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.

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