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Paris – La Gourmandista

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Etiqueta: Paris

Talent Developer: The Industry-School Link You Always Dreamt About… In Paris

HR recruiters in all industries around the world often complain that school programs don’t always match what the world of work and industries require. For Talent Developer, an agency that is at the service of the professional development of students who want to enter the workplace, speaking with the HR departments is key to the professional success of young graduates in their first professional experience, which in this case , it is often outside of their country of origin.

Estrella Maillet, Founder, and Philippine Freiman, Director of Operations of the firm, are open to have a remote conversation with me from Paris, to explain what Talent Developer is and how they serve the gastronomy and luxury hotel industries, mainly. Between the two, they have more than 35 years of experience in the profession and particularly in accompanying students to liaise the teaching classroom with their first job. They assure that the key to the success of their offer, as well as that of the apprentices who frequently come to request their support to find not only an internship, but the most suitable one to be successful and build a promising future in the demanding world of luxury lies in the kind of accompaniment they provide.

What is Talent Developer?
Talent Developer is the first coaching and employment placement agency for both internships and apprenticeships in all areas of gastronomy, the restaurant industry and the hospitality industry in France, and more specifically in Paris.

Is there any other agency similar to Talent Developer around the World?

There are others who might be considered our competition around world. Nonetheless, they are not specialized agencies in our domain, meaning in helping students gain professional skills. The objective others have is, as far as we can see, more aligned with the student having the experience of working abroad that may or may not be related to their studies.

How is Talent Developer different when compared with the competition?
What sets us apart from the competition is that we place talent where we are sure they will gain the skills they require for the industry in which they want to pursue their career.

It is no secret that gastronomy in France is a reference, but is doing an internship or an apprenticeship useful for foreigners?

Yes. Having professional experience in the gastronomy or hospitality industries in France, given that there is a particular level of excellence well known in the world, allows recent graduates to become quite professional, even when they stay for a short-term. They learn and take what all this savoir-faire to their countries or even to other countries and the industry appreciates it. They recognize the French level of excellence.

¿Qué hace particular el trabajo que Ustedes hacen para que los candidatos sean exitosos en estas primeras experiencias laborales?
Professions around gastronomy are of passion. It is imperative that the young graduates find even more passion to grow into their new profession, develop skills as much as possible and thus manage to live off their passion. Our mission is to find both the right company and the right tutor for each apprentice.

It is terrible when students go back in time and tell us they left the profession because their experiences were bad.

Estrella, how did the idea of creating an agency like Talent Developer come about?

Philippine and I used to work together at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I was the coordinator of the Bachelor’s program. As a matter of fact, It was I who created the program. Philippine was in charge of finding internships for students and dealing with alumni. The idea, back then, was to visit the tutors to follow up. To our surprise, a tutor showered our student with praise. Now this was not the best in the class, however, it was the most suitable for the company and vice versa. The tutor did not stop flattering his practitioner saying that he was the best he had ever had in his life. Unfortunately, doing this type of placement is not always possible for different reasons for both, the school and the restaurant business environment. However, at that time it became clear to us that making it personalized and with a case-by-case analysis guaranteed success and growth for everyone, especially for the students.

Must students have certain characteristics to get positions as interns or trainees?

No. Our job is to fight against the stereotypes of age, of nationality, of what is linear. We like to work with the open spirits of foreign students and what they bring. Fortunately, both the restaurant and hotel industries today are tremendously versatile and allow us to find places for all styles.

Gastronomy, Sommelier or Wine-Pairing, Hospitality, but what other careers can get internships or apprenticeships through Talent Developer?

It is true that most of our students belong to gastronomy and hospitality careers, but in reality any profession that we find in the sector can. Thus, we find positions for finance, marketing, communications, sales, human resources, and obviously, all profiles of hospitality.

How are the internships offered? Are they paid, short term?

As you know, the law in France states that professional internships will last for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 6 for each school year. We abide by this law, regardless of where the student comes from.

