Patagonia restaurant, Buenos Aires | 07 March 2012
It took me a while to take the courage to write the blog. But from a long time I’ve had the necessity to share my perception of the food industry with whoever wants to hear it.
Why English? First and foremost I live in London; this is my adoptive city and just love it here. Secondly, I always thought my written English was very poor and wanted to improve it, take it as an exercise; you can certainly correct me if you want. Lastly… please bear with me… I will always be a Chef trying to write decently and never the other way around…
I still remember clearly the first professional kitchen I’ve entered and the sensations that had in me; was in April 1993 at the famous “Patagonia” restaurant in Buenos Aires Argentina, helm of award winning Chef Francis Mallmann (for those who are familiar with the Paris of the South, was the “Patagonia” at Salguero & Figuero Alcorta)
I was just 17 and was starting the Hotel Management degree in a place that was very close by. Chef Mallmann was our Basic Cooking teacher, a real treat now that I think of it: the classes were hold at his restaurant.
On another note I’ve lost the vision of my left eye in a silly but life changing accident a few years back and had given up my dream of becoming a professional football player (like any other Argentine kid…) for other activities such as Radio DJ and specially painting. But most importantly I was looking for a new passion, a team to belong to and that’s exactly what I’ve found at “Patagonia”.
I still remember the restaurant like it was yesterday with its beautiful internal patio where we used to had “family meals” (staff food) and the classy dining room. The kitchen itself was not that big but had a dessert area separated facing the street. Bread texture and aroma was the first thing they taught us, some with sundried tomatoes, some with olives but most importantly we learnt that bread is the first impression customers have from the kitchen; a serious restaurant takes his bread very seriously… wise lesson.
We were following classic training, from Hollandaise sauce to poached eggs; all was simply fascinating for me. Every time the class finished I didn’t want to go home, just wanted to stay in the kitchen, I decided to become a professional chef. After one class I remember having the courage to approach Chef Mallmann and telling him (not asking…) that I wanted to be a chef, that I wanted to join his team; he looked at me and just said, …”Are you sure? This is not a game, is a serious profession, it’s hard”… I was thinking how hard could it be? I didn’t hesitate… he looked at me and told me …”well, you will start tomorrow 7am as a commis”… I just said yes with happiness not having the slightest idea of the meaning of the word “commis”? Piece of cake!!!
Everyone now knows the meaning of the word: long hours, no weekends off, no pay, no rest, no please, no sorry, no excuse me and specially no cooking, just washing greens & peeling potatoes!!!
Strangely enough as the days went pass and my hands couldn’t hold any more blitz or cuts and my feet, oh my god, the pain in my feet!!! I understood clearly the basics of the profession, the core, the discipline, the sense of pride and just simply fell in love with the Restaurant world.
How can I forget that moment? As I’m writing this I can’t wipe the smile of my face. I was so happy… I still feel the same adrenaline and passion when I enter the kitchen of my own restaurant everyday, looking desperately for the same spark, determination and commitment in the eyes of my chefs: that’s the only way worthy of cooking.
So long “Patagonia”, thanks for everything.