Vignette: My First Day in Avignon

It’s great not starting work until 9 am, and then in a place that’s a two-minute drive up the road. I didn’t have to get up until 8 and it was already light. Chef was just arriving when I rolled up and it’s straight to work, really. It’s a quiet week until the weekend, when the groups start arriving – mostly people celebrating the holidays I guess, and in fine style too.

So this week I’m working through a number of cleaning jobs, starting today with the dustbins and then the copper pans.

The dustbins are those giant wheely bins they use in factories; dumpsters, they call them in the States. Five of them, wheeled round the back, hosed down and then scrubbed out with a special cleaner, a broom and lots of elbow grease. It takes me a good hour.

Then mix up a special ‘pâté’ to clean the copper pans, all 30 of them – gros sel (coarse sea salt), flour and vinegar: equal quantities of the dry and then add vinegar until it makes a paste. Use this to scrub the pans until they gleam in and out, handles too.

This goes on all day. We do a very small service for lunch, just half a dozen people, but I’m fully occupied until I finally get home at 4. And I really enjoyed it. We had a great lunch, eating up what the customers haven’t scoffed so today it’s terrine de foie gras, terrine de port aux pistaches, lots of turkey steaks and pasta, and some of chef’s fabulous chocolate mousses – there’s a secret ingredient in them which he says is absolutely not chopped up grapes. Hmm. Delicious anyway – and if this is how the staff eat just imagine what the customers get.

Back this evening; chef points out that because I haven’t dried the saucepan handles properly each one has a very fine film of rust on it already – mild steel handles, you see. I say I’ll go and do them again but he says not to bother. So I ask myself what I should really do, and throughout the evening take them all and clean them again. Now they gleam. This, I think, was the right thing to do. He seems pleased.

We eat again this evening, finishing up what we couldn’t manage at lunch and really I have to waddle afterwards. This stuff is good.

And it was that easy and non-eventful really; no bollockings, even when I made a mistake, no shouting, nothing horrible. Just smiles, compliments, pleasant greetings. All really weird.

 

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