Post 22 – Days 17-22: 60 hours in 5 days!

New year, new head chef, new kitchen setting, new menu.

After 2 weeks off last week I restarted working at the restaurant. Last day I worked was new year’s eve. It was the last day for the head chef L. and chef Y. I will miss them, especially chef Y. that taught me a lot of things and became a kind of “mentor” for me. I enjoyed a lot talking with him about cooking, restaurant, chef’s lifestyle.

Anyway, last Tuesday at 9 am myself, the new head chef F., chef K. and chef apprentice Ke. were ready in the kitchen. Chef A. and C. were spending their annual leave enjoying the holidays. Therefore 3 people in the kitchen instead of 6…

The new head chef F. changed completely the kitchen setting and the menu. Every morning he wants:

  • 3 cutting boards on the benches in 3 fixed positions
  • stoves and air con have to be switched on
  • 2 buckets with sponges and detergent has to be prepared
  • towels on the pass
  • 2 containers with spoons on the bench

Tuesday the restaurant was close to customers and we spend the whole day preparing the mise en place for the day after and learned how to plate the dishes. The chef told us: “You do what I say without any questions. When you finish a job you ask for the next one”. Good start. πŸ˜€

We spent 10 hours preparing vegetables, meat, fish, sauces. From 9 am to 7 pm. No break, no food for us. The only people that have eaten were the chef owner, the manager and the waiter. They tested all the new dishes in the menu. Lucky bastards. πŸ™‚

At the end of the day, after peeling and cutting vegetables, making tonnes of gnocchi and other jobs,Β chef assigned me 3 of the 5 starters to prepare during the service:

  • soup pistou
  • salmon rilette
  • tartine de piperade

The other 2 starters and 1 main were assigned to the other chef apprentice Ke.

I asked to the head chef: “Ok, see you tomorrow evening?”. (I suppose to work Tuesday and Wednesday evening then Thursday and Friday full day).
He replied: “As I know, you are an apprentice and you suppose to work full time here”.
Me: “Ehm, chef, I have another job, I need at least 3 days for my office’s job”.
Chef: “Ok, let’s talk about that tomorrow after lunch”.
Fair enough.

The day after I could go for my 12 km run before being ready at the restaurant at 9 am.
The first lunch service wasn’t a disaster. πŸ™‚
We didn’t have many guests and me and Ke. could manage the orders relatively well. Anyway all the setup was messy and we had some problems in finding the right place for the ingredients, we missed some during the plating. The result was a pissed off head chef. πŸ˜€

Dinner was even less busy, like 13 guests but we made some mistakes that irritates the chef…

The day after, Thursday, same story. The only difference: apprentice Ke. wasn’t working so we were only 3 in in the kitchen. That’s crazy. Fortunately I could manage all the starters by myself and I think I improved my confidence during the service. But during the dinner service chef K. became crazy: he had to work in the main section and in the pastry section because nobody was there! (At lunch the chef owner E. works in the pastry section).
It was a pretty hard day.

Ah during the dinner service we replace one of lunch’s starter with another one, that has become our nightmare: oysters. Have you ever tried to open an oyster? Is fucking hard to do it quickly! I spent 10 minutes to open 6 oysters for a single plate!

Friday was the worst day of the week. We had a lot of guest both at lunch and dinner. At lunch I worked by myself for the starters but in the evening Ke. joined me, fortunately. Relatively, because he was a little bit tired and made some mistakes that made the head chef very angry.

During the afternoon break the head chef asked me: “Nico, could you come tomorrow morning?” (I supposed to work only during dinner). “I’ll give you Tuesday off”. “Ok chef, no problem”.

Saturday same shit. During the lunch I pissed off the chef because I was preparing a dish for the restaurant owner and I made a mess… actually it wasn’t all my fault. We prepared a starter called pig’s trotter that consist of a cube of pig’s terrine crumbled and fried then served with lentils. I was frying the piece of meat that usually take 3-4 minutes to be cooked. But for that order the oil was very hot and VERY BROWN (how can we use it I don’t know…) and after 1 minute the color of the crust was… burnt. πŸ™‚
The head chef yelled at me: “Nico, are you crazy?! Do you want to kill chef A.?! Do you want to get fired?! Just keep going like this and you won’t work here anymore!!!”. I don’t know if he was serious because he had a smile in his face so I replied him with a smile as well: “No chef, sorry chef”. πŸ™‚

Dinner service was good. We had a lot of customers but since we prepared a good mise en place and prepared in advance many ingredients we didn’t have problems. At the end of the evening the chef was relatively satisfied and I went home with a smile(*).

I can say that this week has been positive. Especially because next week the other 2 chefs will come back and the individual amount of work will decrease. Hopefully.

Another main habit that changed is the meal staff. Previously we had 1 staff meal after the lunch service, usually cooked by chef A. that prepared a huge tray of pasta/rice with meat and vegetables that every chef, kitchen hand and waiter can ate.
Now not anymore. We have lunch at 11.30 am and 5.30 pm. Not everyone, only the staff that work full time during the day. Therefore kitchen hands and some waiters can’t have any food. And the food that we eat is plated in single plates and the quantity is veeeeery small. Usually leftovers. Nobody is happy about that.

A positive aspect with the new chef’s system is that we have to prepare the “to do” list in advance. At the end of each service we plan which ingredients has to be ready for the next service and we list the jobs that have to be done in advance. I think is a very good practice that prepared yourself to focus in what you have to do and plan more efficiently the multitasking operations.

Ah, I received my payslip. Paid for 24 hours even if I spent about 60 hours at the restaurant…

Today day off, tomorrow I’ll be ready for the dinner service!

*: I cycled home, had dinner at 12.30, went to bed at 1.20 am, woke up at 4.50, cycled to joined my running group, ran 30 km at 6 am. I am still alive, not injured. But don’t try this at home. πŸ˜€


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;


  • 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 πŸ˜€

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