Post 21 – Days 13-15: Christmas week in the restaurant!

A different week than the previous, since my roster changed. Chef K. was enjoying his annual leave so I have to replace him in this 2 weeks.

9 am Tuesday morning, Christmas eve, ready in the kitchen. Ordinary day, I worked in the larder section doing all the jobs that I’ve already done plus something new. Kv, the other apprentice in the garnish section, chefs Y., A. and the head chef cooking on the stoves. There haven’t been many customers, I mean, no full booking at lunch and dinner. I like when the lunch is not busy so we can have a longer break, sometimes almost 2 hours from 3.45 pm to 17.45 pm. During the break we have the staff lunch cooked by chef A. or sometimes from chef Y. then eat outside the restaurant in some benches or o sit somewhere under the shade. If we are very tired we even talked to each other, just eat looking at the non-landscape or play with the cell phone trying to avoid a conversation. 🙂

However yesterday (Friday) I had a long interesting chat with chef Y., joined for a while by chef C.
I like to speak with chef Y. because he has a good background, he worked in very good restaurant, he’s passionate about cooking and always makes jokes. With the other chefs is not the same, a couple work only for the money and since I am very interested in talking about food and cooking you can’t have a conversation about chefs, restaurants, future plans with this kind of people.
Is like during a party when you ask to a software developer: “Ah cool, so you are a programmer, which languages are you working with at the moment?”. The non-passionate employee usually reply: “Sorry mate, I don’t want to talk about job at a party! Let’s have a beer instead!”.
For that reason I will miss chef Y., I hope another one with the same attitude will join the kitchen staff.

Christmas day restaurant closed. I enjoyed the day with a 20 km run in the morning, help cooking lunch at my friend house and have it with friends, swim at the beach and in the evening we went to other friends house where I cooked a pasta and we had dinner all together.
The day after, Boxing day here in Australia, I woke up ride to my office, ran 12 km detox and then ride to Perth city center. Why? I caught up with the other chefs and we went to have lunch at the farm of the restaurant owner!
As usual, here in Australia you have to drive at least 100 km to reach a “rural” place. So 2 cars, 5 people each for a 1.5 hour drive. I had to seat on the back in the middle between chef A. and C. The latter is a huge guy so I had to compress myself an make my ass square in order to fit the seat. 😀

The lunch was nice, we had food from the restaurant that chef L. and Y. prepared. Actually they just plated the food. I also contribute because they asked me to make a potato salad. A lot of potato salad. In fact at the end of the lunch 3/4 finished in the bin. I hate that waste of food.
Anyway, after 5 Corona I was still sober and I listened to chef’s A. histories about his past. I love to ask questions to people so they can talk for hours by pumping their ego. 😀
He showed us how he re-builded his own house from scratch, in the middle of the nowhere, here in Australia.
Then they played pool while I was browsing at his book in his shelves. Most were gifts with dedications from friends and colleagues. I don’t think he has read any of them. 🙂
At 5 pm we drove back and as usual after a big lunch everyone (except the driver, chef’s Y. wife) took a nap. 😀

Friday and Saturday I worked full day from 9 am to 10 pm. Service was relatively easy, Friday only 6 booking 😮 but last night more than 60. It was the first time I worked on Saturday and usually they clean EVERYTHING: Fridges, benches, knives, stoves, floors, windows.

Next week, only one day: new year’s eve.

Post 20: Day 9-12 (of 30): Some thoughts after a positive week

Job list

 

This third week at the restaurant has been very good. I’m getting more confidence and I can manage all my duties with a good (not yet perfect) efficiency. There are still certain jobs that I prefer not to do, simply because I’m not fast enough on them or the result is not perfect. Like mash a big pot of potatoes or chop a big bowl of parsley and shallots in 15 minutes…

Anyway I notice that being fast is more important that being precise. At the beginning, especially during the internship the other chefs told me that the parsley has to be minced veeeeeery fine. But then I realized that they don’t care much about the precision… chef K. chop a lot of parsley and chives very fast but the quality is not so good in my opinion. 🙂 Moral: do your job as fast as you can in order to reach an “acceptable” result.

