An inconvenient turn of events
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hello readers! Or should I say, “Hello…?” Sorry about the long absence. I did not abandon my blog. I swear, I’ve got a good excuse for it and a long post. A lot has happened over the past 3 months since I last posted. I’ll have to fill you in over the next few posts but for now, I’ll start with my stage.

After the first month, my Chef asked if I could stay for the dinner shifts. My work hours became 9am until around midnight, with a 2-hour break in the afternoon. These 13-hour days had its ups and downs. The obvious drawback being the constant exhaustion that sets in after a couple weeks. Other than that, I was having a really good experience. I felt happy at the end of the night and the exhaustion knocked me out good (no more insomnia).

During March, our kitchen team shrunk quite a bit as well. We lost the sous-chef (promoted to head pastry chef in Qatar), the chef de partie (resigned), and 2 stagiares (both temporary). When I started, there were 9 of us at one time in the kitchen and by May, it was just 4-5 of us. It was nice to have less people in the kitchen because it’s much easier to work when there’s space. I also got a chance to learn more more recipes and pick up more responsibility.

Sometime in April, I switched from the mise-en-place station to the ice cream station where we make the rice puddings, chocolate mousse, marshmallows, financier, cheesecake, and of course all the sorbets and ice creams.

Before service, we turn all the sorbets and ice creams with the Pacojet. We have 2 identical Pacojets, but each turn out ice cream with different textures (due to the amount of air incorporated). To make sure the texture is perfect, we need to turn all the ice cream in a specific order so that the flavours that take the longest to reach optimal texture in the freezer are turned first and visa versa. Then, you have to adjust all of that with the timing of your orders and erratic temperature changes of the freezers.

The ice cream station! For the dessert trolley, we offer strawberry, vanilla, caramel, almond milk, and petite suisse. These are all made from scratch every 3 days and turned (Pacojet) at least twice a day before service for the perfect texture. For the plated desserts, we prepare rhubarb, dark chocolate, mango, pineapple, milk, coconut granita, and strawberry granita. And then there's the earl grey tea sorbet that has to be churned in the ice cream maker daily.

Here are some more plated desserts from our restaurant.

Rhubarb (new spring dessert): nougatine tuile, rhubarb sorbet quenelle, candied rhubarb, edible flowers, vanilla and rhubarb jelly.

After a few failed attempts, I finally mastered the art of making the thin nougatine circles in the Rhubarb dessert (above). There is a specific way to making the batter so it has the right consistency. Then we roll it between 2 sheets of parchment paper to a specific thickness and freeze it. Then, we bake it to a specific shade of brown and take it out to cool just until it burns you only slightly. If you take it out of the oven too early, they will crack as you try to roll them. Then, we cut the nougatine to a specific width and length while it’s soft but no longer sticky. Finally, take the strip, roll it around a metal ring and spray it with cold air to set it and do the next one asap before the nougatine sets.

It sounds like a lot of work but it’s surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it! On my first try, I got maybe 4 un-broken circles out of a tray of 25 strips. After a few more tries, I was able to make more than 20 tuiles from a tray. The secret is to bake the nougatine until the perfect colour! And this is all done while standing in front a very hot grill (keeps the nougatine warm, and you too).

Noir: chocolate biscuit, chocolate ganache infused with cardamon, black pepper, and lime juice, with a chocolate sorbet quenelle.

Salé: Avocado cream and milk sorbet inside a crunchy meringue shell with fresh raspberries garnished with avocado cream.

Fraise (new spring dessert: strawberry sorbet quenelle on a basil crumble, gariguette strawberries filled with jam, and strawberry granita sprinkled at the table.

Fondant: dark chocolate ganache, praliné feuilleté (toasted hazelnut paste with crunchy bits), chicory crème anglaise, cocoa nib tuile.

A new tart (pistachio-almond cream with gariguette strawberries) for the dessert trolley.

Sometime in early April, my Chef offered me a job after my stage if I could get my working holiday visa (which I can as a Canadian, yay). I was really happy and making plans to stay longer. But then something else got in the way. I started to have constant hand numbing symptoms, which led to having a weak grip and mild shooting pains. I saw a hand doctor in Paris who suspects that I have carpel tunnel in both hands. Since my insurance plan only covers a small percentage of my medical expenses in Paris, I decided not to get treatment there.

And so I had to quit, flew back home to Vancouver 2 weeks ago, and visited my family doctor only to find out that there’s a waiting time of 6-9 months for an EMG test (just to confirm the carpel tunnel, and decide if surgery is necessary)! After hearing that, I had 3 options: 1) stay in Vancouver and wait, 2) return to Paris for treatment and pay or 3) go to Taiwan.

I decided to go to Taiwan. Actually, I just arrived a couple days ago. I talked to some doctors before making a decision and it seems to be more efficient (2 weeks) and inexpensive than going back to France. And it’ll be nice to spend some time with family too. Looks like I unintentionally landed myself a very long vacation! What am I going to do with all this time? Well, I will blog for sure.

The pastry team at Restaurant Guy Savoy Paris. From left to right: Charlotte (stagiare), Cederick (apprentice), me, Christian (Chef Pâtissier), Jessica (commis), and missing is Valentin (Sous-chef) who was on vacation that week.

Me and Monsieur Savoy. He comes into the pastry kitchen quite often to do some 'quality-control' on all our ice creams, if ya know what I mean.

Luckily, I heard that if the surgery for carpel tunnel is necessary, it should be a quick and simple procedure that will take a week to heal and maybe a little longer to get my full strength back. I’m planning to get my 1-year working holiday visa for France while I recover, and fly back to Paris in September to look for more experience! And yes, I’m determined to continue baking!

Anyways, I’ll be resuming my regular posting activities as long as I can type comfortably. I’ve got lots and lots of backdated material to post. You didn’t think I stopped eating pastries now, did you?




2 Comments so far...
  • Lily
    September 2, 2012
    Hey Em, I think your boss was on masterchef! Hope you are well!
  • Mashav
    May 29, 2012
    I'm so sorry to hear about your hands! Have a fast recovery and I will be happy to read more soon. Btw, avocado dessert (or is it not a dessert??) sounds interesting. Is it really good or just a gimmick?