Behind the scenes … a fine dining restaurant in Paris
The taxi pulled up in front of the two large frost-stained glass doors with a burnt-orange overhang and Citrus Etoile written in perfect black cursive lettering. A man in a suit opened the taxi door for me. Bonsoir Madame. With that, I paid the taxi driver 30 euros, and stepped out of the car onto the street. “Bonsoir Monsieur” I replied, with my voice sounding a slight bit shaky. I inhaled the crisp winter air and let it expand my lungs, and allowed the valet man to open the frosted door for me. Well, ready as I’ll ever be… I thought to myself.
I walked right up to the hostess podium. “Hi, my name is Krista. I am here for my internship… to work tonight. I am supposed to check in with David.” I said with as much confidence as I could muster as the pencil thin blonde Parisian girl stared at me from the hostess stand not giving half a centimeter of a smile.
“OK.” She quickly responded and picked up the phone at the podium to call David who was apparently in his office downstairs. The restaurant was upstairs, and all below were offices, kitchens and storage rooms. A few minutes later, after I had stood at the front of the dining room awkwardly with staff staring at me, David made an appearance. He gave me a rather close hug, grabbing my hips and kissing me on both cheeks. Ca Va? He asked. He immediately went right to an informal exchange with me. Usually, a boss or someone in charge of me would not be so casual in an introduction, but I welcomed this energy as it calmed me. I immediately responded with how nervous I was feeling to which he told me not to worry. For the first few nights I would be shadowing him and watching what he was doing. Not so much actually having to engage and exchange words with the guests. He explained that he would start by letting me memorize the wine cellar, handle water service, clean glasses in the dish room, and familiarize myself with the staff and the restaurant itself. Phew. This was relieving, as this meant I could get my feet on the ground for the first week.
David gave me a quick tour of the restaurant and introduced me to everyone working that night. There were mostly men working in the kitchen as cooks especially, which made me very happy as the French men were all nice to me despite me not speaking much of the language at all. I could feel their eyes on me, checking me out in my tight black dress. I would have to immediately get used to this, as there would soon be a full restaurant of patrons watching me work. I replayed in my head David’s nonchalant request of my dress code he stated during my interview. “Krista, I expect that you will dress like a glamour girl every night. By this I mean, dressing sexy and walking seductively. High heels, make-up and tight outfits.”
After my short tour I was still feeling fairly uncomfortable, and David told me to fix a plate for dinner, at 7:00 pm we would have “staff meal.” That night the chefs had made large platters of mussels and frites for us to dine on. I filled up my plate, as the smell was heavenly and I had barely eaten all day due to nerves. I headed downstairs to the room where the wait staff was to eat. David would dine upstairs with the chefs at an actual dining table. I sat at the table full of French waiters, and felt like a fish out of water, as they were all speaking in French at a rapid pace. I could barely understand anything and continued to eat my meal while staring down at my plate. At that point, I wanted to crawl into a cave and hide. I felt embarrassed that I didn’t speak French, and self-conscious to be sitting there staring around the room as everyone spoke as if I was invisible. This was going to be a long six weeks.
“Hi, you must be Krista. I am Maxime. I will be in charge of your training. The next few nights at least.”
Evelyn Anderson says
A different culture for sure Krista the experiences of our world are endless keep learning ❤️
I remember the restaurant and the delicious meal! What a great experience for you working with David!
Teri Perine says
I’m really enjoying reading about all your experiences. You’re truly a very brave and independent young lady and your courage and strength are shining ♥️
Krista Bender says
Thank you Aunt T! Your comments are so sweet always XO
Lol oh David!
Krista Bender says
LOL. And that was just the beginning. I will never forget the night you and mom met him 🙂
I figured out why your excerpts are so intriguing to me…it’s giving me a particular feeling that I have not been able to replicate since my last trip to Paris. Specifically that rush of nerves and excitement when traveling there alone. It’s like a new adventure every day pushing one a little (or a lot) out of their comfort zone, coupled with the fact of being in a different country making it a blank slate. There is something about that which felt like the coolest environment to try new things and be on my own there. I absolutely loved that feeling and your book is bringing that back to me. Thank you!
Krista Bender says
Stephanie! I resonate with this comment so much. YES! You have articulated that well… I agree. There is just this magic there – you can reinvent yourself all while in this beautiful historic city. Possibilities for even just what will come of a “single day” seem endless. So happy these excerpts can take you back to that feeling 🙂
You’re so brave to write this book. I cannot wait to read it.