, sometimes tartare sauce or another sauce into small serving dishes for either soup, merlan / whiting
* constantly clean-up after ourselves (like everyone else)
So, as you can see, it ain’t really Escoffier or Gordon Ramsay….but it’s MY job for the 2 hour rush, and believe me, if the toast isn’t ready when there are over 100 people to serve during the midday service….well, you’re dead !!! I wasn’t great yesterday, but today I felt “on the ball” from the word “go” at 08hrs this morning.
So all in all, what is the usual day for me ?
1) my working day (10 hours, 8-18hrs, en continue rather than en coupure which means 7h30-14h30 and then 17h30-midnight-ish) goes very, very quickly and is split into 5 phases
Part 1 : 08hrs – 11hrs we are all preparing the fish which arrives between 7-9am (merlan, rouget, langoustine, moules, couquilles st. jacques, cabillaud, merlu, thon, bar – bearing in mind that only the experienced chefs can prepare the st jacques, cabillaud, thon and particularly the bar which is expensive and thus inexperienced hands which tend to leave too much flesh on bones and don’t cut the flesh cleanly are only allowed merlan and rouget), the side dishes (veg peeled, sliced, cut into disks and cooked in steam oven) are prepared, mayo and guacamole is made, bread cut, langoustines shelled, raviolli and spring rolls put together, cooked new potatoes peeled, onions chopped finely, estragon and parsley chopped into ribbons, deliveries stored in the cold storage, baguettes rubbed with garlic and cut into small slices and grilled (for the soup), artichokes are peeled and reduced to the heart of the artichoke, and so on and so on……
Part 2 : 11hrs – 11h30 time for all the team – from dishwasher to chef to waiter staff – to sit down and eat “lunch”, prepared by Guillaume. This is the only pause during the day, and even though it officially lasts 30 minutes, for almost everyone it lasts around 20 minutes.
Part 3 : 11h30 – 12h30 is the time where the energy picks up, the team starts to move quicker, final preparations are completed, the waiter staff meet with the senior chefs to discuss the menu for the day…..we’re ready
Part 4 : 12h30 – 14h30 is what it’s all for…..or atleast, all of the prep in the morning. Usually during this time 100+ people will be served starter / main course, the 2 different teams (cold and hot – or those preparing the starters and those preparing the main meals) run whilst at the same time controling the culinary production. Frankly, it’s exhilirating….as long as you know what you’re doing !! The Chef calls out the orders which arrive, the different members of each team click into action. We are lucky to have a lovely kitchen in which to work, stainless steel / inox everywhere and thus easy to clean, lots of small fridges for storage (in draws or cupboards), everyone knows what they are there to do and which dishes concern them…..we run quite literally sometimes, but when it comes to the plate, it’s calm personnified. The last few days I’ve had a role to play in this controlled mayhem, and it’s been great – I’ve not been perfect, far from it…but I know that I can do this job. I need to do it for a prolonged period of time and it will come. I look at the chefs working the gas rings and hot plates and I want to be there……the creation….., well, between 12H30 and 14h30 it’s not the time for creation, it’s time to act with efficiency (ideally, though of course, occasionnally, toast gets tipped into pans accidently, starters get dropped on the floor – and not put back in the plate, I hasten to add !)
Part 5 : 14h30 – 18h is time for those who are not working during the evening (ie. me and someone else, usually Cédric and Tran, though sometimes Akio or Manu) to do the prep for the evening session. During this period there is a 3 minute pause (really, not as long as 5 minutes) for a coffee, the rhythm is “cooler” (though not today since we had loads to do) and thus it’s the time to get to know the people who are left in the kitchen during the afternoon.
I leave whilst the rest of the team are sitting down to eat their dinner (18h – 18h30).
It’s a good kitchen where good habits are learnt…I’ve got, however, a lot to learn on the morphology / phyisionnomy of the different fish that we buy in.
I’ve got to have a good day tomorrow at Le Zephyr to cap what’s been a good, though testing, week.
- November 6, 2007
This blog has been up and running and accessible for 13 days, and in that time I have had 60 different visitors from 9 different countries (France, Switzerland, Sweden being the top sources, with sporadic interest coming from the USA, Canada, NZ, Portugal, UK, Belgium). I think that a number of you have not spent much time reading my diary entries (fair enough – I was quite frankly gobsmacked / surprised when my mate Rob suggested that my journal might be worth putting on the web as a blog), but there seems to be about 30% of you who follow my entries quite regularly.
