The Story Behind “The French Adventure”
Dan Remar’s blog is the first in a new series of posts that we’ll be featuring over the next few weeks, highlighting student blogs that follow culinary adventures and gastronomic achievements. While his blog is still a work-in-progress, it shares and reflects on his culinary experiences in France. Check out his introduction below, then visit his blog for inspiration. And if you have a blog that you’d like to have featured, let us know!
by Dan Remar
Let’s just say that I am not an avid blogger. Though I’ve heard many times that I should blog to help promote my career, I don’t follow many food blogs. This attempt is not my first, as I have had a few others in the past: one blog was a forum created so my friends and I could all stay in touch with each other–exclusively through the means of trash talking. Another was about spotting classic cars in and around New York City. These and others have all fallen to the way-side and been laid to rest in the endless blog cemetery.I started this particular blog because I thought it would be the best way to document my recent
‘stage’ (apprenticeship) in France, which took place for three weeks in August in a tiny town called Maussane-Les-Alpilles, in Provence. I wanted to be able to share my experience with friends and family back home, while at the same time preserving it in a way that I could reflect and remember it vividly. I knew I was going to take a ton of photos, and I wanted to have a way to narrate them. I didn’t create The French Adventure
with the intention of continuously updating it; instead, I wanted it to be more like a chapter in a book or an article in a magazine.
The whole idea of a ‘stage’ is a bit complicated, as it a rite-of-passage in the world of professional cooking. It can either be an audition, demonstrating your ability in a kitchen to secure a job when seeking employment, or it can be an apprenticeship, learning from a master and honing skills as a culinary professional. A ‘stage’ is traditionally unpaid, as the hope is that the pay-off from the experience will lead to something greater. I have had the opportunity to partake in both types of stage: my first, as part my job ‘interview’ to cook at Island Creek Oyster Bar, where I was unexpectedly put to work on the line for service that evening, and the other, in France, under the tutelage of chef Emmanuel Billaud, where I worked in tandem with the chef to run the restaurant..
The unpaid position in France was much more exciting, and an invaluable experience that I will never forget. I was put to work the day after I arrived, working in a restaurant that had only opened a few days before. More than just learning new recipes, techniques, and dishes, I learned what it takes to open a small restaurant, and the difficulties that accompany being a business owner and head chef. I was exposed to the little nuances of opening and running a new eating establishment, like building relationships with local suppliers, purchasing and operating cooking equipment, and finding decent employees.
But besides learning about the ins and outs of running a restaurant, I got to experience what it was like running a French restaurant in a French town. The attention to detail in the food, the preservation of tradition, and the commitment to using fresh ingredients was truly amazing. I believe there is no better way to understanding what gastronomy truly means without staging and working in a kitchen professionally.
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