A Culinary Student in Lyon: Entry #8
I just finished yet another week of working in the kitchen. As you probably already guessed, I love every minute of it. There are still occasional misunderstandings, but I feel like I have come such a long way.
I rarely have to take a minute to translate what is said to me. My reactions are just automatic now. I felt my victory over the language barrier this week when our style of service and menu changed which meant that conversations were full of new words and commands. Surprisingly, I was able to keep up and understood nearly everything I was told! Of course, it helps that my culinary instructors back in the states taught me many classical French-cooking terms.
I am now a regular fixture on the line, and my speed and skill have increased to such a level that nobody has to bail me out anymore. I am also starting to earn the respect of my co-workers. One of the cooks often asks me to taste things she is cooking and if her techniques are correct.
Life outside the restaurant is just as good. I have met so many new, interesting people who love to travel and appreciate new experiences. This has really been a month of self-reflection as I realize how far I have come not only as a culinary professional, but also as an individual. I am so glad that I came to Lyon on my own. While it was intimidating at first, living without a net forced me out of my comfort zone. I had nobody to rely on, so I was forced to be proactive about my living situation, my job, and making friends.
Speaking of friends, I don’t think I could have gotten by without the ones I have made here. Circumstances have brought me so close to the friends I have met abroad, that I feel like I have known them forever. Take my friend Brianna for example. Our friendship blossomed because I recognized a lost, little American like myself.
I was on my way to the movie theater during some of my precious free-time and decided to stop at a nearby smoothie shop first. While in line, I noticed that the girl in front of me was completely confused. Since I know how it feels to be lost in translation, I helped her order. We ended up seeing the movie together and hanging out afterward. The next day, Brianna introduced me to a girl in her study-abroad program, Viar, who was from Jakarta. Since that day, the three of us have spent many nights hitting the streets of Lyon and having a great time. We definitely plan on staying in touch and meeting up for more adventures.
Regarding the French… I love ‘em!
In my time here, I have not come across a single one that fits the stereotype Americans cling to. In fact, I have found quite the opposite to be true. The French folks I have met have been nothing but kind. Though most people in Lyon don’t speak English, those that do speak it love to practice. They especially like my American accent for some reason.
My experience has also made me more passionate about cooking. Unlike most of us busy-Americans who often eat just to fill our stomachs without truly savoring our food, the French really appreciate the art of cooking and eating a great meal. Eating out at restaurants is a special event. Despite the existence of tons of great restaurants, fast-food, and microwave-dinners, people still seem to prefer cooking at home. I guess that makes the job of a Chef in a country like this even more special because people can cook and eat good, basic dishes all week, and then go out on the weekends and experience the wonderful ambience of a restaurant surrounded by good friends and the artistry of food prepared by professionals. I just love to see people around a table having a good meal, sharing good times, and making memories.
In the end, it’s all about the memories, and those that I have made in Lyon will stick with me for the rest of my life.