A positive fact about this week is that (I think) the other chefs noticed my positive mood when we’re working and they also started to smile and do jokes during the day. I always try to smile even if I am tired, body language is always important. Yesterday after lunch service I was finishing my tomato concasse just before the break and I started whistling an happy song. Chefs K. and Y. told me: “Nico, are you happy? Are you crazy?!”. “Come on guys, we’re going to have a break now and take a rest!”.

Furthermore the chef owner E. that yelled at me at my first full day 3 weeks ago talked to me and asked some question about where I come from, Italy, France bla bla bla… Maybe because he noticed that I do what he asks me (not many things, fortunately :D) without making troubles. For example on last Tuesday he was looking for a grater and asked to chef Kv. where he could find it. Chef Kv. (he’s the youngest chef in the kitchen, also apprentice) was a little bit in panic about the request and didn’t know about that and replied: “I don’t know maybe in the pastry section…” (by the way, where chef E. was working). In 2 seconds I gave the grater to chef E. because I knew it was under the bench. He told to chef Kv:: “You see? He’s smarter than you!”. 😀

Like the previous week I had worked Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 pm to 10.30 pm, Thursday and Friday from 9 am to 10.30 pm. Fortunately on the full days we had a break, staff meal and a nap between 4 pm and 17.45 pm. Total about 35 hours in 4 days. For the amazing salary of $419 per week. The money that I can collect with one day as IT consultant. 😀
I understand the frustration of the other chefs that have been working in this industry for a lot of years, work very hard and have a low income. I don’t care about money since I work because is my passion, but for them is different. I talked with chef K. about my wage as IT programmer and he told me: “I should had studied computer science…”. I just told him that if you enjoy what you’re doing you don’t care about money. But that’s the problem of many people, they “sell their time for a job that they hate, to buy thing they don’t care to impress people they don’t like“. Sad but true.

To sum up, this week I had worked in the larder section and last night in the garnish section. My mise en place involved the same jobs:

  • slice, dice, brunoise many vegetables like parsley, chives, shallots, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, apples, tomatoes, avocados
  • slice ham, carpaccio
  • cure duck legs
  • portion terrines
  • warm bread
  • reheat soup of the day
  • prepared mashed and potato salad
  • boil and peel hard, soft and T (for tarts) eggs

During service I had to prepare:

  • amuse bouche soups
  • charcuterie board, carpaccio, egg mimosa, prawns and avocato millefeulle, tomato tart as entree
  • tian as main (that involve cooking spinach, ratatuille, pumpkin on the stove)

Yesterday I was working in the garnish section and the evening was quite for me because there was a table of 53 people that pre-ordered the charcuterie board entree for everyone that I not suppose to prepare because not in my section. I had only to prepare tomato tarts and the tian as main. During the evening I prepared only 3 tian and at 9 we backed up everything. All my bench was clean I ready to finish the cleaning of the kitchen. However, we heard the noise of the ticket printer… “Order! 2 soups, 1 carpaccio, 1 tian, 1 salmon!”. Fuck!! So I had to take all the ingredients back from the fridge and make a new tian. Next time I won’t do it again until the dining room manager will say “Kitchen is closed!”. 😀

Post 19 – Days 5-8 (of 26): I keep the pace!

I’ve just came back from work. A little bit tired but happy. This week has been much better than the previous one. The first time that the chefs show me how to do a new job and I had to do it by myself I almost do it wrong. Not completely but with some imperfections. I miss the chives on the potato salad or I don’t dress the salads with the right amount of dressing. But at the 3rd time I always do it properly. And that’s the important thing, improve a little bit every day and never do the same mistake again.

In this week I was in charge of the larder section and from next week my responsibilities will be more. I have to take care of the mise en place of the ingredients, check if they are all ready for service and if not, I have to communicate with the other chefs so they can place the orders for what is missing. However I can’t order a lot of stuff in advance because the ingredients have to be fresh and some vegetables can’t last for more than 2 days. I have to order them based on the bookings and predict the exact amount needed for every day. Good, I will learn something new.

