Yesterday I had a very frustrating day in the restaurant and it made me feel like things are not really going as I want them to. I know there’s always bad days whatever you choose to do but it’s different this time. As I already mention in few older posts, my plan for the last two months of my stage were doing a month in the patisserie and a month in the gastro kitchen. I talked to my chef about it and he said he’s okay with that. This is what kept me going for another two weeks in the reception kitchen. The reception kitchen is like working in a catering kitchen, nothing like a regular sized restaurant, with a lot of basic preparations.
Every time I had to do something annoying, dealing with the other stagiaires that already drove me crazy, having to be patient, doing what I was told, going back to the Grande Verrier because they needed an extra person there, working on the weekend, doing the same exact things I already been doing for three months, cleaning cleaning and cleaning, not learning anything new… I kept thinking: this is the last days and I’m off to the patisserie for a totally new thing.
I was not happy about my work these two weeks but I tried to enjoy the little things which are kitchen related, rolling the vegetable rolls, chopping herbs, dicing fish and so on. The last day, a Sunday night shift, finished awfully with a whole day task of cutting circles out of dough for two hours and then cutting squares out of a different dough for another three hours, then cleaning till 23:00. I so wanted to end this part of the stage at that point but was positively encouraged by starting this new thing the next day.
And so I started this week working in the patisserie. Excited to have a change I moved my knifes to the other kitchen, told everyone about it and had high expectations.
First few days in a new place are always the hardest, as you are not someone to be trusted just yet, you don’t know how the kitchen works, you ask a lot of questions, you have to make sure all the time what goes where and you try hard not to make too many mistakes. With my French it’s even more of a challenge, but still I was ready for a new beginning with all these difficulties in mind. This week has been a little bit like that for me, but it wasn’t bad to begin with. The work was rather calm and not pressured, I was doing the evening shifts so I had been sleeping late every morning. At work they let me do some things here and there and I felt like I’m learning. Mathias spoiled me and let me taste all these amazing little cookies and cakes. I tried to ask about recipes and what things are made of and my spirit was rather high.
Some pictures from my three days at the patisserie:
That lasted three days. By the end of Wednesday the chef told me that tomorrow morning they need my help in the reception kitchen. I was bummed, I didn’t want to help there, moreover, I didn’t like the meaning of it: I will be hopped from one kitchen to another according to the “need” which seemed like a lot in the near future as many events were booked (and two big ones of 300 people!).
Of course I showed up the next morning as I was told. I’m a good worker, I never missed a day even when I was sick, I was not late except for one time I came right on time which considered as being late in the kitchen (the clock in the kitchen is always 5 minutes ahead) due to a problem with the metro. I’m really doing my best even if I don’t like it and trying not to sabotage my chances to work in the gastro kitchen which requires even greater working ethics. I showed up and tried to stay calm. I wasn’t so nice to the other stagiaires. It’s a sort of a war between the stagiaires, you have to show you are tough and won’t take any of their shit. I tried to avoid doing things I don’t feel like (peel fava beans, clean the gutter, bring things to other people) and went ahead and did whatever I felt more like (rolling the samosas for instance), but it’s nerve wracking to be fighting over this all day long.
I was very concerned about the future of my stage. I tried to talk with my chefs to understand what’s going on but they avoided my questions, had no patience for me. I got an obscure answer, something about the fact that it’s hard planning with everyone and he’s not the one deciding and this is how it is (this is what I got anyway). By the end of the day I had to find out what I was doing the next day. I managed to understand I was working in the Patisserie and by experience I learned that when you get the answer you want, you should not ask again. Went to the Patisserie kitchen to ask about when to arrive but the chef was not there. Mathias told me to arrive at 15:00 but he will talk to the chef and let me know of any changes.
Next day I was in a good mood, got out of the metro in Concorde and it was raining cats and dogs, arrived at the restaurant soaking wet, but still in good mood, I’m not used to these rains in June! Unfortunately my mood changed drastically when I arrived. My chef was surprised to see me arriving at this hour. I explained about the circumstances but he seemed upset. Then I went to the Patisserie chef and he seemed surprised as well, I guess Mathias forgot to talk to him. He didn’t need my help and sent me to help the reception kitchen. I was very upset, everyone made me feel like I had made a mistake and should feel bad about it. There was no reception diner event but the two 300 guests events on the week to follow had a lot of preparations to cover. Easily they found me a ridiculously boring and long job to do: I had to arrange 300 metal rings on plaques and 40 rectangular ones, then take a band of baking paper and stick it with oil to the inside of each of these metal rings tightly attached to the border.
I was on the edge of a breakdown doing these rings. After almost an hour I finished with the rectangular metals and had a lot more to come. In the meantime everyone in the reception kitchen went home and I was directed to finish with this job, clean up and go ask the patisserie kitchen if they need my help then. I felt like this task was sort of punishment for not understanding the correct hour I should have arrived that day, but I knew it’s just a stupid job that had to be done for the 300 guests event. They didn’t let me do it to suffer on purpose, it’s just that they don’t really care about me wanting to learn more, they just see me as the cheapest worker they have. Make sense if you think about it.
Around 19:15 I finished (4 hours with a 30 minutes break in the middle). Then I was ping-ponged between the kitchens: I was sent to the meat station in the gastro kitchen, then they changed their minds and sent me to help with the fish, then they changed their minds again and sent me back to the patisserie for the end of the night. There they were busy and let me help them a little bit getting ready for the diner service. After arranging squares of sugar in a plastic box and moving blocks of sorbet and chocolate from one freezer to another they were all set and went to do their service. I stayed down in the kitchen because it was time to clean up: “you can start with the back of the kitchen” they directed me to clean. After cleaning for almost an hour, when I thought was the end of the cleanings, I asked if there’s something I can do, thinking I may actually do something more interesting. Instead I was told to clean the dough beater machine. When it was done I also had to clean the shelves and the other big machine “I forgot” to clean earlier with the other machine.
Finished with that I was put to wait for the timer to ring and take out the bread from the oven while everyone else is up doing the service. “What should I do while I’m waiting?” I asked and the answer was to keep organizing the kitchen. When it was done I went up (uncalled) to the service kitchen, just stood looking. I had 10 minutes of helping out with the little tartlettes of wild strawberries. It was the third time doing it but they keep teaching me again how should I prepare it. The smaller berries around the borders and a large one in the center. When I did so someone else came and corrects me. “No, you have to put a small one in the center!” etc.
After that I kept standing there until the chef said “Mashav, I have a job for you! Every time I say ‘chocolate’ you pick up a plate with caramel and place a chocolate next to each caramel, like this.” I payed carefully attention to how he’s placing the chocolate but unfortunately since then he didn’t say ‘chocolate’ even once. I felt pretty useless, until Camille sent me home around 23:00.
Heading to the exit I said goodbye to another stagiaire who told me “You already going home? You’re lucky!”. Am I? It was an annoying day of feeling useless and exploited without getting to learn a single thing. On top of that I understood by myself (because no one was ready to talk and explain to me) that I’m heading back to the reception kitchen, at least for the next week, until the big event on Saturday, and who knows what after that.
Having my desire to keep learning new things in my stage being ignored I have to consider my steps once again. Next week I have to face the chefs and although it’s extremely hard to do in French, I got to be assertive with my requests for my last 7 weeks of stage. It would be a waste of time for me to keep peeling tomatoes during my last weeks in France.