Passion devoured them, to the point of indigestion.
On May 19, the day the restaurant terraces reopen, thousands of employees will be missed.
The Union of Trades and Industries of the Hotel Industry (Umih) estimates that 100,000 employees in the sector have disappeared from circulation since the start of the health crisis.
While the French are pawing with impatience and the restaurateurs are putting themselves in battle order to relaunch their establishments, closed since October 29, they have chosen to return the apron.
The confinement, accompanied by its doubts, existential crises and uncertainties, had the effect of a "click".
Many aspire to stability and comfort, others to more meaningful work or fairer remuneration.
After having thrown headlong into an infernal rhythm, where pressure, shifted schedules and lack of recognition mingle, they have turned their backs on catering.
“Apart from my job, what have I done in my life?”
It took forty years for Thierry, 56, to get a taste of "normal life". That outside the kitchen and the stress of a service. He returned his chef's apron in December, without even knowing what field he was going to get into. “I would have liked to open my eyes first. I was in a gear, obsessed with my work, he says. During the confinement, I asked myself a question: “
Apart from my job, what have I done in my life?
". Not much, after all. To tell you, I discovered the pleasure of eating with my family at 56 years old. "
His four children, aged 23, 18, 11 and 7, Thierry said, his voice faltering, "not having seen them grow up".
His friends can hardly be counted on the fingers of one hand.
“It was work, work, work.
I was constantly under pressure, with the fear of not succeeding with a dish or a service.
I would go home emptied, I would go through the weeks with barely a day off, he describes.
I do not regret, I assume.
But there, I say stop.
Read alsoProgressive deconfinement: ways to continue to help restaurateurs
Alexandre Giroussens, a 30-year-old Toulouse resident, has taken too much liking to free evenings and weekends to return to his position as a waiter.
He resigned last November, at the announcement of the second confinement, to embark on the creation of a company in the provision of business.
“In the restaurant business, you are marginalized.
You live in quirk, with a frivolous, unstable daily life, insists the young man.
I started at 17, when you are young, you give everything and you don't give a damn about the rest, for me it was a normal rhythm.
There, I discovered that another life was possible.
After thirteen years in the restaurant business, Alexandre Giroussens, a 30-year-old Toulouse resident, has decided not to return to his job as a waiter.
LP / Remy Gabalda
The former waiter also points to the ingratitude of the sector, with extended hours and a "miserable" salary, where, even after years of experience, "you barely earn more than the minimum wage".
“Not to mention that now, the outlook is darkening,” says Alexandre.
At the slightest hiccup, you no longer have a job.
"Now I have time for myself and my loved ones"
Others have chosen to lose wages in order to gain comfort.
Alex, a sommelier who became a boutique wine merchant, has lost 700 euros net since he “changed his life”.
“You have to look at the ratio,” he notes.
Yes, I used to earn 2,500 euros, but I worked between seventy and eighty hours a week, I didn't see my girlfriend, I didn't have any friends, apart from work colleagues… Today , I earn 1,800 euros, but at 6 pm, I go home.
Now I have time for myself and my loved ones.
Alex Jam, a former sommelier turned shop wine merchant, does not regret having traded 700 euros in net salary for the possibility of seeing his girlfriend more often.
LP / Victor Tassel
The 31-year-old young man, who has multiplied ten years during his experiences in major starred restaurants in France and London, began his reflection in the spring, before taking the plunge in the fall.
He left to join his partner in Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme).
“At the first confinement, I began to have doubts.
The second was the coup de grace, says Alex.
I am proud of what I have accomplished, I worked like crazy, I gave myself completely.
But it was time to review the copy!
"For the first time, I can put my children to bed at night"
Pasquale Pugliese's son will agree. The 6-year-old boy worked his father at the corps, boss of Perditempo, on the banks of the Garonne in Bordeaux (Gironde) for twelve years, so that he let go of his business. "At the end, he would stand in front of the door of the house so that I wouldn't go out. And he would say to me: "
But daddy, why are you leaving again? »
», Says, moved, the restaurateur.
After months of reflection and hesitation, he ended up selling his restaurant at the start of the first confinement.
Before giving it up, last September, for fear of abandoning his family life, "irreconcilable" with his work.
“When you're a boss, it's 24 hours a day, with no vacation.
You worry because there is no reservation, you stress because your employee is sick, you worry about the weather, yellow vests, you wonder how much you are going to end the month with… ”, Pasquale lists, the weary tone.
Read alsoFind staff, avoid bankruptcy ... the five challenges for restaurateurs when the terraces reopen
So he returned to his first love.
Since the start of the school year, he has worked as an educator in a neighborhood center for which he had trained twenty years ago, in Italy, his native country.
At 43, he tastes life again.
“For the first time, I can put my children to bed at night, play with them, touch them, kiss them,” describes Pasquale.
All of this is priceless.
"I refocus on the essential"
Karen, 27, will begin her “last stand” before she too can take advantage of her 8-year-old son.
"Happy" as a chef de rang at the restaurant "Les Ferlempins" in Compiègne (Oise), in September she will start training as a medical secretary.
She chose to stop, in agreement with her employer, for “the benefits of the job”.
“I, like many of us, discovered the pleasure of spending time with my child like never before, Sunday walks with the family… When you taste it, you don't go back,” she smiles.
However, you do not have the same goals at 19 as at 27.
Karen, head of row, began training as a medical secretary at the age of 27.
LP / Olivier Lejeune
Karen, convinced of her choice and already "fulfilled" at the idea of starting her new life, will also finally be able to benefit from her companion.
He who "supports for eleven years" the shifted schedules without complaint and can see Karen only "gust of wind".
"I refocus on the essential, insists the young mother.
My life is finding new meaning.
"I wanted a job more useful to society"
The meaning Juliette has not found it with her family.
Rather with people in need.
A volunteer for “years” in Civil Protection, she volunteered at the height of the health crisis in nursing homes and with Samu.
“What I saw overwhelmed me,” she says.
I have always had a social fiber, but I had an awareness: I wanted a job that was more useful to society.
Juliette will quit her position of operations manager in a group that owns restaurants to become manager of a healthcare establishment.
LP / Arnaud Journois
Juliette, a resident of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges (Val-de-Marne) will swap her position of director of operations, in a group that owns restaurants in Paris and Lille (North), for that of director of health establishment .
She is preparing a file to have her skills matched in her new field, in November.
It will then turn the page of two decades in the restoration, without denying anything.
“Everyone will tell you: in this sector, we work with our guts and conviction,” she says.
Only, the confinement had the effect of a big freeze-frame.
And, when you spend your life at work, off the wall, you question yourself.