So, this week was good because I got more confidence and I can manage the multitasking during the service without (almost) any mistake. What I did this week for the mise en place:

  • tomato concasse
  • potato salad
  • mash potatoes
  • soft, hard boiled eggs
  • chopped parsley
  • brunoise shallots
  • sliced serrano ham and carpaccio
  • sliced cornichons
  • julienned apples
  • sliced fennels
  • sliced tomatoes
  • prepared salads (rocket, spinach, coarse lettuce)
  • prepared croutons
  • cut puff pastry for tomato tarts
  • sliced avocados

During the service:

  • served amuse bouche soups
  • plated entree at lunch service (egg mimosa, nicoise salad, prawns tart, herrings)
  • plated entree at dinner service (carpaccio, terrine board, tomato tart)
  • plated a main dish (tian)

At this time the negative points are:

  • working full time (Thursday and Friday from 9 am to 10.30 pm) is not very healthy. I sleep only 7 hours (usually 8.5-9) and I can’t run my 12 km in the morning;
  • the head chef L. and chef Y. are leaving at the end of the month; two of the most experienced and nicest guy in the kitchen;
  • there’s not enough time to interact with my colleague (especially with the waiters); during the 10 min break at service we have a chat but after service we all go home straight to sleep;

Positive:

  • I did’t get any offence from chef E. this week;
  • all the colleagues are very nice; even if chef K. hates this place and is the only one swearing he’s very patient with me and he’s teaching a lot of things; I it’s because of my enthusiasm and good mood;
  • my new knife is working very well; sometimes chef Y. use it because is veeeeeery sharp 😀

Next week third week. Chef Y. told me that I will run the garnish section buy myself!

Post 18 – Day 1 – 4 (of 22): Yes chef!

No time to write anything in these four days, because I’ve just worked. 43 hours in 4 days.

After my last day of the internship I waited until the next Wednesday, when I went for a bike ride and I stopped at the restaurant. The head chef was there, sitting outside with the other chefs during the afternoon break. I asked him: “Hi chef, do you have any news for me?”. He told me: “Yes, I spoke with my boss and he offered  you a part time job as apprentice 4 days a week, starting from next Tuesday”. “Good chef, I’m very happy so see you next week!”. I was also happy because I would have a party on that evening and I didn’t want to go to work the next day. 😀

Therefore he spoke about at part time job: “30-35 hours a week”. In 4 days. Tuesday Wednesday from 5 pm, Thursday Friday from 9am to finish (about 10-10.30 pm). Ehm… pretty strange to me, since I come from the 9 to 5 work in the office, 40 hours a week for me is a full time job. But in the restaurant industry it’s more than 50…

Anyway, before starting the “official” job I wanted to buy the most important tool for a chef: the chef’s knife!
After 3 days of research, reading reviews, visiting 7-8 shops of the city in order to grip the knives with my hands I opted for the Messermeister San Moritz Elite. I’ll write a post about it tomorrow.

December 3rd 2013, 5 pm: first day as apprentice at Le Bistro des Artistes. The chefs were happy to see my face again (or maybe they were just polite :D). They assigned me to the larder section where I prepared the usual 2 cold entrees (terrine board and beef carpaccio), served amuse bouche soups, prepared mise en place for the day after. It was a relatively busy night during which many orders arrived in the same time. I didn’t organized myself properly and I messed up an order. Instead of finish plating some entrees I started to prepared 15 amuse bouche soups when the chef called: “2 carpaccios and 1 terrine boards on the pass!”. Shit. I was half way of the plating. “30 seconds chef!”. He yelled: “You’re too slow mate!!!”. Shit (again).

The day after same story, except that in the morning I have to go to the office to work from 11 am before going to the restaurant for the evening service. The second day was fine. I went to sleep around 1.30 am.

