literally translated : "the return", which fits the situation better than the actual meaning "back to school". Happy New Year to the French ! Well, calendars run from September to July and not from January to December here. After a month of no activity, the country wakes up and everything starts as if it was a new beginning. The official back to school day in Paris was last Thursday and since then things are getting back to normal.
The picture below by the way is my godchild Amelie on the way to her first day of school in Germany a month ago. Also a big event, to which I travelled, but not driving the life of a whole country as it is the case here.
La rentrée to the restaurant has been a little rough. We returned and many things were broken and not set up correctly, so the only words the otherwise so well behaved chef kept repeating was "putain de merde". First the drains didn't work, so we had to deal with flood in the basement five times a day. Then the dishwashing mashine created a blackout each time we switched it on, the first night the customers sat several times in the dark, then I pulled the plugs and decided that everything would have to be washed mannually, which created more inondations. So my dishwasher-commis instead of being able to help me with the mise en place and the plating during service, did nothing but washing and cleaning "la piscine" (the swimming pool" as I started to call my flooded basement area. This doubled my workload and of course the speed at which I had to work. Fortunately we were only running at 30-40 covers per night, so it was still manageble. With the targetted 50-70 covers per night I would not have survived...
Then we had various types of animals that had found a new home and reproduced during the closing week. I won't go into details, otherwise none of my friends and readers will come to the restaurant any more. Just watch Ratatouille and Starship Troopers simultaneously to get the point. This has been fixed in the meantime with various traps and tons of poisening spray. Among the other minor issues was the failure of the lights in the basement, so that I use now a little reading lamp to have light for plating. Sometimes also the food elevator broke, so that we had to carry plates via the back stairs upstairs to the restaurant level. Also besides the restaurant falling apart, and the frustrated chef, "le patron" is more than stressed, as his business partner, my former 2nd patron has left the partnership and wants to be paid his share, but the credit hasn't been yet approved by the bank. Obviously this would trouble any entrepreneur, so his mind is somewhere else, and he is not focussed as usual on the details and operations of the restaurant.
I can continue : the guy who usually runs the starters and desserts for lunch service got married and is on 2 weeks vacation, and sent a family member to replace him. His cousin speaks hardly French, doesn't really work clean and fast, and is a reasonnably good dishwasher but not a qualified commis. This should have been predictable, but le patron thought it could work, the chef did not. So two days after la rentrée the chef called me at home to beg me to work also during lunch service and to start working at 10 a.m.; instead of 4 p.m. And I can't say no to anything the chef asks me... But after one day of 15 hours without break, I came in totally crushed the next day and asked the chef and le patron if they realize what they have asked to an old woman like me. I was sooooo tired and could hardly open my eyes. The patron then said that they would find a solution, and it would be o.k. if I could only come in at noon. The chef was not happy, but it was a better compromise. While le patron was very flexible, he couldn't resist to tease me later, and asked how I imagine to run a restaurant, if I am so tired after just one day working two shifts. I didn't even try to argue, because he was right. For me this was an important lesson. I might actually not have the physical energy neither desire to run a restaurant for lunch and dinner service on my own. What's the point to be tired all the time. But I believe I will find a formula that fits, either limited opening days / hours, limited number of seats, cheap employees, a business associate, etc. etc.. Something to plan well, before making the big step.
I continue with "la rentrée" : During my (wonderful wonderful) cycling vacation in Bavaria I had not given a single thought to the new Fall menu. The meeting had been set up for September 8 for implementation as of September 15, that would give me 2 weeks from the reopening day. But surprise, on Thursday last week, the chef announced that the menu planning meeting would be on the following Tuesday, September 1st. That left me with 3 days to come up with 7 starters and 7 desserts, which meant weekend "recreation" was cancelled, and I worked all weekend over my cookbooks and magazines, feeling very much reminded of those many days preparing presentations for HP a little late under time presssure. So all of last Sunday and Monday I established my proposals, and while a little upset about the missing weekend fun, I was rather happy with my results. At the end 3 out of the new 7 starters and 6 out of the new 7 desserts will be from my list. To be discovered in a future post.
Today was my first full real day off after those intense two weeks, and the fact that I only woke up at 11:30 a.m. speaks for itself. My legs and feet still hurt and I spent my day reading (NOT a cookbook) sitting in sidewalk cafés and restaurants in the September sun. Next week will be much better, I will be back to my normal working hours, and it seems there will be no more "piscine" in my kitchen.