So, I’m pretty curious to know who you are…..not necessarily your whole intimate history, but simply why you are interested in this blog. I’d be very interested to have your thoughts on what I’m doing – 38 yr old English computer consultant changes direction to get trained up as a chef and then set up his own restaurant.
Anyway, truth be known, I’m feeling a bit low on morale today…..a few doubts have been allowed to creep into my head. So, I would be very keen to have some words of encouragement…..:-)
Briefly, today I had a short chat with the chef – he appreciates my energy, he says that I should be careful to not try to move forward too quickly (thus annoying people if I try to do stuff that I can’t and this then making them less willing to help when I am more able to do what I would like to do), that they don’t really need me and thus the main difficulty that I’ll have is trying to find my place, he is perfectly willing to let me work at different roles during my time in his kitchen (for example, each Wednesday I could do patissery, each morning I could help the poissonnier prepare the Whiting / Merlan, and so on). The fact that they don’t need me depressd me a wee bit, even though I know that this is a reality and despite that I will still be able to get a lot of good experience. I just want some responibility (for even the smallest task) – I guess because I’m totally used to being autonomous in my consultant role. At the same time I know that this is unreasonable to expect. I think that by the end of my second period of training in the restaurant (end of Dec 2007 – til the end of Jan 2008) I will have a better idea of where I am.
I need to find my place in the team.
- November 1, 2007
So finally the moment arrives where I’m silently cutting vegetables (in this case, it was my 6th case of camus artichokes…that’s the big, bulbous ones rather than the small poivrades) in the kitchen and I’m quietly thinking to myself that I’d much rather be working with the 20 fresh whiting (merlan) that the guy next to me is preparing !! I knew that I’d quickly have to face up to the frustration of being the most junior, inexperienced person in the kitchen, and there it is after only 3 days.
I’m really pleased, as it happens, with today.
People didn’t quite know what to do with me – there was an extra guy in the team who returned from sick leave (for which the kitchen staff are not paid – welcome to the “real world” outside of the protected office jobs), and basically I was surplus to requirements. However, I was determined to always be busy – find things to do, and never stop….which I pretty much managed to do for the 10 hours from 8am ’til 6pm.
I made 10 litres of mayonnaise, took out the meat from umpteen crab (“tourteau” – the most common crab this side of the Atlantic) legs, chopped up the first 3 of 6 crates of Artichokes, peeled a pile of potatoes (with the dishwashers), peeled esparagus tips / cooked new potatoes, cut discs of celeriac & potato, “turned” (cut a vegetable in regular elipitical shapes) white radish, cut up chervil root (I didn’t even know that this existed – very good, actually…a bit like parsnip in texture and flavour, but with an edge of roasted chesnut), peeled a pile of carrots, prepared 30 fois gras ravioli, and helpedget together some starters during the “rush”.
But most of all, I was able to chat to the fish cook and what’s called the “garde manger” (the guy who looks after all cold starters and, officially, receives and deals with all deliveries) – 2 guys who have 13 and 10 years of experience respectively (and they are both under 30 yrs old !!!). The fish cook in particular gave me a fair bit of advice, but at the same time I was able to explain what I am about, what I want to do in the restaurant trade and where I come from / how I got here.
On returning this evening, I got stuck into my recipie books to find something for Rice Pudding / Riz au Lait…..Jamie Oliver to the rescue, and a few hours later I was taking photos of my efforts….great fun, but at the end, when there’s no one there to taste the offerings….well, food is all about sharing and giving pleasure, and so without the kids and my wife (they’re all up visiting Grandma / Mamilie in Lille) it’s all a bit hollow. Still, I’ve learnt quite a few things along the way. For the fruits of my labours have a look on the page “Idées…” within this blog.
Anyway, as I type, my hands are reminding me that they have been working damned hard these last 5 days or so (since last Saturday)….they are knackered, as the rest of my body is. My right hand is particularly knackered – 3 days of artichokes having taken its toll, I think. I have a huge blister at the base of my right index finger and in general the palm of my hand is tingling….it needs a rest, and I’ve never been so happy to see a Bank Holiday arrive (All Saints Day – Toussaint).
Good night, and here’s to a beautiful lie in tomorrow morning…la grasse matinée !!