Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Finding the Masters

 It was not only perchance that  my horoscope predicted by Rob Brezsny in the internazionale told me this two months ago:







Scorpione

23 ottobre – 21 novembre
     

“Rispetta chi è superiore a te, se mai esiste”, diceva Mark Twain. Cosa pensi di questa frase provocatoria, Scorpione? C’è qualche genio o qualche eroe che consideri degno del tuo rispetto? Se non ne hai nessuno, ti consiglio di andarlo a cercare. In questa fase della tua evoluzione hai bisogno di persone che ti ispirino con la loro grande personalità. È importante che tu impari da maestri e modelli che conoscono meglio di te il gioco della vita. Penso che ti farebbe bene anche provare ammirazione e riverenza.


"Respect who is superior to you, if they ever exist,"  said Mark Twain.  What do you think of this provocative phrase, Scorpio?  Is there a genius or a hero who you consider to be worthy of your respect?  If there is not, I suggest you go and search for them.  In this phase of your evolution, you need people who inspire you with their great personality.  It's important that you learn from masters and role-models who understand life's games better than you do.  I think it would be good for you to show some admiration ad reverence."   

I was told to search for a "maestro," a "master."  Someone who will teach me what I want to learn. 

So I searched. 

And I found that place.


I'm going to work in the pastry section at the Plaza Athénée.






I've never been so excited to start. 

After going to their recruitment day in May, I sent my CV.  I was sure that it was there where I wanted to learn from the pastry masters.  After a knock-up of emails and a couple of months, I was invited for a first interview with the human resources department.   Then I was invited to meet the pastry team.  I spoke with a fun and friendly young chef as well as Michalak's right-hand man.  If you are wondering who Michalak is, he is the world pastry champion.  There is absolutely no kidding around.   

The chef told me that they were more than happy to welcome me into the team, and told me he would help out if there was any trouble getting the "convention de stage" from my school. 

I left that kitchen with a sensation of excitement and happiness, that I would work with these great chefs, who were laughing together as they decorated stunning salted caramel filled chou and iced ever so delicately dark chocolate entremets.  


If it all seems too good to be true, it is.  I did not have the "Convention de Stage", a type of insurance crucial to doing an internship.  It's a piece of paper signed three ways, between the school, the employer and the employee.  

In France, in order to protect the worker, there are many laws placed on internships.  They want to prevent interns being exploited.  They also believe that interns degrade the employers status: if someone can work for free or for barely anything, what is the point of employing someone who is paid a real salary? 

In theory, the law is right in doing so.  However, the real world is not so simple.  In the real world, the best places to work are not going to take you with little experience.  (Less than five years.)  So, they take you on to do an internship before hand.  But then, you aren't allowed to do an internship.  Because the law doesn't permit it if you're not signed up to a school.  

Give me a compass and I'll draw the circle out myself.

The school where I did my pastry diploma told me that they could not give me the convention.  They said that the only way I could work there would be if I was an apprentice, which meant that I would have a tie to the school and thus have to go to classes.  

This would mean doing a Specialisation in Chocolate, Sugar and Plated Desserts but the problem was that the palace took me as an intern, and not an apprentice. I needed to find a way for the school to give me the Convention so I could do the internship. 

I was refused approximately eight times by a variety of head of departments. 

But I didn't take no for an answer.

I continued to phone them numerous times before one of the directors told me to come to the school campus so he could see what he could do for me.  He told me to see the people in the "Formation Continue" department.  The gentleman working repeated in my stubborn ear everything I'd already been told over and over.  That I would not be able to get a Convention with the school.  That it was not possible.  The law is created to protect the employee and to cut down on internships.  He spoke strictly and impatiently.  I was hurt by his harshness  and took out my frustration by telling him that quite frankly, the law "est ridicule."  Is ridiculous.

Let's just say he didn't like that too much. 

So, I was just about to leave without hope, but decided to say hi to my pastry teacher since she was around.  She told me that it was a shame that I would not be able to work at the Plaza Athénée.  She told me that she had another job for me, as a Product Research Assistant for a big supplier of ingredients for bakers, chocolatiers and restaurants.  The idea half-thrilled me.  She sent me up to go to the office where she had given the co-ordinations of the man recruiting.  On my way,  I saw a head of department who I knew from the year before.  "Sir!"  I said.  "I have two queries to confront you with this afternoon."  

I told him about my problem with the internship at the Plaza Athénée (as I had done about seventeen other times) and as I was explaining my situation, the President came in and listened to my query.  The Big Boss.  He assured me that they would sort something out.  It's The Plaza Athénée and they wanted to create strong ties with this important palace.  He told me to follow him into his office and phoned the palace on my behalf to talk business through.  He told the palace that they would sign me the "Convention" only if I go to the school a week per month to follow lessons, in order to prepare for the Specialisation in Chocolate, Pastry, Sugar and Plated Desserts.  

She said yes.  

So today, I got all my pieces of paper signed and received three sets of chefs whites, immaculately ironed by the palace's laundry department. 

The chefs welcomed me, and gave me a tour of the palace.  They told me that whenever I needed to learn anything, or practice something for school that there was absolutely no problem. They also have their own boulangerie (one of the only two palaces in Paris) so whenever I want to practice breadmaking, I can. And to feel at home. It's a family here. 

I start on Monday. 













* Picture taken from website www.internazionale.it