Nevertheless the day after was on of the most shitty work day in the restaurant (maybe in my work life). I suppose to be ready at 9 am but I was there at 8.30.  After 10 minutes one of the owner, the pastry chef E., arrived. I changed and waited for one of my colleague for job assignment (I already had to finished 15 tomatoes concasse). Chef K. arrived and asked me to bring in the deliveries from the back door. I placed the milk on the cold room, that is located in the pastry section. Therefore where chef E. was working.

He asked me (with his “lovely” French accent): “Did you put the new deliveries on the back and the old one on the front? Did you also put the new fruits on the bottom box and the new on the top?.
Me: “Ehm, I don’t think so, chef K. did…”.
Chef E.: “Ok, you have to put them on the bottom, do you understand?
Me: “Yes, ok”.
Chef E. “NO, YOU DON’T SAY OK, YOU SAY YES CHEF, MERCI! YOU ARE AN APPRENTICE NOW, WELCOME TO THIS INDUSTRY!!!”.
Me with a Gomer Pyle’s styling-smile : “Ok… ops, yes chef!”. 😀
Then I thought it will be better to remove the smile from my face and appear sad in order to keep him happy.
Chef K. whispered me: “Welcome to the real world.”
F**
*! Well start for the first full day…

Then he started complaining about the dirty windows and ordered us to clean them before starting any jobs. Then we started working and when I was catching some stuff from the ground he asked to one of the other chefs: “What’s his name?” (referring to me)
Chef A: “Nico”.
Chef E. “Nico, can you please put your pants on because I don’t want to see you FU**** ASS AGAIN!!!”.
Me: “Yes chef, sorry chef”. F*** ***.

The service lunch was tough. A lot of prep for the mise en place, all the chefs running despite being asleep knowing that there would had been a lot of guests for lunch. I did many jobs:

  • tomato concasse
  • potato salad (dice and cook potatoes in salty water, then mix with cornichons, sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives)
  • hard boiled 20 eggs (8′-10′, cool in ice bath)
  • learned how to make nicoise salad (leaves of salad, dressing, potato salad, chives, peas, shallots, salt pepper, oil, tomatoes, olives, soft egg cut in 4, rocket, tuna, anchovies, crouton, flake salt, olive oil)
  • made nicoise salad
  • other jobs

At 5 pm we had a break of 45 minutes while we ate the staff lunch and had a rest. At 5.45 pm ready to go with the dinner service. I worked on the garnish section where I already know what to do. I just fucked up about 4 kg of potatoes that supposed to be mashed. I was too slow with the food mill and the potatoes released the starch and became gummy. I try to stir them as fast as possible on the big pot on the stove when a blister on my hand decided to came out. Fuck me. Chef Y. had to fix it. I apologized for that and he smiled at me: “That’s ok, it’s hard at the beginning, you have to be faster”.
Easier than lunch. They taught me how to vacuum seal salmon, duck legs and ratatuille.

At 10.50 I cycled home. At 12.15 I was in bed.

Friday was better. I worked on the garnish section with chef K. that gave me a job list:

  • prepared salads for lunch service (rocket, spinach, etc.)
  • separate white from egg yolk of hard boiled eggs
  • chopping parsley
  • chopping shallots
  • sliced avocados
  • sliced fennel with the mandolin (I did them too thick, fuck me)
  • plate prawns entree (puff pastry, 3 prawns, cocktail sauce, puff pastry, avocado, lemon dressing, puff pastry, lettuce, chives, orange powder, lemon dressing)
    plate egg mimosa (lettuce, white egg, filling, mayonnaise, capers, egg yolk, chives)
  • slice carpaccio and serrano ham (I did that at the end of lunch service before the break and in the rush I throw away the leftover piece of ham that I suppose to keep; chef K. noticed that since he taught me before to keep it and he was pissed of about that)

We had a break at 5 pm. No food. 5.45 pm ready for the dinner service in the garnish section. Easy service, even if with a lot of covers. I did the same jobs (while having 3 forks of pasta from the staff meal that chef Y. gave me):

  • serving amouse-bouche soups
  • plated tomato tart entree
  • diced onions
  • brunoise carrots

Even if I made mistakes before, chef K. joked with me. The other chefs were also in good mood. Nice finish of the week, after all. They also told me that the head chef L. and chef Y. will quit next month and another French chef will arrived. New menu and new kitchen settings and positions.

