Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Amateur or professional chef?!

Why don't I start cooking professionally? As in; quitting my day-job and doing what I like most.
I asked myself this question many times in the past few years.
Well as I know now; it's so much more than just cooking!

I was one of the 18 lucky people who got the chance to experience a whole day in the restaurant 'In de Keuken van Floris' (translated as: In Floris' Kitchen).  On the occasion of the World Food Festival weeks in Rotterdam from Wednesday 18th September until Friday 25th October 2013,  they offered a one-day internship in their professional kitchen.

I had dinner in this restaurant before and I loved the concept, the food and the wines.
The concept: The beautiful and modern kitchen is standing in the middle of the restaurant and all the guests
(a maximum of approximately 40) are sitting around it. There is only one 9-course menu, the same for everyone, which you can choose to be completely vegetarian. It starts at 19.00 pm and everyone is served the same dishes at the same time.
On quiet evenings chef Floris Versluijs, sous chef Mathieu Roza and sommelier Mathijs Struik run the restaurant themselves. When fully booked there is some extra help called in.

An impression of the restaurant; kitchen in the middle and tables around it

The food: The chef is cooking what he likes; and these are not the most simple dishes. Floris did internships in world famous restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen and Alinea in Chicago. He has his own touch and is constantly thinking about new ideas and experimenting with things he finds in nature. And I really love the fact that he is cooking a lot with (less known) vegetables. Absolutely delicious and inspiring.

The wines: Off course on the day I worked there I did not have any of the wines served with the food. But I still remember the Champagne we had during our last visit in 2012. It was something I had never tasted before: Champagne with the taste of a sweet sherry! (Michel Gonet 2004, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Brut) This was during the Champagne flight we ordered before the dinner started. If you choose the wine pairing menu there will be served a matching wine with every dish. And they have also thought about the people who don't drink alcohol.  For those there is the choice of a juice pairing menu, with homemade juices.

So there I was, Wednesday morning 11.00 am,  ready to watch and learn.
And I learnt a lot;
- how they remember which guest has which allergy (counting clockwise)
- about 'French' mushrooms and melons ;-)
- that if a table of four leaves because they don't like their place in the restaurant there is more to taste for the staff (lucky me!)
- but that it also means a big loss of revenue (while costs are already made and the table is empty for the rest of the night)
- about working 14 hours a day with just two short breaks to eat something (and drinking lots and lots of espressos!)
- puzzling with space
- about vacuuming food and preparing it 'sous-vide'
- about negotiating with suppliers about just a few cents
- about the fact that Black Grouse birds have a penetrating odor
- and that you can still taste this terrible smell once it's prepared (as you probably figured this was not my favorite dish)
- that there is really no time to do some nice food photography during the service.

Some of these things are just really nice to know, for any chef.
But a lot of it you just don't have to worry about as an amateur chef.
If it's your hobby you just cook for fun. Because you like to cook, not because you have to earn a living out of it. Even if you master the same techniques and are able to cook on the same level as a professional chef, that is the big difference.

I have a deep respect for all professional chefs working on this level; continue to develop new dishes, new combinations and new techniques every day. In the meanwhile cooking for their guests plus dealing with A LOT of other stuff!

But besides the fact that cooking for a living is so much more than just cooking. Maybe even more important to me for choosing not to follow my passion, is that my current job gives me the opportunity to take a long time of to travel. And guarantees me that I still have a job when I come back.
Because if there is anything in the world I love as much as cooking it's travelling!

It was great to have this experience; I would definitely do it again if I get the chance. Although I've been cooking for many years there is no better and faster way to learn than in a professional kitchen.
To answer the first question; I really wonder if I would still be as passionate and enthusiastic about it.

With Chef Floris & Sous Chef Mathieu after a 14 hour shift (and they were not ready yet)
During my 1-day internship there was really no time to take any food pictures. Luckily friends who had dinner in the restaurant that night took some action-pictures. To give an impression of the dishes that are served In de keuken van Floris I post a few pictures of my dinner in 2012.

Note to reader; when I applied for this one-day-job I applied as 'Ilona' not as 'Crazy Dutch Foodie'. 
I wanted to be chosen as someone with a passion for cooking not as someone who might write a nice blog about the restaurant and maybe would be treated differently. 

Amuse bouche 2012

Main dish 2012

Vegetarian dish with pasta, artichoke, dried olives, dried tomatoes and Parmesan

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic!! I once spent 14 hours in a Michelin starred kitchen and it was SUCH hard work! I love this post because it reminds me of that experience!


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