Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Impressions

Last night we went to eat at the restaurant we begin work at this Wednesday, La Fleur de Sel. It's the one we signed up for to be the official externship site. We dressed up, showed up, bought a bottle of wine and finally met the man without a face, Chef Yann Plassard. This man has been invisible the entire time we've been in Brest and our opinion of him has suffered because of it. Once back from his holiday he came into the temporary restaurant we were working, 'a O a' la Bouche, and didn't even come down to the kitchen to introduce himself...rude.
Nathan, our American friend externing here from Hyde Park, told us Chef Plassard comped his meal at La Fleur de Sel when he first arrived so we figured we would receive the same treatment.
Yes, well, we should be so lucky.

We didn't actually think we would see him that night since they "never know when he'll show up," so we figured we'd eat, check it out and speak with him the next day when he'd be visiting us at 'a O a' la Bouche. Kind of complicated, but bare with me.
Gina and I, since forming our not so good opinion of him pictured a short, over-weight man with a balding head and insincere smile.

Instead, a man came walking out of the kitchen to our table about 5'10", Levi's, a nice French build, charming face and a little boys hair cut. I honestly thought it was a different kitchen worker and after he started asking how everything was I asked him what his name was! Whatever, he deserved it, he STILL had not introduced himself.
Though we were mesmerized that he was such a "babe," we noticed later that the conversation we had with him was lame (too complicated to explain here) and the only thing he "comped" for us may have been our finishing cafe's.
He's not nice or caring and we've discovered he's quite cheap. I guess Eric Ripert was right when he came and spoke to us at the CIA about French Chefs..."they break you down to build you up." But really, that rude?
Perhaps this is the start of something beautiful.

Here are a few facial expressions of mine from meeting him, and one of Gina thinking it was absurd she paid that amount for just a steak (she later discovered sides came separately to the table), then of course my amazing dish of duck that I was honestly blown away by. At least it has delicious food!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Best Meal Yet

Today Gina and I woke up at 2pm, which, before coming here, I didn't know was possible but now know it's not only possible but quite normal on a day off.
We planned ahead and went to the market around the corner yesterday to buy ingredients to make ourselves huevos rancheros for breakfast today... though I suppose it was more of a lunch/dinner since we didn't end up eating until 4.
We both agreed it was the best meal we've had in France so far, cross my heart.
Homemade ranchero sauce, homemade refried "blanc" beans, Emmental cheese (the only stuff they have that isn't blue or brie), fried corn tortillas, fresh coriander, creme fraiche, avocado, fried eggs and lots of love ;-).
We never wanted it to end. I even went so far as to say cilantro is now my favorite herb and I could eat huevos rancheros everyday for the rest of my life.
This is a picture of our kitchenette...challenging but it worked great aiding with our masterpiece.
John Mayer sang to us through my iTunes. It was a wonderful start to the afternoon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Day Off!

Gina and I decided to live it up on our first day off....even if it was only after three days of work ;-). It actually feels like more since we work two shifts everyday. We drank cafe with a delicious mousse, saw the pier and made ourselves known as the only Americans in town by changing into our new boots in the middle of a center square! We've decided by the end of the 5 months we will be known by almost everyone here as we most definitely stick out everywhere we go. Before we came apparently the guys in the kitchen spoke of American girls coming and no one believed them since it's so rare. I guess we just have to embrace it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Freddie the French-English"man"

Frederick is a boy Gina and I had the pleasure of working with our first three days in the kitchen and basically adopted as a little brother. He's a sweet 15 year-old boy who we have grown in just six work shifts to absolutely adore. His father lives in Northern France where he grew up and currently attends "hospitality" high school and his mom lives in London where he spends holidays with her husband who "drives a Jaguar." Because of this he has great English with a delightful British accent while being fluent in French and our translator.

Some of my favorite quotes from Freddie: *(read with a British accent)

1. "Goodbye love"
2. "You speak more British than you do American!"---referring to me and my temporary British accent attempting to sound like I'm in the movie Pride and Prejudice
3. "Did you know there are women in the world who can break coconuts with their bums?"
4. "Oh no, don't listen to him, you know he's just trying to make out with you right?
5. "Nathan, he thinks he's so macho over there..."
6. "ya easy for you...that's because you have fairy fingers" his explanation for why I was better at rolling out pie dough
7. "I don't understand....a large McDonalds soda in France is the size of a small one in America! I can hardly finish the small over here! Americans are mad!"
8. "My favorite cereal is Cheerios, have you heard of them?"
9. "It's weird you never say the word 'awesome,' I thought every girl in America never stopped saying it."
10. And my favorite...."American people never stop eating!" referring to Gina, Nathan and I snacking in the kitchen.

His dad picked him up this morning and to drive the seven hours back home and we're all pretty sad about it. He said Halloween in London is quite fun so Gina and I may have to head up there to join him for the festivities. Until then, we'll miss our little comedic relief!

