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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Fifi Flowers said...

The restaurant looks FAB... I would love to visit and taste all the yummy food and of course say hello!

Cathy said...

Hey, Loulou, you are something else! Its great that you are back in a restaurant kitchen and enjoying it. I'm envious.

If I'm ever close by I'll stop in to say hello.

Anonymous said...

We had a wonderful dinner at En Bonne Compagnie for my husband's birthday in July last year. The food was superb and the service outstanding. The terrace is lovely and we had a memorable night.

I'm sure it's even better now that you have joined the kitchen Loulou.

Sandy said...

Looks and sounds fantastic! Congrads. I will definitely stop in next time I am in the area. Thanks!!

felK said...

We were there about 4 weeks ago for lunch, will give you a nod if we call again in early August

Betty C. said...

The restaurant looks lovely. Good luck with the rest of "la saison!"

Betty C. said...

Just another comment to sign up for follow-ups...

Po Boy New Orleans said...

Hey from New Orleans and your biggest fans! The best in sugar and spice (and love from) Debbie and Philipe

emirac said...

We've enjoyed some lovely meals at 'En Bonne Compagnie', including the wonderful dessert in your picture, and look forward to many more of the same exceptionally high standard - no pressure for you there then!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

The restaurant looks delightful, great that you got back into the kitchen :-)

Your knife skills will come back..you didn't lose them, just never had to use them for a while :-)

Congratulations, I hope you get some cooler days for working in to!!

Valerie said...

How interesting! Not only your thoughts but all the lovely comments about the restaurant from your followers too. Amazing that photo is 3 years old now and the terrace looks so much smaller than the one on our site.....it's great to have a friend in the team too, especially when it all works as well as last night with soooooo many people!! 8-)

Loulou said...

It is Fab! Wish you could come for a meal this summer.

Thanks. :)
Hope to see you!

I remember exchanging some emails with you and still have some of the amazing lotion that you brought all the way from Australia as a gift. Thank you again!
Hopefully we can meet up the next time you come to France.

Please let me know if you decide to come down!

That would be great.
I still need to get over to Roubia to do some tasting. Maybe this autumn.

Thanks! Have a great time in the States this summer.

Po Boy
Salut Debbie and Philipe! I will be seeing you again this February. Booked my tickets last week. Hope you two are doing well.

No, no pressure...
Glad you've enjoyed your meals at the restaurant. I think the panna cotta is really delicious and a great dessert for summer.

It has cooled off this week but the kitchen doesn't seem to be much cooler! :)
Thank you for the congratulations.

It is interesting that so many have eaten at En Bonne Compagnie.
But not surprising. It is great food!

Saturday was crazy busy!

katiez said...

What a great opportunity.... Such fun and such hell! Enjoy it all. Is it just for the summer trade?

garry said...

See you in August.

No pressure - looking to see how it stacks up against Per Se, Chez Pannise, Wd50 - all great little reasturants.

Loulou said...

Exactly! :)
And yes, just for the season. It is a step in the right direction!

Those places? Huh...they've got nothing on En Bonne Compagnie!

Paola said...

Wow! That is just fab! I never knew you were a chef! I should've known though- more than once you've inspired me with something gorgeous on your blog!

Best of luck to you!

jen laceda said...

Good on you for putting value into the good life! I'm sure you are happier with your situation now than before. Congrats on a good choice in life!

Loulou said...

Yes, I was. And I guess I am again!
Glad to have been an inspiration. :)

It is nice to finally have the opportunity to work. (I've been waiting for France to grant it for many years)