The food industry can be a daunting place even for someone with a Grand Diplôme. We spoke to Eva Hirai, who wanted to see if the kitchens were for her:
Ｑ. What did you gain through the internship?
I was learning something new everyday at school, so it was hard to become great at any one technique. However, over the internship at Le Petit Bedon, I was able to practise what I learned and focus on getting better.
At the beginning, I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the speed of the kitchen, but when you repeat certain things each day, you become used to it. I remember we hosted a wedding event with 50 guests and I was in charge of plating all the appetizers – they needed to be out, perfect and on time. I was sure I’d make mistakes, but I managed to keep up and put out the plates no problem. After that, I was put on to help plate during busy periods on the weekends, something I didn’t expect for an intern without any experience like me.
There’s also a lot of work you don’t see going into plates served at high level restaurants – it’s something I didn’t used to think about.
Ｑ. What are the things you learned from school that helped you during the internship?
We are taught all the techniques and tool names in French at school so I basically knew all the kitchen lingo even without having worked in one. My colleagues were mostly Japanese, but I don’t really speak the language. I managed to communicate with kitchen French! They would just tell me ‘hachez’ and I would know to finely mince whatever ingredient they were pointing at.
Also, the Tokyo school was very strict about cleanliness, being on time, and communicating well with classmates in the kitchen. I believe this is something that the Japanese value highly, especially in the food industry and I strongly felt that at the internship.
Ｑ. If you had to give yourself advice before you started your internship, what would you say?
I would probably say to pay attention even more. Instead of being too focused on what you’re doing, try to observe everything about the kitchen and the chefs there. I asked questions and I would watch the chefs when they were handling expensive ingredients like foie and meat, but I should have watched and asked more.
Ｑ. Before starting classes at Le Cordon Bleu Japan?
To me before I started school, I would tell myself to enjoy it more since I was really nervous at the beginning. Try to have more fun learning and enjoy the experience overall. And maybe drink more wine.
Ｑ. What’s the biggest take away from this whole experience?
I think I can finally see myself in the industry now. This was my trial for myself to see if I could make it or not and now I’m confident I can. I think I started to realise that being in the kitchen is something I could do more and more as each day passed during the internship. By the last week, I definitely knew it would continue in the kitchen.
Eventually, I’d like a small place. Maybe a restaurant or café that lets me do both cuisine and pastry. Something not too upscale because that’s more me.
Eva completed her Professional Experience (PE) Programme this winter and plans to sharpen her Japanese to challenge real Japanese kitchens on her way to running her own dream restaurant.