Anthony Bourdain and the Naughty Chef de Partie

Nervous was not the word. More like shaking in my boots. It was cold at five a.m. in the alley as I waited for someone to let me into the restaurant. Surrounded by the stained brick walls and the dumpsters and the rats I wondered if I was really ready for this. This was the big time. This was it.

The three cleanup guys came down the alley together and spoke in that rapid fire Spanish I couldn’t keep up with. I must have looked ridiculous in my white coat and my pale face and my glasses. My hands balls in my pockets and my eyes wide and hopeful. The bread guy came round the corner and I tensed up. He was unshaven and his eyes were bloodshot, he fumbled with the keys and hardly even looked at me. He smelled like vodka and sweat.

The kitchen of Les Halles was all at once spotless and messy, if that makes any sense. Pots and pans scrubbed a thousand times all hung in their specific places. Every sink deep and prophetically empty. Every burner matte black and ready to work. I’d been given a tour a few days before. I’d been told what I was supposed to do and I still had the list of prep work in my pocket. I’d read it several hundred times. My boyfriend had laughed, but he understood. This was my dream job.

Continue reading