There are many French expressions that I adore, but my all time favorite is “Parce que c’est toi”. Which literally translated means: “Because it’s you”. It’s a French way of saying: you’re special. It also means: because I like you I will let you off the hook, but only because you’re you. The longer I work at the 3-star restaurant I cook at, the more I hear this expression.
The other day I was hacking apart palomb, pheasant, and duck carcasses into tiny pieces for our delicious gibier jus. My boss sent me downstairs to work so I wouldn’t annoy him with the continuous whack of my cleaver. As I began to make my way through the endless bird body pile, I got the worst headache in the world from hunger and lack of caffine.
The pastry kitchen was across from my station so I timidly asked the pastry chef if there was anything I could nibble on. He shoed me out of the kitchen with an air of total annoyance. I went back to my body pile deflated and drearily continued on. But minutes later he surprised me with an array of treats: tarte aux pomme, hazlenut and chocolate fondant, and ice cream. As he placed the little treats next to me he said in a jokingly serious tone, “Parce que c’est toi, uh?” and then he said it in English just to make sure I understood, “Becauhze eets you, uh?”
I have a serious sweet tooth and an addiction for dark chocolate. The whole kitchen knows this thanks to my chocolate chip caper but my boss has been keen to pick up on my little addiction. Sometimes after services where he’s yelled at me a whole bunch for making tiny mistakes, I’ll find dark chocolate in my cupboard for the following service. Inevitably after I say “thank you”, I get the response: “Parce que c’est toi, uh?”
He’s not comfortable yelling at a woman – especially one who’s 6 years older than him– but he doesn’t want to treat me differently either. We all get yelled at in the kitchen, it’s just part of the deal. It’s taken me six months to learn just to let it roll off, but a little chocolate goes a long way…
My body is broken and I am definitely ready for the holidays. I can barely lift my arms at the end of the long day, my neck is always stiff from looking down and cutting, and my hands are torn apart. My legs are beyond sore from constantly stair climbing with heavy items and I’ve noticed tiny little blue veins that are starting to appear in mass around my thighs. I’m sure a result of standing for fourteen hours a day six days a week. My body is a battleground.
Last Saturday towards the end of service I burst out in tears from the pain in my arms and back and just plain old exhaustion – which, by the way, I have seen every man do here too. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this to myself? This is killing me!” It’s impossible to get more than six hours of sleep a night in this industry which makes it difficult for injuries to heal properly or to battle fatigue.
Probably in fear that they might truly break me, this week my boss has brought me all the extra heavy pots and pans I need so I don’t have to go up and down the stairs carrying things that are waaaay out of my league. “Eeets not my job, but, parce que c’est toi…”
I never asked anyone to do this and I wouldn’t dare, but I really am very very appreciative. Sometimes a little bit of feeling special goes and extra, extra long way.