Chef turned to me and looked me in the eye. Normally if he did that I would be racking my brain, thinking of what I did wrong and mentally preparing myself for what was to come next. But this time, I knew what was coming.
“Maddie….do you catch Pokemon?”
Wednesday, in the middle of a service of 80 covers, Clarisse, Floriane, Chef and I took a pause during one of our quiet moments to have a serious conversation about Pokémon Go. Which Chef had previously known nothing about. And so we enlightened him. Apparently Hotel Belles Rives is a Poké-stop.
(Also, I have to mention that all of my coworkers predicted that the pokemon conversation would make it into my blog. And they were all right. 😛 )
It is SO HARD to leave the American/Foreigner bubble when you are abroad. It is comfortable to stay in your safety zone with people who speak the same language as you and with people who are going through the same experiences—namely, living abroad. However, it is so important in adapting to a new living environment to find people of the new culture to be friends with. I think I have finally, after four months of being in France, started to make French friends.
And to that end, I have to give thanks and a shout out to Tristan. It takes a lot of patience to have conversations with someone who is a beginner in a language, especially when attempting to build a friendship. But this past week, Tristan went out of his way to maintain conversations solely in French with me as we ate lunch together and even outside of work. It was amazing, and I can’t begin to express my gratitude. I can only imagine what it is like to talk to me in French–I’m sure that a lot of the time I sound like a 3-year-old, since I often either conjugate verbs incorrectly or just don’t bother to conjugate them at all. Also, Tristan is now a dutiful follower and supporter of my blog, and has promised to continue reading it and helping me explore France to add new material. He has earned his self-given nickname Tristan the Great.
There was one moment in the hight of service that was like a comedy sketch. We had more cherry and raspberry desserts than usual, and we had run out of the small circle plate that we needed. Chef called out the window for service, and asked the server who came for the dish we needed. The server didn’t return. So Chef called for service again, and told the next server about the dish we needed. The second server returned, but with the wrong dish. A third server came, at the same time as a cuisine chef poked his head into pastry, and both the server and the chef held different plates—both wrong once again. Even in the height of the chaos of service and our urgent need for the plate, there was really nothing we could do but laugh at how ridiculous the situation was. In the end, it took about five minutes and four different people to find the small plates we needed!
Now that I’ve been with the team for over a month, my coworkers have decided that I should speak French more like a real French person in the kitchen. AKA I should be less polite. Instead of gently saying “excuse me” when I want someone to move so I can put something in the fridge or oven, or if I need more space to use the stove or the countertop, I should say things like “move over.” Of course, its hard to acquire the vocabulary and tone needed in the French language for these things—and I would hate to attempt to be tough and swear at someone in French in a professional setting and then say something indiscernible or wrong. So when Clarisse warns me about being too polite, and says things like “Maddie, we’ve talked about this. What should you say?” I have just started turning to the coworker in question and very confidently swearing at them in English (sorry mom). There have also been a few moments when I just have no idea what my coworkers are talking about—and they are joking around and clearly know that I am lost. So I’ve just started speaking rapid fire English at them in response. It seems to work.
So apparently this new stage in ability in the kitchen means being more independent. Previously I would do something, then immediately ask my coworkers what I should do next. Okay, so maybe the desire for me to be independent is only half because I do a good job and half because my coworkers are annoyed with my constant questions. Anyway. Now I have my own list on the wall, and when I arrive I go look at the tasks I’ve been given for the day, and all of the things need to get done before our break for dinner.
On Tuesday my tasks were to make 80 mini chocolate raspberry tarts, 60 plaques of chocolate with fruit, 75 pre-dessert plates, arrange the new arrival of fruits into the cold storage room, prepare the racks of bread for service, clean the floor, mix all the sorbets, prepare the fruits for the dinner service, and some other random things that I ended up doing for my coworkers. In four hours. I’m so happy though, because I am a total list person. Sometimes I have three lists that all have the same things on them, but I just want to re-write my plans or have a typed list in addition to my written list. So even if I am being given more tasks to do and if it is more pressure to be “en forme” or on top of my game, I like being able to think about and plan out how my shift is going to go.
And I really have started to learn more—I’ve now been trusted to make the opaline circles that go on top of our apricot dessert, I’ve been left alone to prepare all 70-80 pre-desserts, I’ve tackled the ginormous batch of mojito cream and the adorable chocolate dipped stuffed cherries, and I’ve been left alone to prepare the gels and fruits for the dinner service. I don’t need to be taken by the hand and led through each step, and even when I learn a new task I am often shown once and then left alone to continue while my coworkers do other things. It is all for, as Floriane likes to say, “Your good evolution” in her heavily accented Franglish. (After which, she asked me for a more natural way to say this in English, and I told her to use the word “progress”… which she then used with everyone else in every situation. “Here Diego, its for your progress” she said, as she handed him a pile of dirty dishes.)
One of Chef’s new favorite games is See Which Famous Americans Maddie Knows. We get a lot of famous people who eat at our restaurant, and while it is sort of logical that I don’t know the basketball players, it is hilarious to Chef (and everyone else) how little I know about the American music scene. Every day this week Chef has demanded whether or not I know of a certain singer. Aside from Brittney Spears and Billy Holiday, I have not known a single person that has been brought up. I guess I’m a terrible American 😛 I tried to assure Chef that I listened mostly to Korean music and am the least athletic person in the universe, so it was understandable that I didn’t know the names of American singers and athletes, but that just led him back to our Pokemon conversation.
Chef: “Do you know this person, Maddie?”
Chef: “But do you know Pokémon?”
Chef: “Voila” *grins and shakes his head at me*
On Friday the kitchen was like a ghost town. Seriously, it was a little creepy. From 2pm on, there were only two of us in pastry and two people in cuisine. I still don’t entirely know the reason, outside of there being an event that booked out the entire restaurant for an event–though not to eat at….just to use the space. There were a lot of staff and lighting a cameras…I think it was some sort of film crew. But since I was holed up in the kitchen in the basement of the hotel, I actually don’t know for sure what happened. Besides being eerily quiet, it was a great day in the kitchen. Since there was no dinner service to prepare for or carry out, we spent the entire day getting a jump start on recipes and preparations for the weekend, and then working on some trial recipes for future desserts. At one point we were working on a recipe in silence and I asked if we could listen to music since it was just two of us and there was nobody else around and nothing really left to do besides work on our trial recipes. Floriane said it would be okay if it was quiet enough not to reach the boys in cuisine, and so for the next beautiful hour and a half I quietly rocked out to kpop in the kitchen. It almost felt like I was back home and baking for fun again!
Thanks for reading! Be on the look out for my next couple blog posts about my amazing weekend of adventures in Nice and Cannes–especially since they will mostly be pictures of food and the beach 😉