Scholarship winner blog: Week 2 in Paris

Photo: Septime, Paris, France

HOSTPLUS Hospitality Scholarship winner Mark Bashinsky checks in from Paris as he steps into his second kitchen on his whirl-wind international trip: Bertrand Grebaut’s Septime in Paris.

Paris. What an amazing city.

I walked to restaurant Septime to meet Head Chef Bertrand Grebaut and the team. Every day all of the produce arrives fresh for that day’s service. At Septime they pride themselves on local and sustainable produce including freshly plucked chickens that arrive all intact and looking immaculate. Everything is prepared fresh and nothing is left to waste. Often restaurants in Paris do not have a menu to look at online as it changes consistently with produce availability.

The detail of mise en place begins from the bottom, from washing, to scaling and butchering whole cuts, all the way through until it was cooked and served that night. It’s a tight work space for a team of eight with one stove, one oven and a small bench. Everything must work on time and in symphony with one another in order to achieve the daily menu.

The biggest challenge I faced was the language barrier in the kitchen. What you usually take for granted — like reading a menu or a prep listwas suddenly very foreign to me. I did the best I could to pay attention to eye contact and body language as not all the chefs play “parlez-vous anglais?”.

Staff meals were again a highlight of understanding how not to waste anything, as well as the importance of sitting down together to eat each meal. And of course every meal had to have fresh bread.

What I noticed the most from working in Paris is how much people respect the produce; from the producers, to the chefs, to the guests in the dining room. They all share the same passion for incredible food.

Beyond my work in the kitchen, I managed to visit all of the major landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame and the Place de la Bastille. I even managed the tube without any dramas or language barriers.

Every morning the French have a ritual of a coffee and a cigarette, followed by a quick trip to the boulangerie for a baguette and morning pastry. I am not one for sweets, especially in the morning, but the aromas were too hard to resist.

The fresh food market Marche Bastille was also a stand out for me. I got up early every day to go there before work and check out the new ingredients. Fresh fish on ice, meat being butchered on site, fromage proudly lined up in order. To me, Paris was just as I imagined it — a city driven by the love of food and a passion for cooking.

 

Mark will be checking in again next week for his third and final stage in Tokyo where he will have a rare insight into the precision and dedication behind one of Japan’s most famous cuisines – sushi.

If you missed it, hear firsthand what it's like to spend a week working for chef Corey Lee at San Francisco's Benu.

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