To stay in touch and share with my friends the latest news about : my new life in Paris, becoming a cook, recipes, restaurants, wisdoms and insights (if any gained). The title is an allusion to Hemingway's book about his early years in Paris. He was writing just around the corner of my new home in the Montparnasse cafes....
Being tired of all the cheap touristy adjusted-to-French-taste Sushi-Shops in Paris I wanted to try this "true" more authentic Japanese restaurant for a while, that has earned a lot of positive reviews. And I was not disappointed. I loved the way they delivered the explanations of the Bento-Box as part of the menu...
I have taken a couple of more photography classes since September. The two last ones about capturing speed and about night photography. The purchase of my new toy had been initiated by a missed opportunity during the finish of the Tour de France this year, when I had Lance and Alberto directly in front of me, and all I got was a lousy blurred photo. So I am hoping this will be different in 2010. I want them to be recognizable this time. But a good camera is not enough, there are some little tricks involved about capturing speed, I was hoping to learn. We took the photos around the Place de la Concord to appreciate the impact of using 1/1000 versus 1/60 on the water fountains, and then continued learning to capture sharp impages of the cars circulating around the Place de la Concorde, which is basically obtained by following the object with your camera (panning). Sonds easy but takes a little practice to master. So I got my Tour de France training, Lance I am ready !
Capturing the Fountain in the Jardin de Tuileries with the Ferris Wheel on the Place de la Concorde in the background :
Tour de France 2009, with my old toy. Lousy. Lance is blurred. The spectators are sharp, and the buildings in the background overexposed.:
Practicing for Tour de France 2010 on Place de la Concorde with my new toy, not yet perfect, but will be getting there. With panning the bikes are almost sharp, the background (Champs-Elysees with Arc de Triomphe) is blurred transmitting the notion of speed, and the exposure correct. :
The other class was about night photography, and I especially appreciated learning about the streaked light effects with long exposure, and the effects of changing the focal length during exposure ("zoom burst").
The trio de pannacotta, one of the best selling desserts had to be replaced last week. In the beginning I had 75 verrines (small glasses), just right for 25 portions, and it allowed me to prepare the pannacotta twice per week. Over time more and more glasses broke, at the end sometimes two per day and I ended up with 36 glasses, just 12 portions or the equivalent of what we sold from Thursday to Saturday per day, so I had to prepare the pannacotta every day, which added an hour to my mise en place. Impossible to maintain. As the pannacotta is part of the "formule", we had to come up with a dessert that is not expensive and fast to produce and plate. After researching a couple of days I had an idea but as usual I didn't talk about it, and simply produced it and presented it to the chef and the owner. The chef liked it immediately and accepted it, the owner, still in his recent new mood of correcting and criticizing for the sake of criticizing thought there "was a color missing" and wanted me also to try other shapes of the coconut-cake, like a ball instead of the "grissini". That type of feeback made me furious because I felt that my idea, the esthetics in terms of colors and plating was perfect and so I simply ignored the owner's comments. After all nobody else had come up with a new dessert suggestion, and I wanted it to remain as I had created it.
So that is still the way I present it today, it is on the menu since one week and running as well as the pannacotta did. The tapioca (perles du Japon) is cooked in milk and coconut milk, with just a little sugar, and I add pomegranate arils and passion fruit seeds, with a crispy "coconut grissini". My team loves it and each time we send one out they say "oh c'est beau, ce nouveau dessert".
... to find this on the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees :
And a note on my previous post and the comments : Chee, Gloria, Mindy , Kelli & Olivier, Ulla, C, Lisa : I am very touched by your reactions, and your comments really lift me up. Thank you all for taking the time to write to me and for your encouragement ! Really touched.
And for those who think I am just complaining too much, I am sorry that they have obviously not understood the purpose of this blog and my history, neither me as a person. This is not a food blog, but a blog about an extreme professional transformation and the experiences and emotions that come with it. My decision to change profession was inspired 4 years ago by reading a similar blog by a woman who left IT to become a cook in Paris. Today she is back in IT, because it was too frustrating and not paid well enough. I will not be going that way, but at least I also want to show the reality, with the good sides and the bad sides of what it means to move to the restaurant business. Since 20 years my job has always been a key priority in my life, and naturally I expect it to be a source of happiness, maybe more than the average person does. So if I am not getting out of it what I am putting in and something is not meeting my expectations, I am sharing it here, being well aware that the world is not perfect. If it is tiring you, don't read my blog. About myself : yes I am a very emotional person, easily overwhelmed by small things in the good sense (by a Leonard Cohen song in a Paris taxi at night) and in the bad sense as well (by a boss, that stops appreciating my efforts). And I am happy and thankful that this is the way I am.
For the situation in the restaurant, I have been thinking about the options. I will not talk to the patron, as I believe he is that type of person who won't understand or change, and I have made bad experiences in the past with criticizing bosses. But I talked to the chef about my frustration, in fact he came to ask why I have been so grumpy lately. He said they couldn't function without me at the moment, that there was a certain pressure on him and the patron because of the recent success of the restaurant, that was certainly also due to my contributions. This was very nice to hear. Since then I noticed a new major effort on his side to keep my spirits up, and we agreed on a plan to get me better training in the next year at his "hot" station, so that I will continue to make progress. I stopped giving 200% and am now down to 150%. Not adding 2-3 hours overtime per day anymore, stopped accepting the role of personal assistant of the patron into which he is sometimes pushing me, stopped shopping for ingredients that we don't have in stock, stopped behaving as if the restaurant staff was my family and the restaurant my own, take more emotional distance and a more professionaly focussed approach. All this is unfortunately reducing the fun, because I have always been happiest when I can get involved 200%. But at the moment it is the way to go to protect myself and get back on track for the next steps.
Oooops, I realize I deviated just a little bit from the subject of German sausages, also a great source of happiness, but there a things that have to be said.....
I haven't been posting for a while about the restaurant, because I am going through a phase of doubts and wasn't in the mood to share dessert or starter photos. My motivation and drive for creativity has dropped sharpely and so has my enthusiasm for the restaurant where a couple of weeks ago I still believed I would stay for a couple of years. I am still waiting for this phase to end and hoping to be able to return to a more positive state of mind. I believe that my mistake was that I got too involved and too engaged in the operations of the restaurant, almost acting as if it was my own. While in the beginning the owner and the chef have lifted me up and expressed their admiration and appreciation continuously, all my extra contributions have become now the standard for them, positive returns are now an exception and I even sometimes feel negative vibes and pressure during service which has not existed for the first months I worked there. I feel I have lost the extremely good relation to the owner, which has been driving my enthusiasm, and while I am making more and more efforts every day to get the initial atmosphere back, I believe I need to step out or back emotionally from the restaurant, and consider it just as a milestone towards my ultimate goal. This is probably more realistic, after all I am just a poorly paid emloyee and not an associate, but the thought makes me sad.