Sunday, 25 October 2009

Full week at "le tour" (almost)

Thank God for a 3-day weekend is all I can say! Basically, its been germ city at work for the last few weeks and I was already feeling a sore throat developing come the end of last week. Well, my sick colleagues finally passed it onto me and I came down with a dose at the weekend (first time since Feb so at least the ol' immune system has strengthened) - all a bit crap cos am running out of weekends here to do some interesting stuff before leaving for good...just to really rub it in, the weather was lovely also and all I could do was stay in, rest and drink lots of fluids. After 3 days, at least most of my flu had gone, which was just as well as I needed all the strength I could get to survive a whole week in the tour.

This week was more of the same of what I had done the previous week but just to do everything a bit faster and with a bit more finesse (cue ball-busting). Usually, every day starts off with me having to prepare brioche for the proofer. Despite having done it a few times now, my brioche dough still gets pounded a bit more after my efforts but when I try to do the same, I get told that the dough has become too squidgey and this will hinder the rising process so I make the "least bad" error and leave the dough less pounded...I actually got to weigh and make the brioche dough one day this week, followed the recipes and instructions from "Mr Anal Perfect" (guy in charge of the tour) - dunno what happened but apparently it didn't turn out the way he wanted so he immediately asked whether I had weighed out the right recipe? Everything else I had weighed to date (and afterwards) had no problems but just because, this one thing didn't work, of course, the first thing to do is blame it on the stagiaire.

Lots of feuilletage made this week, another area ripe for ball-busting. Don't pull the feuilletage so much when relaxing it as we don't want too much "chute" (ie. wastage)...... afterwards, "Mr Anal Perfect" grills me on not to pull the feuilletage at the top of each plaque and that I must lift it (but not too much) and then lay it down, without tugging it- easier said than done for me stretching over a marble surface  on tiptoes and at the end of the day, we're talking maybe 1 cm of feuilletage not lying absolutely properly out of a sheet of 240 sq. cms??

As I mentioned this week, I had the privilege of weighing out more recipes for pastry and just my luck, every time I went to the flour/sugar bins, they were close to being empty. All of a sudden, I'm being treated as being "one of the guys" and I'm lugging 25kg bags of flour/sugar up the stairs from the storage area and into the tour. I was actually quite impressed with myself that I could pick up the bag in the first place. One of the bags had to be tipped into the big mixer which is down the corridor from the tour section and believe it or not, I got reprimanded by the boss of the shop for daring to drag a 25kg bag of flour across 5 metres! FYI, it has to be carried in case the bag breaks. Of course, there was no mention of my back breaking during the same distance or God forbid, an offer to bring it up for me himself?? Call me stubborn or whatever but when you are faced with this kind of attitude, when "Mr Anal Perfect" actually offers to help you carry something, why should you take it seriously when you're afraid that it will just look like a sign of weakness?

One of the things I started thinking about this week was the quantity of product we make here in the tour and its quite a lot for 2 people. This week, I shaped 500+ shortcrust pastry tins (just the small ones), 50+ litres of almond cream (helped lift the vessel containing it onto the benchtop, which was big enough for me to have a jacuzzi in!), 56 plaques of feuilletage for millefeuille, 300+ individual handmade galettes (not selling these until January but prep starts now), 200+ Ispahan croissants, you get the idea...

When I turned up for work yesterday, I was told that I wasn't working in the tour for the last day and that it was back into the production lab. That also meant making lots of Ispahan for the weekend rush - a little weird cos when I was faced with my first plaque, I almost forgot how to do everything having had a 2 week break from it! Yes, there were lots to make but I have crossed the pain/boredom threshold associated with it and it also helped that I knew that it would be my last ever day making them!

So....only a week left to go and thoughts about the stage are still mixed as ever:
  • The tour was definitely a good place to go to learn and make other products but physically very demanding for a girl. Couldn't do it long term unless I maybe take growth hormone to grow several inches and steroids to bulk up a few kilos :)
  • Despite my moans, I have a lot of respect for "Mr Anal Perfect" cos everything he makes is probably 99.9% perfect all the time. On a personal level, its a little weird for me to work with someone for 8 hours a day and not saying a single word to the other person except for work related purposes (I did try being Ms Social for a day but sadly, to no avail - can't fault me for not trying). Having said that, the same applies across the whole shouldn't surprise me after 3 months but it still does from time to time....
  • Having worked next to a fellow stagiaire yesterday from a "rival" school, I realise that my own work is pretty good and fast, probably as a result of my stage here so I can afford to give myself a little pat on the back for that :) 
  • "Formally arsey guy" even found the time yesterday to ask what I was doing after my stage and after hearing that I was heading back to London to try and find a job, he suggested that I had a chat with him or the shop boss to see if they could give me any help before I leave. An unexpected surprise, am thinking they must be relatively happy with my work to say something like that? (something to chuckle about......he asked if I had heard of the "Fat Duck" - what foodie in the world hasn't?? Truly a "no shit, Sherlock" moment)
  • Before changing career, I always had a feeling that I would need to get a thicker skin in order to survive in this new industry. Its not perfect but its getting there. Some "pikey newbie" in the lab yesterday wanted to pass on his cleaning duties to me but when I mentioned to "sole nice colleague" that "formally arsey guy" had specifically asked "pikey newbie" to clean, "sole nice colleague" stepped in to help me. One of the good things about growing old is that your people judgement gets a little sharper; I had never liked "pikey newbie's" attitude so as far as helping him, he could take a flying leap ;)
5 more working days with the afternoon team - fingers crossed for a happy ending :)

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