Greetings from the deep end

Joined Aug 1, 2005
I hadn't realised just how fashionable it is now to give up a career and start over as a cook; I'd have become a fashion model if I'd known.
I've been a journalist for 25 years, working as a gutterpress scumbag tabloid journalist for the UK press for much of this, then becoming a columnist (on technology) for The Times for the past 10.
I moved to France eight years ago and am now living in Avignon, about 80kms north of Marseilles and the Mediterranean. I work as the Plongeur (Kitchen Porter in England, dunno in the US) at La Table des Agassins, the restaurant of a four-star hotel where I get on very well indeed with the Chef, Jean-Remy Joly. I start at the Ecole Hotellière on September 12 working towards my CAP (Certificat d'Aptitude Professionel) as a Commis Chef. It's one 10-hour day a week doing two recipes and some basic classroom stuff which will qualify me to work as a proper cook by next summer, hopefully.
I started working in restaurants about 18 months ago, after asking the chef in my favourite local restaurant if I could go and watch him work now and then; I liked it and worked a day or two a week with him, then got a job for two months with a Traiteur in Nimes who was a real a-hole, then moved to Avignon to live with my then girlfriend. Who promptly decided that, oh, now you've signed the contract and got the job and live in Avignon? It's over between us. Women, huh? Can't live with them, can't sauté them with shallots and mushrooms in a Sauce Madère.
So now I live here and work the plonge five days a week, doing fish and vegetable prep in the mornings, washing up at lunch and in the evenings. And love it, even though the CTS in my right wrist means I don't get to sleep much at nights. Still, we close in December for a month so I can sleep then, can't I? Well, that's what Chef tells me anyway.
I always wanted to be a cook but my mother forbade it as she was a school cook (1,500 covers a day!) and said it was no job for a clever young chap like me, so journalism it was. Which I loved and I still write a lot, my own diary online at and stuff on living in France and cookery for some websites.
Joined Aug 29, 2000
Welcome to Chef Talk, Plongeur. I'm sure you'll bring an interesting perspective and certainly knowledge of French culinary techniques, recipes, etc. I'm particularly interested in how you use seasonal ingredients. We have an entire forum dedicated to wine pairing, so I hope you'll have your two centimes to add to that as well.

I tried using the link to your restaurant which you provided but found it inactive. This link , however, brought me there. The place looks enchanting. Although I've visited France several times, Avignon is still on the "must see" list.

Joined Aug 1, 2005
Oops, yes, the restaurant's at - just habit calling it Les Agassins.
I write a weekly column for a website about what seasonal products we're working with at the moment, but it's a subscription-only site unfortunately aimed at those thinking of moving to/living in France. I can let you have details if you like, but some stuff leaks out onto my diary at too.
We've just started on the first pears of the season, Guyots. Chef's roasting them lightly to soften them, halving them and coring them, then filling the core with blue cheese and flashing it under the salamander grill for half a minute or so.
We're also well into the lamb season now - the new lambs have been on the grass for a month or two and taste much nicer than when they were on the milk, in my opinion. We bone saddle of lamb and roll it with a tapenade stuffing then roast it.
Avignon's a great town, apart from the bl**dy Mistral wind - I cycle to work every day (there and back for two shifts, in fact, 16 kms a day I'm so proud of myself) and the restaurant is north of where I live, so I get it full in the face first thing in the morning! But it's cool living next to the old Pope's palace, built in the 13th century. My apartment block's foundations are actually the old Roman forum, built in something like 300BC!

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