We drove his Citröen truck for probably 5 hours, leaving the French Alps, following the Rhone River, and arriving at night. We walked into the restaurant’s kitchen. It was dark and there were dirty dishes everywhere. The whole place stank of old grease. Chef Lauriot showed me my room.
This was in the house next door—separated from the restaurant by a pasture with a horse in it. The chef gave me a plastic jug and told me, “That’s for your hot water.” He was a man of few words. We walked through the pasture to the other house, in which the chef’s father lived. My room was on the second floor overlooking the street.
Turned out that the old man didn’t want me staying there, but his son (Chef Lauriot) insisted on it. So there I was. But the old man didn’t want to hear a peep out of me. From Day One, I was not allowed to use the bathroom. This meant that for the next 8 months, I was to take sponge baths on my poncho and toss the dirty water off the balcony into the front yard. And pee off the balcony, too.
I was also to avoid making any noise. If I made the lightest sound, the old man would turn off the electricity to the house. Fortunately, I had a very fancy radio, so I had lots of stations to listen to. My favorite was Voice of America. It made me feel warm and loved, as the family I was working for was far from that. I listened to the radio with ear buds so the electricity wouldn’t be turned off. My favorite program, on Sunday night, featured Broadway musicals.
The building across the street was an insemination center, so night after night, my sleep was troubled by bulls in heat. Makes for some strange dreams.
Chef Lauriot was a bit of a cold fish, as was his wife. But he knew his stuff. He had won Meilleur Ouvrier de France and his restaurant had been awarded one star by Michelin. This, of course, meant that he was much admired in the community.