Just like any day since beginning of February I left my appartment at 8:40 a.m., took the metro 10 stations to get out at "La Madeleine", entered the bistrot, had a very good espresso before climbing down the hundreds of years old wooden stairs into the "cave" and locker rooms to get into my cooks uniform.
Official working time to be in the kitchen is 9 a.m., but with everybody having an esprosso first, it usually gets 9.15. For the month of March I am assigned to working "au chaud", on the hot line. This morning I prepared a "gratin dauphinois", which was the side dish for the "plat du jour", the entrecote. It needed to be planned to be for 20-30 orders, so it was a huge gratin. Then the usual "mise en place" checking if of everything for the service was ready and in enough quantity in the fridges, from lemons, to tomatoe cubes, to meat, fish, scallops, lobster, precooked vegetable. I cooked some potatoes, that are served with the sole meuniere and the "blanquette de veau", and prepared the mini-legumes that go with the lobster. Before 11 I also finished preparing the meal for the staff (4 cooks, 1 dishwasher and 4 servers), today roastbeef and pasta.
Like every day at 11 a.m. the chef kicked us out of the kitchen, even if we wanted to continue with the mise-en-place. But he insists on everybody respecting the break time. It is the first of the restaurants I have been working at where the staff eats at the normal customer tables and not on the pass or on the working benchens, so I am enjoying those 45 minutes. Like everyday I get back into the kitchen at 11:45 and double checked if everything was ready for the service to start. I quickly produced a sauce Bernaise, that we were running short of, that is served with the filet-frites. The amount is 10 times more that we used to do at school, so the techique and tools need to be adjusted a little bit, but I can do a sauce Bearnaise for 100 people perfectly now in one shot ! Customers come in starting at noon, and are accepted until 3 p.m. Today it was my turn to cook everything, while an appretice did the plating. Usually we take turns. The chef just interfered, when we were starting to "drown" or to be "dans le jus" (in the juice, or losing it).
We sold a lot of "blanquette de veau" today, a dish that goes very well, when it is cold outside. Basically it is a combination of big cubes of veal, carrots, bacon, potatoes, and small onions in a thick creamy sauce, not light but very yummy and the specialty of the bistrot. I also cooked ris de veau, andouillette, chicken breast with vegetables, pork feet, sole meuniere, filets de boeuf, "saignant" and "a point" perfectly mastered, something that was a mystery to me only 1 month ago, the plat du jour, entrecotes served with my gratin that the chef had complimented. Around 1 p.m. the apprentice and I got a bit in trouble, because the tickets were flowing in all at the same time. For each table the machine spits out a ticket twice, once when the customer orders (la commande), and once when the waiter wants the order on the customer table (la reclame). Depending on whether the customer has a starter or not, drinks an apero or not, eats slow or fast, the time between the reception of the two tickets at the hot line can be anything between 1 second and 20 minutes. So I started to lose it a little between knowing what I had to cook for sending out immediately, or what I had to prepare for later. Sometimes you can't wait for the second ticket, for example a pork feet cooks at least 15 minutes, so it must go in the oven with the first ticket. For an entrecote on the other hand, you just start to sear it, when you get the second ticket, and then imagine 15 tickets getting in at the same time... But the chef interfered a little bit to set the priorities and very quickly we were back on track.
(my current work area at the end of today's service, with the last order for a table of two on the pass : a steak-frites with sauce bearnaise and an entrecote)
It got quiet for me around 2 p.m. when the last customers all had their main courses and moved on to desserts. But this month I am not in charge of them. So at that time I started to clean my area, the stove, the workbench, moving items back into the fridges, and cleaning the floor while being ready for late customers, which we have to accept, but everybody hates when they walk in at 2:50. Whether there is something to do or not, we have to stay in the kitchen until 3 p.m. and then are kicked out by the chef again. I took the metro back home, usually I take my afternoon nap before getting back at 6 p.m. to start the service at 6:45. But I decided I will skip the nap today, and instead be awake the most time possible today, and offer myself a nice café in the Café de la Place.
Actually I don't want this day to be just an ordinary day.