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,

  • prepare the lamb (côtes et haut de côtes) – for the restaurant and for the staff
  • prepare the endives / chicory (cut, steamed and arranged in cold storage)
  • shell the langoustines
  • clean the scallops
  • prepare the lunch for the staff
  • peel and “turn” numerous vegetables – artichokes (we’re using spanish at the moment, whilst waiting for the “poivrade” artichokes to come into season), parsnip, turnip, carrot, potato, squash, pumpkin
  • peel boxes and boxes of asparagus – depending upon their freshness, we peel more or less of the skin (in my 2.5 weeks I used 3 different methods !
  • prepare grapefruit and lemon quaters
  • boning red mullet (infact, since I’ve been with the saucier, I haven’t done a great deal with the fish which is a shame, but I will do alot more with fish when I come back for my 3rd period at La Fontaine)
  • cooking / steaming the crab and taking out the flesh
  • preparing the béarnaise and the basil sauces
  • preparing the langoustine raviolis
  • preparing the langoustine spring rolls / nems
  • 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….

  • whole Sea Bass roasted in the oven (240°C) for approx. 6 minutes then kept under the grill or on top of the oven
  • whole Sole seared and cooked on both sides in the hot frying pan until nicely browned, then placed onto a baking tray with a knob of butter to keep it moist whilst crisping up under the grill
  • Cod fillets (prepared from the whole cod during the morning session) seared and cooked in a hot pan with butter and oil
  • scallops placed 1 by 1 into the very hot fish pan, nicely colored on both sides (if the pan is not very hot then the scallop loses its liquid, and thus its succulence, and doesn’t crisp up on the outside)
  • 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 !

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