It turns out that language skills at an international school environment can always come in handy. Yes, I know it sounds pretty obvious and I can see more than one of you say “Duuh!” before your screens. Yet, sometimes one cannot see it as evidently, ’cause it’s the natural surroundings… Sorry! Now, while classes are taught in French, it is really comforting to have a fellow interpreter reassure me while taking notes, but I cannot deny that there has been a whole lot of culinary vocabulary that has been learnt lately. Yet, when one is the rookie and gets asked to volunteer at an event because your mother tongue is that of the attending audience, it makes one start to feel as part of the institution. And that is precisely what happened.
Merely a week after classes had started, and while I was just making my peace with the sharp knives, and cutting off the heads of fish and poultry, I was invited to help out as the interpreter in a Demonstration Class a chef was giving to an Ibero-American group of Ambassadresses. It was a very unique experience, for I have to say, I hadn’t done any interpretations in the last 5 years or so, and I was not completely sure how it would go… products get different names in different countries. I prepared myself as much as I could. I read the list of ingredients of the recipe the Chef was preparing, looked them up to confirm I had more options than just my Mexican vocabulary. The ladies arrived and the class started. “We” cooked scallops. All of them were very attentive and writing their notes, asked questions the chef meticulously answered one by one. A brief comment about the wine pairing from our head sommelier for the dish came about. Accolades for everyone… even for the rookie. I have to say it made me feel really special. I arrived home and shared the joy of my day. For me, it was a great honor that so early in the adventure they would allow me to volunteer to help out with something I knew I could do.
Yet, the best was to come. An email arrived in my inbox inviting me to the presentation of a book as a “thank you” for just giving a hand and two hours of my time.
It turned out that he is very well known and admired by most. To me, it was just a name. I have to be honest, big name chefs were not my thing until THAT DAY, actually. I accepted the invitation because some kind of bell rang in my head. The name, the restaurant, something, I cannot say. It was like I knew but I didn’t. Then, I talked to my friend and she was more excited than I could. So I read, I investigated a little but I kept my mouth shut. Then, I was impressed! 3 Michelin stars, and the 3rd best restaurant in the World. Wow! Now I was excited, now I was ready to go. It was just like getting ready to go to that big concert you have been waiting for a long time to happen, only you didn’t know the band was coming to town.
I took the metro and arrived to the address shown in my e-invite. Seemed very discrete. A bodyguard looking man approached me with an iPad and said: “Name?”. I answered. He let me go in and wished me a good evening. The staircase made one get in the mood of the club as you descend. Photographs on the wall. Very artistic, I thought. Finally I make it to the Reception. I am directed towards the event, only, I am a bit early. I decide therefore to get a drink and wait patiently. I take my time and observe everything in detail. I think this is a nice place to come afterwards to have a drink with those I love, and though I haven’t done it yet, I know it’s in my “Paris Bucket List”. My thoughts travel. Finally, it’s time. Familiar faces start showing up. In a few minutes the place is packed and he is greeting as many people as humanly possible. We were all excited.
The event started. I thought it would be formal. He IS a Celebrity Chef. But no. He is probably one of the most easygoing persons I have met with such a career. What he did was awesome. I felt like a child who goes to the bookstore for storytelling on Saturday afternoon, only I had a glass of Champagne and it was closer to bedtime, hahaha! He started talking about his first steps as a cook, how he created his dear Osteria Francescana, how his famous deconstructed Lemon Tart was conceived, but mostly he talked about his passion, his traditions, and obviously his book.
A strong faith of mine is that being humble and kind are the two most valuable features in a person. Mr. Bottura has got them both and it made me for a moment not think how big he is for Modern Gastronomy around the world. It obviously all came back when I had a bite of Parmigiano Reggiano with his very own balsamic vinegar reduction.
As it all finished and I was headed home, tears started rolling down my eyes. I couldn’t believe my luck, my fortune. After all, I was following his advice: Live life like if it is a dream!
Grazie mille Massimo Bottura !
Thank You Le Cordon Bleu!