July 4, 2009

What I Love About Being a Chef (Again)

Many, many years ago I had the chance to apprentice as a pastry chef for an expensive little restaurant in San Francisco. I was considering spending a small fortune to attend the CCA at the time, so this was a golden opportunity.

I absolutely loved the cooking part of the job; spending all day making different flavors of ice cream and fruit sorbet from scratch, making paper thin tuile cookies and handmade chocolates and rich sauces, working with sugar to create beautiful, fragile decorations such as sugar corkscrews and orbs, and making puffy loaves of golden brioche and stuffing sheets of pasta to make agnolotti and ravioli.
Then service would start and the restaurant became a volatile place. Frenetic people running around, cursing, yelling and sweating. I wanted to escape back to my tranquil little pastry room and be left alone to create delicious things.

But with the good comes the bad, right?

In the end though, I quit.
Working 10-12 hours a day without a break, 5-6 days a week, and making a pittance while trying to pay the rent in one of the most expensive cities in America took its toll. The apprenticeship had turned into a full time job without any of the perks of a full time job.
And I discovered that this wasn't the life for me. I am so glad I didn't spend that small fortune going to school at the CCA!

However it was the beginning of an intense passion for cooking and food in general.

the shady terrace at En Bonne Compagnie, looking toward the Canal du Midi

Since then I have been a personal chef, taught cooking classes, done many catering jobs and written about food. Recently an opportunity to work for some friends literally fell into my lap and couple of weeks ago I stepped back into a restaurant kitchen as a sous-chef.

It couldn't be more different from my first restaurant experience!
Thankfully. (the cursing - mainly by me - and the sweating are inevitable though!)

panna cotta with rhubarb compote

What I love about being a chef again:
  • Working for friends
  • Satisfaction at the end of the night
  • Learning new things
  • Giving people a meal they'll remember
  • Working with food
  • Great hours
  • Receiving my first paycheck in France

What I'm not loving:
  • Moments when I lose my confidence
  • When the temperature in the kitchen hits 40 degrees C (that's 104 degrees F) during service
  • Making mistakes
  • My rusty knife skills
  • My skin is breaking out
But with the the good comes the bad, right?

If you're ever in the Minervois and craving something delicious, then come to Restaurant En Bonne Compagnie, on the Canal du Midi. Please be sure to send a "hello" to me in the kitchen.

Restaurant En Bonne Compagnie
Quai des Negociants
11200 Homps
Telephone 00 33 (0) 4 68 91 23 16

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