After being so anxious and stressed about starting my new stage, my first week passed by without too many glitches. It was a bit crazy and there was some yelling, but so far I get a vibe about this place.
My two biggest concerns about working were: 1. Enduring the long hours and 2. Dealing with shitty people, but luckily both sort of worked out for me. Unlike other restaurants, because I’m a stagiaire, or intern, from Le Cordon Bleu, I only work half days. Our contract specifies the number of hours we’re supposed to work per week and the restaurant respects that number…more or less. I still work more hours than I’m supposed to, but that’s ok. My other classmates from school are working 14 hour days…so I’m not complaining. On my first day I worked the day shift starting 8:30am, but starting the second day I was moved to the night shift that starts at 3:30pm and ends at closing around 12:30am. Sometimes, by the time I get home it’s past 1am, but it’s not so bad because I can sleep in and I still have the day to run errands (which was especially much needed this week because I needed to sort out some visa issues…more on that later).
I was almost sure that environment would be as toxic and awful as it was during my pastry stage, but I’m so so SO relieved that it’s not half as bad. The chef and executive chef can be scarier than Gordon Ramsay, but they’ve both been friendly with me. The executive chef especially has been kind to me, always calling me by name and greeting me with a smile. He’s also quite a good teacher and when showing me a task, really takes the time to show me slowly and exactly how something is done. I think that’s been the most frustrating thing this past week. A lot of people have given me tasks to do, but haven’t necessarily taken the time to show me precisely how it’s supposed to be done. Because of this, I’ve made a lot of little mistakes, but luckily they haven’t big huge, crucial mistakes so far.
It’s actually been quite interesting seeing the workings and dynamics of a restaurant kitchen. I haven’t seen much of how service runs, but of the little I’ve seen it seems fun but also extremely scary. I work mostly downstairs in the basement, so I’ve only peaked in a couple of times. But the sous chef has been really nice about it and always tells me to stay and watch..which I only do for a couple minutes at a time. There’s always tons of mise en place to do downstairs!
It’s also been interesting to see how girls are treated differently than boys in the kitchen. Here, I think sometimes it works for and against me. For, because they yell less at the girls (there are only three of us total out of about 15: the pastry chef, me, and another stagiaire), and are kinder. I’ve been called miss, mademoiselle, petite, petite canadienne/coréen, ma cherie, and who knows what else will come out, but not everyone is like that and not everyone is nice. There are some guys who are a bit douche-y with me and try to boss me around. Usually, they’re the ones who aren’t that much higher up than me in the hierarchy.
The work isn’t difficult, but sometimes long. I’ve been cleaning and peeling a lot of asparagus the past few days, and I see an endless amount of asperges encore in the days to come, but I hope the constant repetitiveness makes me faster and more precise. I feel like speed is probably my biggest weakness, which is actually sort of like the achilles heal of working in a restaurant I feel. So, I definitely need to work on that.
A lot of people have asked me in the past couple months about how much longer I’m going to be in Paris? And honestly, I really don’t know. It’s the most frustrating answer to hear, but it’s really the only answer I have to offer. If I can, I’d like to stay in Paris through the summer, at least, but after getting into a huge fight with the visa lady earlier this week, I get a bad feeling that my visa won’t be extended for too long. I haven’t complained too much about France on JDP, but I have to say sometimes it isn’t easy living here. All the paperwork and bureaucracy is ridiculous and the emotional bursts of anger, yelling, and politically incorrectness is sometimes too much for me. I’m usually a very level and calm person, but to find myself yelling and arguing with this visa lady was really upsetting. Moments like this really make me want to leave, but seeing everything I can learn from my stage makes me want to stay longer and experience different restaurants before moving away. So, anyhow, the answer still remains: I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay. We’ll see. For now, my task is to successfully finish this stage.