Of course, our advice is that internships should ideally last from 4 to 6 months. This is because in order to understand, learn and develop the necessary skills, tutors require time. Of course, sometimes students can’t stay for many months and so we find short 2-month internships for them. However, companies prefer 6-month internships because the law requires they pay interns when the contract exceeds 2 months. Therefore, a 3-month candidate who must receive payment and who they know from the beginning won’t have the time to learn and develop enough for him to evolve and take on responsibilities isn’t as attractive.

Are all the options you offer in downtown Paris?

Most of our network is around Paris. Given that we are downtown, this allows us to visit and be in touch with employees and employers at all times. However, Estrella constantly works to develop agreements both in the region as well as nation-wide so that there are options that include free accommodation for our students as well. It is no secret that Paris is an expensive city and the 600 Euros per month pay is not enough for an apartment in the city.

How much should each student invest to be able to afford the accompanying services of Talent Developer?

It’s very attractive to come to Paris and have professional experience. And that is precisely why we work with our partners so that everyone can come and pay for it, because we know that this is an important investment.

We have packages for foreign students starting at 900 Euros. This package includes a free online interview to present the offer. If the student accepts, they will have our personal accompaniment for 10 hours in-person, including access to someone from the team who is at their disposal at any time by phone whenever they require it. We accompany them before, during and after their experience with different procedures. Also, we set up follow-up and feedback interviews at the end of the internship.

Additionally, we have created packages that provide other services for those who require them. For example, for those who need to improve their level of French, we have an agreement with the Alliance Française with a two-week immersion program in language and culture. Similarly, we have a package for those who need help with finding housing or opening a bank account with our business partners. It is real personal accompaniment for the students in order for them to have a unique and positive experience. We hope, obviously, that anyone who wants it can afford it without forgetting that the budget to currently live in the French capital is around 1500 Euros per month. Again, if this figure is unattainable, we do our best to support students and help them find something that is convenient and doable.

How can students get in touch with You?

It’s very easy. Download our app at https://app.talent-developer.com/ and create an account and profile of the person interested in our services. We need contact information and a little about the professional and personal project of the candidate. By email, they will receive an link to request an appointment for an interview. Our agendas are shared on the site, so it is a matter of finding the time slot that suits the student, as well as the language in which they prefer the interview (French, English or Spanish – these are the languages we can offer at the moment). From there, we do the interview and assess whether or not we can help the candidate and their project. We cannot assume that we have something for everyone, but we do seek to have options for everyone.

Talent Developer’s offices are on 36, rue du Mont Thabor, 75001, Paris and their contact email address is contact@talent-developer.com

On One of my Favorite Restaurants in Paris : Welwitsch

Welwitsch is a restaurant I have the honor of having known since before it existed, because, even when I am exaggerating a little, it’s got it’s bit of truth. I met Patricia, the chef and owner of the place, from a distance when we were both in culinary school 5 years ago. We never shared a classroom, so I had no idea how she cooked, however, every time we ran into each other, she greeted me and we talked amicably. With time, we became friends.

We followed each other on social media, and from time to time we kept meeting each other at an event at school. A few months later I moved back to Mexico while she was working on opening her restaurant. When I returned to Paris to carry on studying, Welwitsch had just opened its doors. Without wasting any time, I went for brunch with another friend of mine from school as well.

I loved the place. Everything was done with high-quality organic ingredients. It wasn’t pretentious at all, however, when leaving the place, one was quite satisfied and did not feel having paid a whole month’s salary. I returned to Mexico really happy of having visited her new restaurant, but I never sat down to write about it. I don’t even know why. Maybe it was just because I stopped writing regularly.

When we were planning last Fall’s visit to Paris, we had to also choose where to go with each group of friends. Evidently, this is not done randomly, we thought about the place that would suit each group of people best. Thus, we chose to go to Welwitsch with those who would love homemade, organic food and who would appreciate Patricia’s creations, for I think they are creative jewels she shows in each seasonal menu. I logged on to her website, which by the way is available in more than 10 different languages. That, I was not expecting. However, knowing Patricia, who pays attention to the smallest of details, and that she is a polyglot herself, this isn’t difficult to understand. Anyway, once our table was confirmed, I was sure she would be expecting us: I wasn’t wrong.

