Me: How did your interest in cooking happen by accident?
Frank: I was an athlete. I ran track and field, 400-meter hurdles. I used to travel Europe, going from city to city like a tennis player, following the tournaments and trying to compete and trying to get better. In between seasons I used to come back to Canada and save up money. One of the years I decided I wasn’t going to come back. It was in between the outdoor season and the indoor season and I decided to get a job. It really happened by accident, I had no intentions to be a chef or cook or anything, but I found this fantastic place, a chateau in France, with lots of rolling hills. I was thinking if I could get a job here, it would be great, I could exercise here, use what was around me, get myself back in shape, get some money. I thought, I’m already here, I don’t have to spend another $2000 on flights. The money could go towards cheap motels where I could stay and wait for the next tournament to start. So I went in, asking for a job and they literally told me f*** off. I wasn’t a trained chef, no culinary background, no idea. It’s like going to a mechanic and just saying I want to be a mechanic, I had no clue. But I finally managed to be a pest enough and not get rejected, and got the job. So when I started, they wanted to teach me a few lessons. They would say, you see the stacks of potatoes, take them down to the cellar. And these are old Parisian buildings, where the steps are tiny and there are hundreds of them. I had to take the potatoes, put them on my back and go down these stairs and then for fun I would do squats and they would be like who is this guy? But for me it was physical exercise, it was fantastic. And I would do it faster than any of the other apprentices and better than any other apprentices. But I was a prep there and as a prep you come in, clean the restaurant, help with the prep, peel the potatoes and when the chefs were done at night you would stay there and clean the entire kitchen from top to bottom. Every time I would finish my task I would go to the head chef and the chef would get so angry with me because I wasn’t following the chain of commands. So, I would finish at 1:00-2:00 in the morning and as punishment the chef would say, you come tomorrow at 4:00 am and I thought great! More exercise! They could not understand. So at 4 in the morning I would come and they would think okay, this time we are going to break this guy, he’s going to leave. But this was a time when you saw all the butchers, the bread bakers, the guys that would smoke the fish, butchering all the fish and you saw everything from scratch. That was it, I fell in love with it. So I would help prep, but I had no knife skills. I would be cutting things and bleeding and they would say faster, faster! Putting pressure on me, but I was directly with the chef, with the coach and all of a sudden, I accelerated a lot quicker by being directly there and I guess somehow they started to take a liking to me. And one important thing I learned about kitchens, is that the person who knows where everything is, is very valuable. So when service would start, even though they were main chefs, they wouldn’t know where the ingredients were and I would know where it was. I put them away from morning to night, and I just got more involved, more efficient, you move up, you learn. And that’s how I fell in love with it, it consumed me so much. That team atmosphere, the sights, the smells, the art of it, it all made sense, for me it was a perfect transition into it.
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