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 !!