Ensalada de temporada con betabel y butternut

We ate deliciously until we couldn’t have one more bite. Laëticia, who is now in charge of the front of the house did not stop the pampering. Of course, Patricia  came out to say hello as soon as she had a moment and could escape from the kitchen. Honestly, the culinary experience was even better than what I remembered, since, apart from the excuse of stopping by to say hello, for me this place has become one of those one shouldn’t miss when in the City of Lights. It has got, I think, everything one wants: good food, good quality ingredients, good service, and on top of all… good prices. To sum it up; it’s a treat.

Address: 91, rue du Chemin Vert, 75011 Paris

Metro: Saint Ambroise     Richard Lenoir           Rue Saint Maur

Ph: +33 (0) 1 4807 3787

Note: This restaurant has permanently closed.

Amélie: An Example of Inspiration

No. This is not about the French actress, Audrey Tatou and her very famous 2001 movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. It is about the young lady I mentioned in my last entry who from a distance, taught me more than she would probably imagine.

The day I arrived to work as an intern in a professional kitchen, my eyes were stunned by a lot of things. Why? I wanted to learn as much as possible of what happened in there. I wished to be as attentive and alert as possible to understand all the dynamics of the place.

Firstly, it was evident that us girls were greatly outnumbered in all positions available in the restaurant… the kitchen, the dining room, everywhere. I think the only place where there were more gals than guys was the pastry lab. But I will focus on the kitchen, since it is where I was spending my time and efforts.

In total – not including myself- there were three, THREE! The brigade was made up of about fifteen people and only three were women when I worked in the kitchen. One was a commis in the cold section, the second one was an apprentice in charge of the appetizers, and the third one was originally in the fish section, but later moved to work with meat products. I assume she was a demi-chef. She worked for the Sous-Chef. Her work included not only mise en place for meats, but also protein distribution during service, as well as some specific tasks for other preparations.

Her name: Amélie. A tiny young lady probably in her early thirties. She, like myself, reconverted to become a cuisinière. Originally a lawyer with a Master’s Degree, she worked for the State, I understand, but didn’t ever really enjoy it, so she decided to go back to school, but this time, to culinary arts school. She attended her classes and passed her exams like any other student, however, by the French system’s standards, she was already behind. Cooks start apprenticeships at 15 years old, no exaggeration. So, to be in her in her twenties… late, late, late. Nonetheless, she took up the challenge.

Through her, I learned that being a girl in a professional kitchen is harder than one would expect. The job is very physical, and among her daily tasks was the distribution of pantry supplies… meaning that coming up the stairs with very heavy stuff was part of her routine. But hey, don’t panic, this was no form of abuse. This is a standard task in a restaurant, and someone has got to do it. In this case she had just gotten the short end of the stick.

Then, there’s the fact of dealing with a brigade mostly made up of men. My perception is than in many professional kitchens in France, women are not seen as serious workers sometimes, so picking on the so-called ‘weaker sex’ might be common. And guess what? Yes, in order for her to be seen as a serious hard-working cook, she had to demonstrate there were no weak bones in her body, that her character was strong at any and all times, and that emotions were nonexistent, notwithstanding the comment of her counter part.

Once, I remember telling her “I think you are a very strong woman, Amélie”. She responded with a humble “Not always”. Yet I still think she is strong, and I just hope to see her in charge of her own kitchen one day. It would be a pleasure for me to dine at her Chef’s table.

Curiosity Fuels the Future of Global Gastronomy

Once no more mushrooms were to be cleaned during the early morning, new tasks had to be found for me. Now, I honestly don’t remember how many cases full of chanterelle mushrooms I went through during the season. I just remember I was EXTREMELY happy when it was over.

