There’s no self-raising flour in France. Somehow, the country famed for its artisan bread and crackling baguettes has learnt the secret to baking without it.
I open the oven door with an air of hope. My Lemon Drizzle cake has taken its name to the extreme – cake mixture has exploded out of the loaf tin to drizzle through the wire rack into a blackening crust below. I may have slightly over compensated for the lack of self-raising flour with four heaped teaspoons of baking powder. Ok, ok, tablespoons.
I sigh, shutting the oven door and yelling for Emily, my co-host and all round saint. She, who had donned the apron and become an all-but-qualified chef serving five course meals (including canapés) for up to 17 guests overnight, ever since our chef suddenly realised he didn’t really like cooking. Or skiing. Or people.
“It doesn’t look like the image on the website.” I tell Emily, who opens the oven door and surveys my citron explosion with a weary eye. Not for the first time, I curse our ex-chef.
But he’s not alone in quitting mid-season. The turnover rate for staff is astonishingly high here, especially in February. It’s burnout month – you’ve been here for two months, worked 65 hour weeks, partied hard, skied your mismatched socks off, and suddenly, you realise you’re exhausted.
Which then leaves hosts like Em and I to become instant domestic goddesses, except you’re still hosts and working in an open plan kitchen, so you have to possess the skills of Gordon Ramsey with the disposition of Holly Willoughby. Tricky.
It seems there are hundreds of hard-working twenty-somethings in ski resorts who are plunged into the cut throat culinary world, where a sunken sponge can make all the difference between a tip that goes towards brand new snowboard boots and a 1 star Trip Advisor review.
Now, two months in, most hosts I meet seem to be whipping up a cheeky Coq au Vin or baking a Triple Chocolate Marble Cake without batting a bleary eye. Those who didn’t know the difference between Dauphinoise and Gratin are long gone. Em and I had it lucky to have had a chef this long – it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get domesticated.