Let’s see what will happen next week. I will keep track how many time chef E. will yell at me. 😀

Post 17 – Day 16: Last day of the internship

This morning late 12 km run, some reading about review of chef’s knives then cycled to the restaurant for the last day of my internship.

I should say that for me was the busiest service in these 4 weeks. I had to run both the larder and garnish section and prepare more entrees that I usually do.

I started by preparing two trays of tomatoes for the tarts (sliced 15 tomatoes in quarters, salt, chopped thyme, balsamic, olive oil, 25 minutes in the oven, rotate the tray, other 10 minutes) then I:

  • prepared amuse-bouche soups
  • prepared tomato tarts entree (chef Y. yelled at me 3 times that the tart has to be hot and I don’t have to prepare them in advance while the other entrees from the main section haven’t be ready yet)
  • prepared carpaccio entree
  • prepared charcuterie board entree
  • chopped chives (I hate to do that with my dull knife :()
  • julienned apples for salads

Finally during the service I heard an angry French chef yelling in Gordon Ramsay style! He was the owner of the restaurant. He’s old, I saw him 4-5 times in these 4 weeks. He’s very nice and always smiles at me and ask “how are you?”. He never cooks on the line, just give directions for new recipes to the head chef.
Tonight he was entertaining the guests at the table when he came back in the kitchen saying that the sauce wasn’t good or something like that. Then, since everyone was busy at their jobs and he didn’t give him attention (I suppose) he started yelling: “You have to listen to me and follow my order when I say something, this sauce is shit and you have to fix it!!!” or something similar with some f**k in the middle. 😀

However, nobody was particularly worried about that or started to loose control. Very professional guys. 🙂

As I supposed the head chef hasn’t realized that it was my last day of the internship. When I asked him: “Good chef, then?”. “See you next Tuesday for your last week!”. I said: “Ehm, actually today has been the last day…”.

So now I am waiting until next Wednesday since he has to propose my position to the owner. He told me that probably I will run the larder section for 2 full days a week: 9 am to 3.30 pm, break then 5.30 pm to 10.30 pm.

Finger crossed. 😉

Post 16 – Day 15: They taught me how to cook a risotto!

This week I changed routine. I eat dinner at midnight when I come back from the restaurant, do some reading and go to sleep around 2 am. Wake up at 10.30, 12 km running under the Australian sun then cycle to the restaurant where I start working at 5 pm.

Today service time was good, I did the same jobs as the previous days in the garnish section:

  • prepared amuse-bouche soups
  • prepared tomato tarts entrees
  • minced parsley
  • brunoise shallots (chef Y. was frustrated because I am still too slow, I had to prepared 2 boxes of shallots but I did only one :()
  • warmed mashed potatoes
  • moved hot plates from the oven to the service table

They taught me new jobs:

  • heat the soup for the amuse-bouche
  • wrap pork rillettes for the terrine board
  • pre-cook a saffron risotto (a Korean chef teach to an Italian how make a risotto in a French restaurant :D)

Tomorrow last day of the training period!

Post 15 – Day 14: Quite Wednesday (again)

Scar on my arm

Same day as yesterday, the only difference: 8 covers instead of 80. 😀

During the service I:

  • cooked mashed potatoes
  • warmed mashed potatoes
  • prepared tomato tarts entree
  • warmed bread
  • minced shallots
  • deboned an hotel pan of pig’s trotters (the meat will be use for the terrine)

I realized one of the chef’s hobby: collecting scars caused by being burnt somewhere. Oven is the main source for the purpose but I am learning new ones:

  • sprays of hot oil or liquid food from the frying pans on the stove
  • hot plates from the oven
  • unattended hot trays on the bench left from other chefs that you take with your hands because you think they are cold

I’m at quote 5 in almost 4 weeks, I want to reach 10 in the next month. 😀