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Work Shift

Alright, first day of work/first shift at work. Gina and I started the day by briskly walking the forty five minutes to work in the rain...which drenched my pants and basically made us look like little wet rats, hence our disgruntled faces in this picture. Once we got to work we said hello to everyone with the two kiss thing. I'm still getting used to this French greeting and when I went to go do it to the Sous Chef, Anthony, I gave him a fat smooch on the second kiss right on his left cheek. At first I didn't think much of it but then I asked Gina if her lips ever touch the persons cheek and she's all, "no way! you only touch cheeks." Great, so Anthony probably thinks he just scored a big one with one of the new American girls.
I worked with him all shift and at the end he said, "Parfait!"....I was tempted to ask if he meant my skills were perfect or the kiss before the shift was.

A few other things:
1. forget about doesn't exist here.
2. if you think reading tickets in an American restaurant gets confusing, try reading them in French.
3. family meal, 10:30 am, braised lamb, could you stomach that?
4. we have a dumb waiter at the restaurant and it makes me laugh

Welcome to Brest!

About a week before graduation I was able to speak to the Chef we would be working under in Brest, Chef Yann Plassard. He informed me when we arrived in Brest we would work at another one of his establishments (he owns 3 restaurants in Brest and according to everyone, "he owns the town") since he and the restaurant we are going to be working at, Le Fleur de Sel, would be on holiday. He assured us when we arrived in Brest from Paris someone would come from this other restaurant, L'O a' la Bouche, and pick us up in a black Audi.

After the 4.5 hour train ride from Paris, Gina and I arrived, called L'O a' la Bouche and spoke with the Chef de Cuisine there, Erwhan. He said he'd be right over. We watched car after car drive by the train station making jokes at the ugly ones saying it was probably our ride and perking up at any Audi that came by. About 20 minutes went by and this vehicle pulled up and we both just knew it was for us. Out popped the Chef who was unable to open the side door of this classy van and instead threw our luggage into the back through the front door while cars honked at him as if he couldn't hear. Gina and I hopped in, uneasy and excited, and sat like sardines to the restaurant. A few minutes into the ride I noticed a huge trash can of dirt and a shovel in the back of the van...I'll let you imagine where my thoughts went from there.

The whole day was super overwhelming meeting the kitchen staff, seeing the restaurant, seeing our temporary apartment, learning the town and attending an incredibly strange party that was reminiscent of a junior high dance with the addition of booz, crazy French talk and chain smokers. We were delighted to see the ocean which was something we both looked forward to while in Paris.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Au Revoir CIA, Bon Jour France!

Graduation from the CIA took place Friday, August 8th, my car was packed to the brim by Saturday with help from my trooper mom and I was off to Paris Monday, August 11th with my enormous backpack and little suitcase to begin the journey of my 5 month externship in Brest, France. Oh to begin the journey!

It's been a long time coming but by the grace of God we made it. We actually had our student visa's picked up by Gina's husband Jon the morning of our graduation in San Francisco at 9am. To make it even more crazy he had to sneak into the French consulate, bypass the security guard and huge line in order to get in and out and make it to see his wife graduate! Speaking of troopers....we seriously owe him one.

Paris had nice weather for the most part and we were able to see all the usual sites by walking all over the city for three days in flip flops and American clothes receiving intrigued looks and shaking heads/laughter when trying to speak French. We learned that people in Paris are nice for the most part but are quick to mock you when trying to speak French when you're not good at it. We had a few meanies here and there but I think you'll get snooty people in any city. Regardless, Paris is beautiful and much bigger than I had remembered. Gina and I are actually still sore from the walking....OH, did we walk! Words cannot describe.

(Croque Madame)

(Napoleons apartments in the louvre)

(me and my plaid American shorts, Gina and Notre Dame)

(escargot and champagne!)

We met a friend at the Marriott hotel, where we stayed, and he actually accompanied us to the Louvre (he had never been!) our last day in Paris. His name is Axel, he is a bartender, 29 years old, been told he looks like a cross between Tom Cruise and Christian Bale (I think that's pushing it), speaks English fairly well and is quite funny. We found out our last night at the bar he is an extremely good piano really, really good and when asked if he liked art at the Louvre he said, "of course I like art, I am a musician...musicians love art!." We had fun making him teach us bad words in French so we would know what the chefs were saying in the kitchens and learning about French culture, which seems to be a bit tragic. They don't hug, they don't cheers, they don't smile on the streets and they don't say thank you very much, only thank you. Gina and I decided giving up those things for life would be much too hard. So, for all you who were hoping I would fall in love with a French man, I wouldn't hold your breathe.

Our theme word in Paris was "AU REVOIR!!" When a any weird guy would yell at us from a car or on the street we would just keep walking and yell that....and laugh of course.
Oh yes and one more thing, Gina and I were less than impressed with the food in Paris. We ended up having a good meal at Le Cafe Marly in the Louvre, some decent escargot and pastries, and then a pretty good pizza our last night (shaped like a heart from the flirty pizza man) but for the most part we decided California food beats it any day.

We arrived in Brest yesterday and begin work tomorrow morning. Our schedule for the first two weeks is 9:30-2:30 and then 5:30-10:30. One day off, Sunday. Sante (cheers) to workaholics! More on Brest later.