Tuesday through Saturday nights in garde manger and pastry.
The best French restaurant in the city. On Queen Street in the gritty before-times.
Joanne Kates swooning in The Globe and Mail.
Like Rundles, I always seemed to land in kitchens at the top of their game. A mix of luck and ambition.
This image was on a postcard circulating in the restaurant.
Claude was from Brittany. There was a poissonier on the line.
Beautiful ingredients flown in from France—samphire, morels, Fine de Claire oysters.
Coquilles Saint Jacques à la nage and white asparagus with a silver boat of Sauce Bearnaise.
Fraisier cake, marjolaine, and tarte fines aux pommes.
Killing lobsters in the back prep area. Images of big breasted, half-naked women on the wall behind me. Air-brushed lips and curves and Farrah Fawcett hair. Kitchen supply and auto body shop calendars.
One Saturday night, during a busy second service, a chef and waiter got into a fistfight in front of my station. Lunging and throwing punches. French porcelain clattering. Men scrambling to damage control.
Pressed up against the wall in my corner, shucking oysters.
Laughing about it later in the Beverly Tavern. That's how it was. Normal.
And not all the time.
There was a dangerous chef de partie. I did not feel safe. For good reasons.
Who would I tell?
Claude told me once I drank too much. I had some thoughts about him too.
Women moved out, not up—dishwasher, prep, pastry and appetizers. Vanna White sweeping her arm toward the promised land.
The night before I finished my notice, after training a replacement for a week, Claude set his sights on tearing the guy down. My heart sinking watching him walk out the back door mid-service. Just about free.
Then Claude turned on me. Jabbed his finger in my direction and told me I wasn't done until he said so.
Men expecting women to clean up after them. Be obedient.
I had training in that already. Fuck that.
Took my knives home. The phone rang for a long time the next day.
Ten years later, I ran into Claude on Queen Street.
Told him he was right about the drinking. He admitted being miserable.
We caught up for a bit and then parted. It was good.
I played my part. Misery finds company.
Fierceness was sometimes my armour. Not always. Found a place where I could wear it.
I can say that openly because I know I am not alone.
Been trying to have more real conversations. Without expectations.
Not all of them end so neatly. Me and Claude were ready.
The point is I'm open.
All I wanted was to cook. It felt like home.
The circle of fucking life.
A man playing the piano can make me sweet.
I loved this album.