I arrived on Tuesday morning at the 3-star Parisian restaurant I cook at not in my usual chef’s whites but in high heels, a form fitting business-sexy dress, hair blow-dried, full maquillage, and a splash of Marc Jacob’s nouveaux perfume (Blush Intense, so yummy!).
Why? I was asked by the administration to do some publicity photos for their website and dress up as a client. I wasn’t even aware that they knew I was a woman! However, the request appealed to my inner diva (and former career as an actor) so I decided to go for it.
taken with my camera after photoshoot - this is not the publicity ones
It was kind of embarrassing showing up to the restaurant all dressed up. Especially because most of the chefs took a slight indiscreet peek as I entered the kitchen and then did a total double-take once they realized it was just plain ol’ me.
I could totally sense a change in their demeanor while making normal morning small talk, which I inwardly found funny and heartwarming at the same time. Let me remind you that we work 12 hours a day together from 8A.M. to 11P.M under hot, greasy, stressful conditions and there is little time for the 36 all-male cooking staff to spend time with the opposite sex. Whenever a woman does walk back into the kitchen the whole place lights up.
I waited around for the photographers to show up, which was fine by me because I got out of prepping for service. The Chef de Viande (my boss) kept joking with me that after my photos were finished, I needed to change into my uniform and butcher the rest of the pigeons and scrub the kitchen down from top to bottom at the end of service.
The photos lasted about ten minutes. They were quick and featured myself and another female server as clients pretending to eat lunch. After they were finished I walked back into the kitchen to head up the stairs to the locker room so I could change into my uniform and get ready for service, but the Chef de Cuisine stopped me and asked me what I wanted for lunch. “Nothing” I said stupidly. “I’ve got to get ready for lunch service, I’ll be down in five minutes.”
Much to my surprise he insisted that the restaurant treat me to lunch along with my colleague. I thought he was joking at first, but just in case told him that I would gladly take the oysters from the photo shoot (a specialty at the restaurant). He ordered me to go sit back down in the restaurant.
Myself and Minh took a seat at the table we had occupied for the shoot and the next thing we knew champagne arrived followed by two amuse bouches, oysters, salmon with fennel, artichoke soup & truffle brioche, sweetbreads with black truffles, a complicated apricot dessert, a chocolate dessert, macaroons, marshmallows, and wine to pair with each course. Easily a 250 euro lunch all for some photos that might or might not come out well. Yes, I know, I’m living in a 3-star Parisian dream world. Some one pinch
The service was outstanding and even though I know each and every one of them (we practically live together!) they treated us like we were formal guests explaining the ingredients in each plate and filling our glasses with more wine as needed. Minh and I kept joking that no one would ever believe this at home… well?...
After lunch we walked back into the kitchen to thank everyone. Funny, I heard a nearby table comment how lucky we were to get a tour of the kitchen. I wonder what they thought when we didn’t come back out!
The cooking staff seemed to have some mixed reactions, particularly the only two girls on the staff—who I could tell were not too happy that I got to do the photos. I definitely understood their jealousy. But hey, I’m fifteen years older than both of them and look foreign which I’m sure was part of the intent. The rest of the staff wanted detailed feedback on the dishes and the service.
My boss half joking, half serious, threw me a sponge and told me to get to work. I threw it back at him and told him I’d show up for the dinner shift early. I never would have had the courage under normal circumstances to have said that to him considering his rank at the restaurant, but I guess my high heels and five glasses of wine did it for me. Smiling broadly, he reminded me that my pigeons would be waiting…
And yes, they were waiting for me along with a bucket of vinegar water to clean the meat station from top to bottom. My chef thought some exercise might do me good after my heavy lunch. ;-)