Alexandra Jourdan Astruc, student on the postgraduate diploma in hospitality, writes about her introduction to the practical world of service and kitchen.
As PGD student, one of the highlights of the first semester is our one-month practical. Some were quite worried about it, since for most of us, it was our first experience in F&B.
The training lasted for one month, 2 weeks of which were in kitchen, and 2 weeks of which were in service. We were split up according to our semester batch with BBA1 (semester 1 bachelor students) and BBA3 (semester 3 bachelor students), across the different outlets of the school. It was easy to recognize us in the kitchen; we were the only ones with white ties.
I spent my first week in commissary/banquet kitchen, and I loved it! Thanks to the chefs and especially to chef Stegmuller, and thanks as well to the BBA3 students that were with me at that time. After the first day, they entrusted us with responsibilities, even during the open days, welcoming more than 80 people. I had to take responsibility for the entire starters most of the time, with Helen, my PGD partner.
My second week was not as successful as the first one. On my third day, I cut my left hand quite deep while cutting a tomato (!) in CDV kitchen; nothing serious but still enough to spend the next 4 days at home. As I said… first weeks of my life in kitchen.
The third week was the most challenging for me; service in Tacot lunch (the campus fine-dining restaurant) with my left hand (the one carrying trays and plates, though…) still bandaged and almost useless.
My teacher, Miss Fornage, lived up to her reputation by being really strict and demanding, but at the same time, able to find the words to make us regain self-confidence if necessary. And it was, indeed, necessary for me, when I spilled a glass of red wine on a professor, the 4th glass of my tray.
It is always difficult to ask for help, but I have learned the lesson, and after that, I had never hesitated to seek out my wonderful team from BBA1, always available for me, and helping create really good team work.
About my incident… after that, I had a bit of a melt down, went back to the kitchen, offered a thousand excuses to the guest, who were actually really kind and understanding. I wiped away my tears, went back, trying to smile and to do everything it took to erase this event from my memory – but most of all – from my guests’ memory.
While I am someone who fully – too fully – lives my emotions, my teacher managed to calm me down and even to make me come back the next morning.
In just one week, I had learned a lot about people, team working, management and, last but not least, service in fine dining restaurants.
And the teacher was right, since then, I don’t see service the same. I can tell what is good, well done, and what is not, since from now on, I can see things from the other side.
My last week was in Tacot as well, but this time in the Ferrari suit, doing stewarding during Tacot lunch. Even if this is not a work of passion, I enjoyed it a lot and realized that I’d definitely rather be back of house, for my sake and the guests’ sake.
At the end, the practical turned out to be a great experience for me. Some of my friends hated it; some of them loved it, as I did. There is nothing to be afraid about, this is just one more class – but yes, not a class you can just sit down and listen to.