The Cooks of La Girolle

By franco on 18 June, 2012

The Cooks of La Girolle
“So who the hell, exactly, are these guys, the boys and girls in the trenches? You might get the impression from the specifics of my less than stellar career that all line cooks are wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts and psychopaths. You wouldn’t be too far off base. The business…attracts ‘fringe elements’, people for whom something in their lives has gone terribly wrong. Maybe they didn’t make it through high school, maybe they’re running away from something-be it an ex-wife, a rotten family history, trouble with the law, a squalid Third World backwater with no opportunity for advancement. Or maybe, like me, they just like it here. ”

– Anthony Bourdain, Chef, TV Personality and Author

Your chef, [Ian Padilla of La Girolle] claims to have one of the toughest kitchens in Manila. True?

Lou Bobadilla :  Yes, he likes everything fast and precise.

Rachelle Rodis :  Yes, I don’t know how to explain his bossy attitude. The main reason why it’s hard is because how he manages us. He always gives us a hard time. But of course we know that he does this because he wants us to learn and learn quickly.

Hanna Velayo :   Yes. Chef Ian is a perfectionist. I have worked in other kitchens. But it’s in his kitchen where I’ve felt real exhaustion after long hours of working. But it does get easier once you know what you need to do.

What is difficult are moments when you are tired from work but Chef doesn’t like what you have done and tells you, “Do it again!” He really is a perfectionist.

Rachelle Rodis

Rachelle Rodis, 23 years old,Global Academy, Pastry Station

Why did you choose making food as your career path?

Lou :  For me, it was because of my dad and grandmother. They both loved to cook and they were good at it. In time, I would like to have my own business in this industry.

Rachelle :  I love to cooked. I’ve always been fascinated with cooks that I watched on television. The preparation, the cooking, especially the plating.

Hanna :  The reason I went to culinary school is because I didn’t want to do nursing. My parents were forcing me to try another course. They were thinking I could be a teacher instead. But I really didn’t want that. At the time there weren’t any culinary schools in Cagayan De Oro, so my parents were hesistant.

Eventually, my parents agreed. Partly because, I have cousins here in Manila to watch over me while I studied. Once I started culinary shool, I really focused on it.

I also remember baking with my mom. Just simple cookie recipes. I loved it.

Any regrets?

Lou:  Me? No. I love to cook. And besides, I want to learn and improve myself. I want to prove to everyone that I can stand on my own. I wanted to prove to them that I’m not a child anymore

Rachelle : No regrets. I enjoy what I do. I may complain sometimes. But I enjoy the people I get to meet and work with. The work is hard but we still keep working. Generally, we are happy in the kitchen that’s why I have never had any regrets.

Hanna :  Now, I can say no. But before, I would have to ask myself why I decided to work in a kitchen. It’s hard knowing that everyone else is enjoying their lives while you are stuck in the kitchen working.

Draw me a picture: your expectations fresh of culinary school verse the realities of the professional kitchen?

Hanna :  In culinary school, kitchen equipment was always complete and your chef instructors always taught you what to do.

Lou: My answer is the same as Hanna’s. My school always had enough kitchen equipment. So I was expecting it to be like that in a professional kitchen. To my surprise, it was not like that. At one point, we didn’t even have knives. Sometimes, you would find yourself not having the right equipment. But  it does not matter. You have to find ways to get your job done or else.

Rachelle:  Our kitchen in culinary school was cool but here, our kitchen is hot. So hot in fact, that sometimes we can’t concentrate on our work.

They have very high expectations for us in this kitchen that when we make mistakes, it can be very depressing. Everyday is still a learning process for us and we are still learning what we can from our chef.

Lou BobadillaLou Bobadilla, 26 years old, Global Academy, Hot Station

What is the best aspect about working in the kitchen?

Rachelle :  One thing I enjoy is the fun we have as group. We get nervous when things get too quiet in the kitchen. That usually means something is wrong. I also like the fact that we have team work in the kitchen.

Lou :   I enjoy working with ‘Hottie’ in the kitchen. Hottie is the nickname of the burners. I also love working with the cast iron pans which use everyday in kitchen.

