Christine Merckelbagh was a (very) senior insurance executive. Vincent Dautry was a chef in two or three star establishments. Both earned a very good living, but also felt like they were wasting it. So they chose to radically change career paths, to set up a… central kitchen.
Christine Merckelbagh was Director of Insurance Operations in a large group with a department of 300 people to manage. Holder of a Master’s degree in Economist Statistician and a DEA in Mathematics Economics, she received a monthly salary of 5 figures, which ensured her a very comfortable lifestyle. Only here, insurance, it was not his dream of departure. “During my studies, I promised myself never to work in the banking or insurance sectors. But I finished college in 1995 and there was only recruiting there. I took a job in insurance to be independent and then I continued…”.
It will last about twenty years during which, little by little, his fed up with this world as hushed as it is ruthless grows. In 2016, she fell in love and left the world of insurance to pass a CAP de cuisine at the Ecole Ferrandi, “At one point, I said to myself: you’re not going to continue doing things that you don’t like; what are you waiting for to realize your dreams? “. CAP in her pocket, she puts her house on sale to open a restaurant in Rennes, when she hears about a post of director for an associative restaurant to be set up in an immigrant hostel in Montreuil, “Le centenaire”.
In the kitchen, Christine manages 13 employees including 11 women and almost as many nationalities. All of them are on a “Fixed-term integration contract” in order to train for the profession of general-purpose restaurant agent. Christine, still passionate about management, sets up a weekly meeting with the team to give everyone the restaurant’s areas of development, the key figures and make “retex” (feedback). Part of the brigade is illiterate in French; no matter, she does her meetings with drawings. At the same time as cooking, she teaches her employees to speak in public, she cheers them up, does everything she can to boost their self-confidence. “I had to constantly adapt, we were often in an imbalance, but in a creative imbalance” laughs the tall brunette in her forties. Objective: to involve its thirteen agents in a participative organization of work and instil a real team spirit. Quickly, the restaurant du Centenaire provides an average of 150 covers each lunchtime. The prices are low, around 5 euros a dish, and the cuisine is all the tastier than an accomplice of Christine, Vincent Dautryprofessor at the Ferrandi Hotel School and starred chef, comes by every morning to bring an additional touch of creativity to the menus.
Vincent went through the gratin of restaurants and palaces (Lasserre, Le Taillevent, Georges V, Apicius…). White truffles, lobster, foie gras… working with an almost unlimited “raw material” budget, he knows how to do it and his art has taken him around the world, from palace to palace.
While, in the brotherhood of great starred chefs, it is fashionable to confess a passion dating back to the cradle, this hat denotes: “My family was Zola’s Assommoir. Very early, I was entrusted to my godfather and my godmother, people then rather old to raise a kid. They are the ones who imposed on me the profession of cook and a CAP by explaining to me “you will earn little in your living, but at least you will eat every day”, the passion only came well after my CAP”. Departure without a silver spoon in the mouth therefore, but already a sacred will to succeed. After the CAP, Dautry went on to a BEP, then a professional baccalaureate, then a restaurant BTS, all in parallel with his job. It will not stop there; there will also be a Master 2 in Economics and Management and obtaining the Capet, the competition which allows you to teach in a hotel school. “I wanted to transmit, and I became a cooking teacher in 2013” he explains. It may well be at the Ferrandi School, the must in the matter, he divides his salary by two. A mechanism is engaged: it will not stop.
From the Ferrandi School (private), he went to National Education, then he tried adult education with Greta. His salary drops further and his audience changes dramatically. ” I asked people I had trained as dishwashers and assistant cooks to tell me what functions they knew in a kitchen brigade. and they did it! », all positions pass through it; except two: dishwasher and assistant cook… “That’s what I want to work on: that my students regain confidence in themselves”.
In the fall of 2020, Vincent Dautry is taking a new step in his new life by embarking on the Gamelle Label adventure. After having prepared meals for more than €300, concocting all-inclusive menus for €3.50 is quite a challenge! A challenge still taken up by the desire to train people in the kitchen who have often dropped out of the world of work. “I don’t want to give people fish; I want to teach them to fish”. Vincent Dautry, like many kids from very poor backgrounds, hates charity. he conceives above all the human relations in the exchange. “Manager is not a dirty word, for me it means pushing the other up. With Label Gamelle, we will work for the Salvation Army, but we are not the Salvation Army”.
The two founders of Label Gamelle obviously have no complaints against humanitarianism. they recognize its necessity and its usefulness but, firmly, they have decided not to subscribe to this operation. Label Gamelle therefore registers its action within the framework of a company, a goal (Cooperative and participatory society) where each employee will have one vote and where the pay scale will be 1 to 3. “Not having to generate large profits to remunerate its shareholders completely changes the viability and sustainability of a company” explains Christine and, at Label Gamelle, the profits will be systematically reinvested in the company.
The 10 employees of the structure are newcomers, recipients of social minimasingle women with children, people with little or no recognized work experienceyoung people who left the school system prematurely, the long-term unemployed… so many real obstacles when looking for a job. One of the challenges of Bowl Label is to put them back in the stirrup. Christine and Vincent are neither saints nor masochists: they launched Label Gamelle because they believe in it, of course, but above all because they benefit from this project which allows them to defend values, show that it is possible to build a more united economy and world.
“Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you have to eat badly” a film by Thierry Kubler, broadcast on TV Thursday March 31 around 11 p.m.
And a web series in 8 episodes to see on France.tv