How a sous chef runs her kitchen

Sous chef Petro Arendse is said to be the mother figure in the Le coin Français kitchen. She shares her approach on how to make things run smoothly. 

How did your culinary journey begin? 

My culinary journey started a couple of years ago at Tokara Restaurant, located on the Helshoogte Pass close to Stellenbosch. 

What from that journey do you bring into your current role? 

I learnt a lot from my time working at Tokara, both inside and outside the kitchen, but the one lesson that really stuck with me was to always lead by example. When I moved to Le coin Français back in 2017, I was appointed as the sous chef of the kitchen, and I really felt that the lessons I learnt at Tokara allowed me to transition into my new job a lot more seamlessly.

What goes into being a sous chef? 

For me, it has always been about teamwork in a kitchen. Everyone should be helping everyone, and no one leaves work until each section in the kitchen is finished with their duties. I consider us a “mean team” at Le coin Français, which makes it nice to share ideas as well as learn from other staff members every day.

What is your approach? 

Being on time is a great way to start a workday, so I make sure that I am always at the restaurant before it opens. I work hard and I try to pass on as much knowledge and skills to my fellow colleagues as well as any students who get placed at Le coin Français.

How does that tie in with the ethos of Le coin Francais?

Le coin Français is about being a family. We look after each other and set a tone of a hard-working environment. This allows us to focus on our skills and knowledge, to bring the best possible experience to a guest dining at the restaurant.

Petro from Le coin Francais

Image supplied

What are the challenges of your work, especially now with the pandemic?

Everyone is obviously concerned over the future of the restaurant industry more than ever due to the pandemic. Even though the pandemic has been tough on our industry, Chef Darren did not retrench any of his staff members. We have become a remarkably close team due to the pandemic, not just within Le coin Français but also with the other restaurants owned by Chef Darren (Le chene and Tuk Tuk Microbrewery) and the ones where he is in partnership with Ryan Shell (Oku and Yama). Our operating times at Le coin Français have been limited to weekends due to the pandemic, but if we are off and another restaurant feels short-staffed, we are always willing to lend a hand.

Are there any lessons from the pandemic that you’re applying to your kitchen? 

Yes. Kitchens have always been very hygienic, but this pandemic has shown that there are even more steps that can be taken to improve the hygienic standard of a kitchen. At Le coin Français, we ensure that we follow the strictest of COVID-19 protocols.

What are the joys of your work? 

I love being in the kitchen, cooking at Le coin Français. It has always been a joy to be cooking with other chefs and experimenting with new dishes and flavours. You will be surprised at how a different, simple technique can change the way you cook.

What is your favourite part of the day? 

My favourite part of the day will have to be coming into prep. Even though we worked the evening before, there will always be a new story being told, which just lifts the work spirit for the day.

Any advice for those aspiring to be in your position?

Just be yourself and enjoy what you are doing. If you put the hours in and learn from your mistakes and everyone around you, you will be surprised at how quickly you can achieve a goal that you have in mind.

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