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Anaïs et Thomas Hardy, Vincent Thomy, Jean-Luc Rallu et Estelle Passelande​​

La Chapelle-Glain (44)​​

En s’appuyant sur un modèle vertueux de polyculture, la Ferme du Moulin regroupe 5 associés et compte environ 120 ha de terres entièrement cultivées en agriculture biologique et une grande diversité de production : élevage d’agneaux solognots (race en voie de conservation) et de vaches jersiaises, produits laitiers de brebis, porcs en plein air de race Longué bayeux, pain au levain issu du blé de la ferme (variétés anciennes et panifiables) et la culture de myrtilles.
Leur production est vendue en direct, sur les marchés de Nantes et d’Angers, dans les magasins de producteurs et à travers les AMAPS.

It’s almost 1 year to the day since this incredible, crazy, passionate and sometimes stressfull conversion process began.

The first step was my “Initiation” – 1 CAP Cuisine (infact my actual diploma only arrived this morning !), 6 restaurants / caterers, umpteen cookery / chef books (of which my latest is a true gem – “The French Laundry – Thomas Keller”) and a 2 month stint back home in Newcastle.

I am now finally on the point of embarking upon phase 2 of this magnificent journey, as I have finished almost 2 weeks of interviews by agreeing to join the restaurant “Au Petit Marguery” in the 13th arrondissement in Paris. I will be the “demi-Chef de Partie” in a team of 6 (1 Chef, 1 Second, 2 Chefs de Partie – fish and cold starters, me, 1 Commis) where I will be working mainly on the Fish Section (having sole responsability for the section on Sunday & Monday, whilst supporting the Fish Chef de Partie for the other 3 days of the week).

Overall, the restaurant is 150% “cuisine traditionnelle” and “terroir”, with a particular focus on game (when in season….and now where right in there !). So, I’ve really got what I was looking for – small team, chef who is very present and who loves to share ideas and pass on knowledge, good quality produce (everything is fresh and seasonal). The only minor negative point is that I am definately stepping out of the “fine dining” arena….but then again, that could be the subject of another debate, namely “What is Fine Dining ?”. In my opinion, the only aspect lacking “Au Petit Marguery” is the presentation in the plate. All of the other aspects of fine dining are there.

Anyway, as a start to my professional career, I’m delighted to start in a kitchen where the emphasis is placed wholly on quality and flavour (the 2 main principles of the cooking of the much admired chef from my home region, Terry Laybourne), which many a supposed “Fine Dining” restaurant do not seem to share.

Just a few practical points on the process of searching for work and negotiating ones salary. Yes, the overall restaurant sector is having a hard time and thus people will always say that it’s difficult to offer “decent” salaries (especially for those starting out). However, the same restaurants are having a great deal of difficulty in finding “good” staff. So, we newcomers are in a relative position of “power”…..or atleast, we are not without a certain bargaining power. Listed below are the aspects that were important for me when securing this position,

  • Number of days work : 4,5 to 5 days. In “Fine Dining” restaurants in Paris they are often closed for 2,5 days per week, which is a real bonus. However, the downside is that usually the 4 days work are on “split” shifts, with the 0,5 day on evening shift
  • Split / Continuous Shifts : 3 split and 2 continuous (1 early and 1 late). Obviously, a continuous shift is better than a split shift in that you have more time to yourself (and family). I’m personally very happy to have only 3 splits. My “late” shift on Thursday means that I do not start work until 17hrs on that day.
  • Consecutive days off : I have Friday and Saturday off, which allows me to spend time with the family and also to have a real rest.
  • Salary : don’t forget that the SMIC is 1500€ brut (approx. including 10% extra for the 36-39th hours in every week) for 169hrs per month. It ain’t much, but any negotiating should start from here, at the very least (1 chef tried to make me believe that 1300€ brut was the standard pay for a demi Chef de Partie !). Also, all meals that you eat at the restaurant cost 3,31€ each – this will appear on your pay slip as a Benefit in Kind (Avantage en Nature – Repas). However, this amount is added to your base salary and then deducted, thus meaning that you pay for nothing in the end. In addition, this amount should NOT be included in the overall brut salary that is negotiated with the employer. Normally this comes to approx. 130€ per month, so if you’re only earning 1500 brut and then the employer takes out 130 for meals, you notice the difference ! Beware !!
  • Prospects of Evolution : the owner of “Au Petit Marguery” has just bought a 7th restaurant in the 17th arrondissement and this will be opened in Jan 2009. It will be purely a fish restaurant. The aim is to train me up on fish so that I can move to this new restaurant in January 2009 as Chef de Partie, which suits me fine.
  • So, there you have it. The next step starts tomorrow (assuming that the contract is sorted today), my family are happy with my planning and I am delighted with the quality of the team and the menu.

    Watch this space.

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