Working and learning more than anyone. Challenge of a Japanese woman who works as a chef pâtissier at a distinguished restaurant in Paris

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Kimiko Kinoshita

The first step to becoming a chef pâtissier was making gateau au chocolat for my mother.

What made you decide to be a chef pâtissier?

Ms. Kinoshita:
I have loved sweets since my childhood. By the time I was an elementary student I had my mom buy me recipe books and I started cooking sweets at home by myself.
I cooked both Japanese sweets and pastries a lot. However, we lived in the country side so my mom never cooked pastries and there was no pastry shop nearby.

The main reason was the hospitalization of my mother when I was in elementary school. I cooked gateau au chocolat for her and took it to the hospital. She was very happy which made me glad.

After graduating high school, I entered a 2 year course at college in Nishinomiya, Hyogo, in order to get a cooking license.

Culinary seems to be a world of men, but didn’t your parents object?

Ms. Kinoshita:
They never objected, but my mother once told me, “It is okay to do a job that you like, but you like it because it is not your job.” But, I like culinary so I continued with it. I did not like studying so I did not want to sit the a university entrance examination.

Training period made me think about going to France.

I heard that you worked at a restaurant, not making pastry in the beginning.
What kind of work did you do?

Ms. Kinoshita:
At the first restaurant I worked at as a full time employee, I did everything from serving, washing dishes, making desserts and appetizers, and then I worked as a kyuison. I worked there for a year and a half. I worked at the next restaurant for 2 and a half years. I worked from 8am until 11:30pm with only a 30 minute break and one day off a week. There was no vacation or paid leave of course, nor obon break. We only had a break for New Years.

After that, I was introduced by the chef to “La Rochelle Osaka“, and it was the first time to work as a chef pâtissier. I was 24 years old. There was only another chef pâtissier and myself.

When did you start thinking about France?

Ms. Kinoshita:
The Chef of the 2nd restaurant I worked at was in France for 2 or 3 months and there was also a chef at La Rochelle who lived in France for 6 months, so I had heard a lot from them. I guess I started thinking about it then.

I was cooking French cuisine but I felt awkward that I had never been to France.
So I wanted to go. I actually went there 3 years later when I was 26 years old.

Back then, it was difficult to apply for a French working holiday visa, so I used a recruiting agency to find a job, and then I applied for a training visa. It was at Le Pavillon des Boulevards. The sous chef was Japanese and they decided to accept two people from Japan every year. I was supposed to work as a chef pâtissier, but when I arrived, I started as a garde manger (a chef in charge of appetizer) because they lacked certain staff.

When my training visa expired, I could not speak French at all, so I thought of going to language school to study French. I returned to France on a student visa and went to Paris.

The reason why I chose Paris was not only because I thought that it was advantageous if I could not speak French, but also I was not satisfied with the quality of the pastries in a small town.

When did you go to France for the first time?

Ms. Kinoshita:
I was 21years old when I traveled to Italy and France. I remember that I was impressed by the gateau of Sadaharu Aoki when I visited Paris. He had won an award for it, but there was no shop in Japan back then. So I thought, “How is this possible!” Other than that, I researched and visited cake shops in towns such as Sucré Cacao.

You were already doing eating tours even at the age of 21.

Ms. Kinoshita
I don’t have any other hobbies. I love eating. I was also impressed by a duck confit served at an ordinary cafe.

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