However, during my stay at the restaurant, I got a chance to work with plenty of other products. Yes, the tasks were quite simple and little if compared with what the rest of the brigade did, yet, I kept in mind that if my little hands were enough to work on this or that at such a Grande Maison, it was okay. And such a mindset was needed when my new friends the gray shallots arrived before me. Those little guys  who are cousins of the onion were another piece of work. If you are not familiar with them, they are similar to regular shallots, BUT their outer layers are so thick and sharp one cannot and should not peel them without a pairing knife. And of course, this meant sore fingers every time I worked on them.

And who would forget the little balls of foie gras? They had to be a certain weight in order for them not to be considered as ‘shit’, because they were too little and made the plate look disgusting, or too big and made the pasta explode while getting cooked at service time. I think those were between 100 and 200 on almost a daily basis… After a while I actually found out those went together with the chanterelles. To date, I still crack a smile when I think of them.

An endless amount of aromatic garnishes for stocks were also on my chopping board regularly: Carrots, shallots, onions, celery… the works. I think it was at least a couple trays per day, mostly for the fish section. And talking about them, how can I not mention crab cooking day. Vivid memories come to my mind.  Firstly, the smell is difficult to forget. I mean, I love eating fish and shellfish products, but you have got to really love cooking to not mind the smell with which your clothes and basically your whole self end up with. Then, the speed one has to work at when they come out of their court-bouillon (cooking liquid) to avoid the flesh from sticking into the shell again plus the temperature at which the crabs come out of the pot makes one develop never before imagined abilities towards hot ingredients. The fish lab becomes a production line with as many helping hands as possible to go over about three dozen crabs, to peel and extract all the flesh they hide under their very hard shells. During service, we, the interns, were responsible of finishing the flesh extraction with long toothpicks.

And yes, several other products came before me. Lettuce, brik pastry, and ducklings, just to mention a few more. But surely the one that excited me the most was the day I was given the chance to bone a dozen pigeons. The Sous-Chef handed me a tray full of them and asked me if I knew how to do the task. I said yes, but… the truth was I had never done it with a 8-inch chef’s knife. I was in a little panic to be honest. I didn’t want to ruin the product. I turned to Amélie, the only girl in the brigade who was neither an intern nor a apprentice. In a very confident way she said “just work with the tip of your blade”. It took me a good 2 hours, but they came out nicely, I think. Nonetheless, I still think I prefer a smaller boning knife for these jobs. It’s much easier.

Like I said before, my hands had the chance to work and touch quite a few products and, yes, I learned several reasons why dishes taste so differently in these fine-dining restaurants. It all starts with quality of the product surely, but also the way these products are worked on all the way through until they arrive to the dining room and served to the guests to get wowed.

What You Need to Know if You Want to Become a Chef

My alarm clock rang. I jumped out of bed, and I took a quick shower. I tidied up my place and had breakfast. Who in this world is capable of starting a day on an empty stomach ? I can’t, and shan’t, so I ate… Some bread with homemade jam and a cup of coffee would be enough.

Fortunately, bus 52 towards the Opera House stopped just half a block from home, and it would drop me off merely 50 meters away from the restaurant door.

I arrived a good 10 minutes before 8:00 a.m. The entrance, as well as the patio were in complete solitude. I thought I was late, yet the door to the kitchen and the locker rooms was locked. So, I waited.

Not long after, everyone started arriving. The chef was the last one to arrive. He greeted us all one by one and the door was finally open. We headed inside, and the day began.

I was appointed to the entremets section. The chef de partie gave me my first assignment. I thought I was never going to finish it. I had to peel a 10-lb. box of chanterelle mushrooms. Without further ado I put myself to work. I did whatever I was asked to, yet, the f#!%&ing box of mushrooms looked infinite, and even though I thought it was going to take forever, a few extra hands came to help for a little bit. I think they were just tired to see that I still hadn’t finished.

Chop here, cut there, swipe, and clean. That was pretty much my every day for the next few days. Little by little I started learning how they wanted things to be done. I’d like to think I was doing my assignments correctly, since I got to work on different products, but also got kind of stuck with some others which became part of my every day job.

