7 things I learned as a private chef in France
In August I spent three weeks in Ile De Re in France, a beautiful small town near La Rochelle. I was cooking for a family with three children, and their guests. I have been catering for events this year, but this was my first big test as a chef. It turned out to be a fantastic experience, I learned so much and the experience of cooking three meals a day for varying numbers of people was invaluable.
I learned lots, including...
1. Favourite kids dish - pasta freakin' anything! The kids ranged in age from 5 to 11, their favourites were pesto pasta, spaghetti carbonara, bolognese and lasagne. I would sneak in some veggies to these dishes, brocolli into the pesto pasta and pasta bakes, mushrooms in lasagne, fresh peas in carbonara (only got away with that one once!) carrots in bolognese and shepherds pie. I also did omelettes, frittatas, chicken fajitas, chicken skewers on the BBQ, meatballs, fishcakes (disguised as chicken burgers), sausage & mash, chicken goujons, potato cubes.
2. Most popular breakfast - hands down scrambled eggs, add some finely chopped spring onion gently cooked in a little butter, add this into the eggs while cooking. Grate a little parmesan cheese on top, and serve with tomatoes with fresh basil. This was a winner.
3. Most popular afternoon snack - garlic & lemon hummus with pitta chips. I couldn't make enough of this stuff and got very fast at making hummus.
Add one tin of chickpeas to a bowl, save the drained water. With a hand blender, blend chickpeas with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 clove of garlic. Add one teaspoon of tahini and blend again.
Taste and add salt and more lemon juice according to your preference.
The pitta chips were torn up pitta bread, put the pieces in a large oven tray, pour some olive oil over and bake at about 180 until crispy and golden, about 15 mins. Sprinkle sea salt over them.
4. How not to fall off your bike while carrying groceries.
Every morning I would cycle to the market nearby to buy a baguette, pain au chocolat and crossaints for breakfast.
Later in the morning I would go to the supermarket to buy food for that day's lunch and dinner. Second day, rookie mistake. Overloaded the basket and the grocery bags on my arms, hit the brakes, too fast, toppled over, hit the ground, groceries on road, got up, explained in bad French to the neighbours that I was fine, checked eggs weren't broken, re-packed bags, back on bike. Oh Mon Dieu.
5. French food markets are awesome and beautiful, packed full of varied and colourful fresh produce, fruits, fish, cheeses, meats. It was lovely to shop here every morning.
6. The French restaurants in the town were generally overpriced and a bit average. Most people in Ile de Re seem to cook in their own homes, or do self-catering accommodation. On my night off, I went out, walked in to a restaurant, place empty, too late to leave, 2 waiters attending to me, ate fish for 34 euro, paid bill, left. God, so awkward.
7. I aspire to someday be the sophisticated traveller that doesn't have to move a shoe and a towel from one bag to another at the Ryanair check-in desk, whilst trying to guess which items in my case weigh 1 kilo. The sweaty stress of it. I want to be Victoria Beckham in an airport, basically. Maybe when I'm 35 *le sigh*.
Doorways of Ile de Re