Hanna:  I like the fact that there are no walls in our kitchen. We look out for each other no matter what station you are working. If you want to work at another station, you will always be given the opportunity to learn. I like the fact that we can talk and joke around with our chef. At his core, he is a down to earth guy.

Lou: Chef’s goal for us is to make us better cooks than even him.

The worst aspect?

Rachelle :  April 25,2012. Chef threw a kitchen towel at me in front of Sen. Manny Villar and his family.   We had only started serving Sunday brunch. And Chef had only verbally explained how he wanted his dishes plated on that day without showing us how it would actually look.

I had made so many mistakes that out of frustration he threw a towel at me in front of the guests. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to walk out. But I didn’t want to leave and have people think of me as a loser. I stayed and finished service. I will not give up on him until he tells me to leave.

Lou :  My worst moment was last November. During service, we had so many delays on the hot line. Chef was so angry that he tossed the garnishes at us, right in front of the guests. The guests started to laugh. I was very embarrassed. I thought about resigning but I thought about my family and how proud they are that I was working at this kind of restaurant.

Hanna :  My worst day happened while we were preparing for a private function. I was asked by the restaurant manager to help valet cars because they were short-handed at the front of the house. Of course, I said yes and cleared it with my chef. I thought I was helping the restaurant but when got back to the kitchen, all hell broke loose. Things were not going well in kitchen and Chef was mad at me. I didn’t know what was happening because I was downstairs, parking cars.

During the rest of the service, no matter what I did Chef would be critical of my work and shouting at me. I felt terrible. So terrible I went to the bathroon and cried. After service, Chef talked to me and apologized.

Hanna VelayoHanna Velayo, 24 years old, ISCAHM, Garde Manger

What do your family and friends think about your culinary lifestyle?

Rachelle : My mom is so proud. Despite the fact that they miss me and I rarely get to go home, she understands because she knows that I need to learn and prove myself.

My friends think I’m a killjoy. Right now, I just don’t have time to go out with with them.

Lou : My family is sometimes sad for me because they know how hard and stressful my work in the kitchen can be at times. My wife is proud of the work I do especially when the restaurant won Esquire’s Restaurant of Year Award.

My friends don’t really understand why I don’t go out with them as much. But I know that if I go out with them, I might not be able to work the next day. I don’t need the stress.

Hanna :  My parents are proud of  me even if I call them crying and complaining that I didn’t make my lemon tart perfect that day. They just laugh.

My friends always tell me that I don’t see them that often and when I do see them I always leave early. But I love my work and I love the fact that my parents are proud of what I do.

What are your plans for the near and long term?

Rachelle :   For the moment, stay at La Girolle. There are a lot of things that I want to learn from my chef. In the future, I’m thinking about working on a cruise ship or even abroad, if the opportunity arises. Later on, I would like to have my own restaurant – Italian, maybe.

Lou : I’ll try to stick it out with La Girolle and see what happens. If things work out, great. If not, I may have to find greener pastures. I need to. My son is getting older.

Later on in my career, I would like to work abroad. My target is Singapore. After that Australia or Europe. I want to experience working with foreign chefs. To see what I can learn from them and how far I can push myself culinarily.  Eventually, I would like to put up my own business – a small, family-run bistro. I would like to have an Asian bistro but since my training is French based – maybe it will be a fusion of both. I have not decided yet.

Hanna :  I’m staying with La Girolle. Down the line, I would like to work in the United States, maybe. Still cooking, of course. Eventually, I would like to come back and open my own kitchen – doing pastries. Simply because, that is what I enjoy doing.

Restaurant La Girolle
2nd Floor Bleu Sapphire Building
30th Street corner 2nd Avenue,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Tel. No. 478-4119

Much thanks to At Maculangan and Agnes Oledan

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  • JUNE 18, 2012 8:49 PM

    andrew said...

    This is a great piece. Gives an authentic view of what goes on in real restaurant kitchens of this caliber. Along with the interview of Chef Ian, it avoids the usual fluff. Hope to see more articles of this nature in the future.

  • AUGUST 23, 2012 10:05 AM

    mark said...

    What is it with chefs and short tempers??????

  • SEPTEMBER 3, 2012 1:27 PM

    franco said...

    Andrew, thank you. Mark, to answer your question. It is a high stress enviroment where you are only as good as your last dish. So tempers tend to flare up. Sadly.