I was not allowed to interfere during service and I was to carry on working in the back on the little tasks needed for the evening shift -which I did not cover. Sometimes I was allowed to leave earlier than others, just like in any other job. Yet, my body reminded me every evening that I was neither 20 years old any more, nor was this any other job. I had no idea this was going to be so physically demanding.

Behind the Scenes: Understanding the Kitchen Brigade

As per the Internship Coordinator’s instructions, I arrived on a Monday morning with a hard copy of my résumé, my internship contract (the “Convention de Stage”), looking as nice and as professional as possible, to the back door of what seemed to be a very imposing restaurant.

I entered the patio, and figured out which was the kitchen door; knocked, and since there was no answer, I discreetly opened it and let myself in. The floor was quite slippery, and I was in stilettos, so I had to pay very close attention to my walking. A young man saw me and even though he never stopped preparing his tray of tomato petals to be confit, asked if he could be of help. I greeted him and asked for the chef. The answer was unexpected: the chef was unavailable. I had to come back in an hour and a half.

I decided to go to a café nearby, grabbed my book of the moment, which of course I was carrying in my purse, and asked for a cup of tea. It was not very chilly that morning, but I chose an herbal tea, maybe just to feel calmer. Honestly, I wasn’t able to read much. I was a bit anxious, and the clock advanced quite slowly.

A few minutes before the agreed upon time, I paid for my cup of tea, put my book away, and put on my trench coat. I walked the 150 meters to the restaurant, and returned to the busy kitchen where the mise en place was coming to an end. Once again I gave my greeting, and asked if the chef was back. The young man called the chef in a rather loud voice to tell him that there was a lady asking to see him.

Reading with my cup of tea

I was invited to a very small office, barely a 1.5 m2, I think… but I am quite null in measurements of the sort. He asked me my business and I told him. He nodded as he listened attentively. He asked what schedule I wanted to work, if I had my contract with me, and when I wanted to start. All was discussed in a matter of 3 minutes. It was actually shorter than a phone call.

We both signed the documents, and he turned to the young man saying “she starts tomorrow”, who was then introduced to me as the Second de Cuisine. The young man just said a firm “oui chef”.

As we said our goodbyes the chef said “see you tomorrow at 8:00 o’clock, madame”, I answered with the same firm “oui chef”, and left.

I was excited. I was part of a 2-Michelin Star brigade. Yes, I was only the intern, but then again, I had dreamt about this for a long time, and never even imagined it could come true. What was there in store for me? It was a matter of a little more time, now.

French Cuisine History: The “Grande Table”

To talk about a French “Grande Table” is to talk about a spectacular place in the broadest possible sense of the word. It indicates that from the moment we enter the establishment, our experience will be unique; a once in a lifetime kind of thing. We should enter with the knowledge that even if one goes back to the same restaurant, there is a big chance that at least the menu will have changed.

Therefore, when I could understand what these restaurants were about, beyond the luxurious dinners full of delicacies coming from the most exclusive places around the globe, I knew that it was in such a place that I wanted to do my Internship to work as an Apprentice Cook. I wanted to witness firsthand if the abundant smiles, politeness, and sense of peace in the main dining room would also reign before the burning piano during service. In other words, I wanted to know what happens “behind the scenes”.

Many times I heard that if I wanted to learn as much as possible, it would be better to go to a small restaurant, for it is there where my workforce would truly be useful and required. However, my mind was made up. My wish list was full of legendary Parisian places; some of them with more than a century’s worth of history. My argument: I was interested in being in an exceptional ‘cuisine’, one where breathtaking plates would be prepared, where guests would dream with their eyes wide open. I am still not sure if the internship coordinator was convinced, or if she just gave up and presented me with some options.

I had to do a little bit of research, and selected one of those places called ‘a maison d’exception’ for their tradition, techniques, and awards. Yet I truly had no idea what awaited my arrival.

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