I arrived in Australia in April 2016. I’m living in a quiet little town 2 hours from Sydney, with my partner, Inò, who is a Chef in a fine dining restaurant in a vineyard region (Hunter Valley, NSW). The wine produced here is excellent and Wineries are famous.
Arriving, despite an average level of English, I found a job in a cafe in less than two days. I am a Barista (=coffee maker).
Despite my experience working behind a bar, it’s a new challenge for me: espresso coffee in Australia is not popular!
The art of making milk foam is a challenge! It’s exciting to learn new ways to serve coffee!
Here Latte, White Flag or Cappuccino are served in different variations. These 3 are the most popular but
there are many others. Customers ask for their type of favorite milk (almond milk, skim milk, whole milk …), the size of the coffee: Small, Medium or Large, if it is carried or “in a cup” = small or “In a mug” = wide if it’s to drink in the café. And you know what? You can even choose the milk temperature !!! They are crazy these Australians !!
On an order of 3 people, it goes: “Hello, can I have a caramel latte, small, with whole milk and two sweeteners please. Milk not too hot, 55 degrees thank you! For my girlfriend, it will be a cappuccino with almond milk, no sugar, normal temperature (85degrees), medium size. And for honey, it will be a White flag, Large, with 3 sugars. Thank you!” So to serve 3 coffees, you better take a notepad!!
This 1st professional experience in Australia was interesting. The salary is not very high: $ 15 an hour whereas on average it is rather about $ 21 an hour (GROSS). I’m so glad I got this job in such a short time! In this small town and with my level of English, I did not believe it at all!
The job is simple and easy to learn. Practice is something else … it takes time! The days are short (9am-3pm) which allows me to have time for me at the end of the day and I appreciate. And above all I improve little by little my English which gives me confidence in me.
But soon, I’m bored. After 4 months, I resign.
I resigned from my Barista job in September 2016.
At that moment, I have no immediate ambition to satisfy. I just want to take unknown paths, still a little. We’ll see later for the rest. I’m already 30 years old but I’m not in a hurry.
At the beginning of September, the restaurant where Inò works is looking for someone as kitchen hand.
Good luck for me: I’m looking for a new job.
I can do everything, nothing repels me. My English is still not good. I lose confidence in myself on this side. I hesitate, I’m afraid to start. But I have to move on.
I got the job.
Since September 2016, I am therefore Kitchen Hand in a fine dining restaurant.
At first, my job is to do dishes the night and weekend. It’s physical, trying. The kitchen is huge, at least 150 square meters! There are two dishes stations, one and the other two ends of the kitchen of course … I run everywhere for hours, I sweat and my back pain but I do not care. I am happy to be here.
The team is fantastic, only men but I’m used to it and I think I prefer it anyway. It is an extraordinary brigade of Chefs and it is thanks to them that I feel perfectly well here.
The schedules are correct, I hired no earlier than 16:00 for the evening service. Once again, I have time for myself and I appreciate it. The salary satisfies me.
The boss and the Head Chef are satisfied with me, they are even impressed by my work, my organization, my efficiency … I manage my job perfectly! I work hard and it’s rewarded. They recognize my professionalism.
They know my experience as a waitress and judge my level of English correct to offer me a position in the room. I refuse. For two reasons. 1st: I do not want to work as a waitress in a gourmet restaurant. The 2nd: I feel unable to confront the clientele with my level of English. I like to chat with people, colleagues and clients and I am still unable to do it without having to repeat 15 times my interlocutor! In the rush of a service, difficult to be effective in this case … my professional sense is categorical!
So I stay in my place of Kitchen Hand for dishes. But not for long…
Later, the boss offers me something else: working with Chefs to “set up” and reduce my activity to the plunge. I accept this time with pleasure!
I work now the day. I start to work in the morning and I leave in the evening, around 19h. On weekends, I continue to do dishes.
My English is still poor and it’s hard to understand everything but all the Chefs are awesome: despite their amount of work, they all take the time to explain myself and especially to show me everything!
Most of the time, I reproduce and after a while I know what I have to do and I assimilate the vocabulary. I note recipes and tips of Chefs in my little notebook.
I become a little more independent. I like this rhythm, I like this work.
I’m still learning things and I communicate more often with the team. I am really happy!
Then after a few weeks, the boss, satisfied with my job and enthusiastic, also offers me to do the evening service as a “Chef”. Despite the language barrier, he thinks I can help them during the service! I can’t believe it!
I know some products because I work during the implementation and my artistic side will be used for training. I’m really grateful for that!
Today, I’m wearing Chef’s jacket and I’m setting up beautiful plates under the eyes of gastronomy experts!
Without any experience or culinary skills, I discover the gastronomic world alongside talented chefs. What luck!
Even though my business has evolved, I’m still employed as a Kitchen Hand under the same contract, in casual.
Suddenly, my days look like this: 12h-22h / or closing (without interruption), however I have a day off in addition that I appreciate strongly before attacking the weekend which is quite intensive in general! This extra day OFF (the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) allows me to maintain a balance between my work and my personal life because I can exercise my own passions (writing/blogging, shooting, painting…) which will become a next job later maybe… Its very important to me!
I’m working less than Chefs and anyway, working 15 hours a day, you have to be crazy … or passionate! And I’m not there yet! And that, the boss understood it very well!
Everything suits me very well!
In 20 months, my English level has improved but I’m not comfortable yet.
This is a big problem for me and it is a source of anxiety almost permanent. It’s even my biggest concern.
This undoubtedly comes from the fact that I speak only in French with Inò, at home and at work … A big disadvantage for learning the language! Try it sometimes, it’s just impossible to stick to it: it’s so natural to speak French between us!
The language barrier is probably the most tiring for me at work. Besides, the stress that it gives me, the fact of not being able to express myself as I want and not to understand immediately limits my possibilities of actions and my reactivity. I always want to ask questions, to be interested more but it is complicated to invest with this language barrier. It’s so frustrating! A double challenge every day!
Even so, I’m still happy to feel active and helpful! I’m learning a complicated job that requires a lot of skills, energy and creativity. It is an artistic profession and I like it enough to discover this new universe almost in spite of myself! And I must say that I am very lucky to be here, in this place! Every day, I am grateful for what I receive thank to theses wonderful humans.
I left mine, my country.
I do not have much: empty hands, resting mind, curiosity awake …
But I have everything: the desire to learn, to discover, to experiment.
Some events have shown me that life is precious, and I drew a philosophy to my measure … Taste fully in existence is my only goal! So I’m still enjoying this opportunity until my fate takes me another way…
And I am not yet fully aware of it, but I feel that I have just found the axis of my existence. Not for cooking but for writing and photography…