Your esteemed editor (and my husband) Jonty has asked me to write about “a day in the life of a chalet host”. He said he was saving the best “A Day in the Life” until just before the season, but I suspect he’s run out of other victims.
Those of you that have been to visit us in chalet Jacqueline will have a good idea of most of my day anyway and will know that quite a bit of it is spent in the kitchen. It doesn’t really get more interesting than that, but here goes!
I do breakfasts. This causes a little bit of friction between Jonty and me as it means I never get a lie-in. Jonty’s excuse is that he can’t do poached eggs!
My day starts at about 6.30am. I have a quick shower and then climb the stairs from our room in the basement to the chalet. This is not always as easy as it sounds as quite often it has snowed quite heavily overnight.
My first task is to get the cake in the oven. Baking a cake at altitude is completely different than at sea level. Amongst other things, the ingredients include yoghurt and vegetable oil and the baking time changes with just a few metres change in altitude. It takes a few goes before the season starts to get it right!
I must admit I quite like it first-thing as it’s very peaceful and I can just get on. I try and be as quiet as possible as everybody is still asleep, but it’s surprising how difficult it is to empty a dishwasher quietly!
Soon (too soon!) guests start to trickle down and I can start taking orders for eggs. We do boiled, scrambled and poached and it takes a bit of practice to get them all out relatively quickly, especially if everyone arrives at the dining table at once.
Jonty pokes his head in the chalet at around 7.30 to see if he can ‘help’, but I politely (usually) tell him he’s better off doing admin!
We stop doing hot breakfasts at 8.30, but there are nearly always a few stragglers who have skied a bit too hard or had one too many at the Ski Lodge (or both) who appear later for a bowl of muesli.
Jonty usually appears again sometime around 9am and clears the table, but the kitchen isn’t very big and I’m trying to ice a cake and I wish he had more admin to do!
We’ve usually got breakfast cleared and the table laid for afternoon tea by 9.30 and if it’s a good week everyone’s gone skiing and the chalet is empty! That means Jonty can get on with housekeeping while I prep the evening’s pudding and finish the cake. We try and sit down for breakfast (and an episode of The Archers) as close to 10 as possible, but it’s usually more like 10.30.
Unless it’s shopping day (Friday) or changeover day (Sunday) the rest of the morning and afternoon is our own. We’re very lucky to be in the beautiful Alps all winter and one of the benefits is that we don’t feel pressured to ski every day (although we do most days). There’s a lot of other stuff we like to do – for example, walking, heading over to the other side of the valley to the beautiful Champagny en Vanoise or just deck-chair skiing (for those of you who haven’t discovered this yet, it involves skiing to the nearest deck-chair in the sun for a beverage of your choice. You can ski to the next deck-chair, but that’s not compulsory).
I’m usually back in the chalet for about 4pm. Sometimes I get a chance to read a book for a few minutes, but usually I’m trying to get my pudding ready before La Tania’s answer to Gordon Ramsay takes over in the kitchen.
I try and keep out of Jonty’s way until about 7pm, when I try and dodge the Master at work and help serve the meal.
7.30 to about 9 is very busy as we serve the meal, try to eat something ourselves, make sure the (tiny) kitchen doesn’t get too cluttered and fill and empty the poor dishwasher (I hope I don’t come back as a chalet dishwasher!).
Once service is finished, Jonty politely (usually) asks the guests to head for the “executive seating facility” or similar and lays the table for breakfast, while I get as much ready for breakfast as possible.
I’d like to say we then head off to the Ski Lodge or the La Taiga, but usually it’s Netflix and bed!