So, your blogger experienced a magical evening at The French Laundry, last night.
It was the quintessential perfect dinner service. Very busy yet extremely quiet, focused, professional and on-task. This kitchen brigade is a team working seemlessly together, with no mental or physical mistakes, and the food looked gorgeous. It was halfway through the evening when, in the midst of working through my prep list (as the only stagier on duty) when I had a mini-epiphany, of sorts. I realized how close I was to leaving TFL and finishing my commitment on the stage. Yet, I also realized how close I was to leaving TFL - and leaving the experience behind. So, now I need to stay even more focused on the task at hand, continue asking the probing questions of chefs and cooks and stay determined in my goal of gathering as much knowledge and experience as possible. The thought echoed in my mind - "I'm close to leaving The French Laundry." How could this time have gone by so quickly...
At one point I worked with the Pastry Chef on some ideas and questions on specific methods and techniques pertaining to a new dessert idea that was being worked through. One thing I love about this experience is engaging true professionals on questions of the character of a dish, methods, textures, appearances, techniques, colors, flavors, experiences, and the proposed taste of a finished menu item... I also had the opportunity to work next to Chef Keller and he agreed to schedule our one-on-one meeting next week. I will have some time to sit and speak with him privately, as I have a decade of questions for him (if you also have something you'd like me to bring into my conversation, just reply here or e-mail me)!
Later, I in casual conversations with two Chefs des Parties (who I agreed to keep anonymous in this blog), some very clarifying comments came to light:
First, from "B" - this Chef stated in a conversation that "in order to find your greatest learning you need to get out of your element, get out of your comfort zone and test yourself." Brilliant. Push yourself and test your mettle. Get away from the ease of your normal work occurances (specifically in the kitchen but worthwhile in all phases of life) and find the depth of confidence in your ability. Get better at what you do by being pushed. Raise your own expectations and standards. The key is the "comfort zone". It's warm and cozy there, isn't it...? Get away from that place and the steely winds of change begin to blow hard in your face - so, it's a new challenge, a new horizon that needs to be conquered.
Secondly, from "J" - I asked this chef, as I do to everyone I meet at TFL, "Why are you here and what excites you about working here." The response in this case was short and sweet; "Sure, it's hard and the hours are long but it makes me happy." That was perfect. Peace.