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,

  • visit to temping agencies (boîtes d’intérim) in Paris to get myself signed up in anticipation of me looking for work from mid May onwards. Met 3 agencies yesterday, of which 2 were fine (Manpower and Adaptel) and 1 was an impersonal, unprofessional little lady. I’m not always great at selling myself (I’m always trying to improve this) and I’m certainly not good at being forcefull and pushy…so yesterday was an uncomfortable affair for me. But very worthwhile and I am now on the books of 2 agencies (of which 1 may be able to get me onto a 5 day training course with the famous traiteur / caterer “Le Nôtre”).
  • finalising the details of my 3 months work in Newcastle, working in one of Terry Laybourne’s flagship restaurants “Jesmond Dene House”. I’ll be paid approx. 1300€ per month for a 48 hour week, and I’ll have plenty of opportunities to work more hours if I want. A really great opportunity which will enable me to add another 3 months experience to my already 5 months (La Fontaine, Le Zephyr and La Zygothèque) from the CAP Cuisine. I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting over there, work in an English kitchen (with a French chef, though, who seems very good). The aim is to go to Newcastle in July, after having spent 6 weeks or so doing temp work in Paris.
  • 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 !!!!

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