L & # 39; Escale-Village, behind the scenes of the largest street restaurant in France

A DAY, A PLACE L & # 39; Escale-Village, near Châteauroux, open 24 hours a day and is the largest street restaurant in France. Truckers come together day and night. It serves an average of 700 seats. Diving in this boiler, where 90 employees are busy.

12:00 – 14:00: tidal wave, shot

Where do they come from? It is the hurry. No matter of wandering. Foot on the gas pedal, the servers go full throttle, avoid each other, displace themselves in flexibility, become dark without saying a word. To bring the kitchen to a boil, Vulcan can be introduced. Flames everywhere. Stoves and pans pass from hand to hand. The steaks bleed or confiscated to indicate are linked, the fries come from gold in their oil bath. Kidneys and fish undergo the test of fire.

The language is reduced to the sound-onomatopoeia of the barker, Mickael Menet. His lapidary sentences have no other answer than eager acceptance. "Come on, big, swarm!" He scans his orders, juggles with the entrance and exit cards. On the other side of the counter the waiters load their plates heavy plates on the shoulder and enter the battle, honking with preventive means "Hot, in front!" A launched server can hide another. Percussion assured, rare however in a large crash of plates and broken glasses. Immediately, a diver rapplique with bucket and brooms, clears up in a hurry without leaving any trace.

In the kitchen of the restaurant at the time of the recording. Robin Jafflin in front of the cross

In the kitchen of the restaurant at the time of the recording. / Robin Jafflin for the cross

The service train has already departed. Dominique Thomas, the boss, proud of his title "Master restaurateur", after the inspection is put into use every four years, the job is done. Like the others. In the ballet dishes the parade succeeds to evacuate. The carcasses of mussels cross the steamy entrecotes, the wild whelks and the burnt creams. Brownian movement, all revolutions and slips, incessant, maddening, fascinating. Sweatbead on the faces of these workers bitter. And sweet.

After the dessert coffee, the cacophony goes retrograde. The stop frichti must be folded in within 45 minutes. "Goodbye and thanks!" Good road! " Andrea, a young waitress, loves. "The lunch service is like a speed race, it's up to us to ensure the speed required by the truckers' tariffs, and we're mainly here for them."

Commandos were hanging on the wall.Robin Jafflin for the cross

Commandos are hanging on the wall. / Robin Jafflin for the cross

2.30 pm: General reflux

The afternoon teams leave to rest, before the new attack of the evening. "Our body adapts to the rhythm of this work with spread hours, weekends and holidays included, assures Pascal Mouteau, manager of the brewery (Martine, his wife, is responsible for the restaurant). I had to stop for two years because of a hernia. I did not miss being in the gym. Continuing did me good. "

None of them work hard. "Working at L & # 39; Escale is forging a mentality Everything is extraordinary The number of seats, the prosperity, the size of the team, the distribution of the transactions, summarized Michael Javaudin, director of the hall. Keep an eye on everything, keep an eye on the general organization, manage the smallest error that could prevent this machine running at full speed, develop a flawless professionalism, regardless of position, support without hitting this fast pace. "

15:00 – 18:00: great rest

Between two waves L & # 39; Escale is never empty. Roads are lonely, to swallow a quick meal and leave.

18:30 – 20:00: shower and aperitif

Beginning of the evening shot. Arrival of cooking brigades. The servers adjust their business which echoes the orders to the kitchen barrel and vibrates when the dish is ready. Traceability (time, product, customer) is correct.

The truckers are disembarking. Showering for some, aperitif for some, dinner for everyone. Stop at the bar, the center of L & # 39; Escale. Behind the zinc Eric Chevillat exchanges the keys of the truck in Italian with a shower, always clean. Dominique and Isabelle Thomas, the bosses, are stubborn about the good behavior of their company.

The truckers decompress. "As soon as they step under the table, they relax, observes Jonathan Cazaubon, room manager. We try to group them together so that they get to know each other. " These quiet, long hours locked up in their cabin, find the need for palaver. Facing the illuminated screens, the looks are derived, rarely addicted to news channels. "The drivers are nice, assures a waitress. We get to know each other At this moment the yellow cardigans are taking the conversations to designate the dams and diversions, to exchange pipes. " Almost no women. "We are finished confirms Sandrine, the only one that returns to Orleans at the wheel of his Volvo (44 tons, 500 hp). The drivers are too macho. Just cross their eyes when we enter a restaurant road. "

20.00 – 22.30: the hour of the confidants

Serious hours. That of the meal before the restful night on the bed of the chest, far from the family. The one we hang around at the table, that of confidentiality. "They complain about hours, pay, yellow cardigans, says Jonathan Cazaubon. They like their work but are sick of it. Many long for retirement. " Jonathan (sixteen at the wheel) meets Philippe at the same table (forty years of business) and another Philippe (twenty-six years on the road). They did not know each other, were occasionally crossed here and there. Chance meets them tonight. The same observation: "The work has changed, there is no more freedom, the digital cards in the truck are our choices, we always flicker." They suffer from the deplorable image of their profession, of the bad treatment, especially in the large retail trade, of the behavior of the motorists, unaware of the danger. Despise while they are indispensable for society. «It's a long time for" The way guys are fun ", from Max Meynier, on RTL», sighs the nostalgia of this mythical and federated image.

Muriel, "the patroness of the night" ./ Robin Jafflin for the cross

Muriel, "the patroness of the night". / Robin Jafflin for the cross

Midnight: Muriel, Francis and Maf, the trio of the night

Inscription on the circuit of Muriel Montaron, "The patron of the night"Francis, his loyal waiter and Maf, the guard. Muriel spends her nights behind the zinc of L & # 39; Escale. "I am sleepless, I only sleep well during the day, She says. I am always attracted by this clientele, not always easy to manage. " Maf watches over grain. His laser look detects the importun that points. Measured in his words, quiet power, he does not have to raise his voice. "As soon as I feel aggression, he gives an overview ofI intervene. My presence is dissuasive. " And when this boxing champion, from the DRC, has to unlock his muscles, scramblers rarely give up cover.

The brewery organizes road and route and night owls from Châteauroux. Show nights at Tarmac (renamed Mach 36, Ed)the local Zenith, the crowd rushes, enters the halls. theafter at L & # 39; Escale is a must-see of Châteauroux. "The exit of the Tarmac is often phenomenal, the queue is waiting outside, and you can serve up to a thousand people at once, with a great customer mix." Sure! "Yes, we are here"replies, amused, Emmanuelle Ligeret, waitress.

A truck driver who drives his truck in the L & # 39; Escale parking lot / Robin Jafflin in front of the cross

A truck driver driving his truck into the L & # 39; Escale parking lot. / Robin Jafflin for the cross

1 hour: Night route

The "fridges" that are allowed to run during the night (and in the weekend) follow each other for their legal interruption. Supported, they take the wheel to reach Rungis before dawn. "In the past, restaurants were open all night, today they close their doors around 9 pm and they condemn us to eat everywhere, there is more than L & # 39; Escale to offer us this service", underlines Benoît Arpoulet, left Marmande. He supplies Rungis fruit and vegetables three times a week. "I always drive at night, while L & # 39; Escale is my head office and my second family."

1:50: The fog

A driver comes to sit on the bar to swallow a coffee. "Are you rolling in the fog?"asks Muriel, whose companion is on the road. This simple sense, thoughtful, comforts this lonely bitumen. "I let them feel that they are here at home."

Muriel behind the zinc, Francis in the room and always a cook of permanence. Maf observes the surveillance screens that the cameras & # 39; s pass inside and outside. He regularly makes his trip in the parking lot, in the middle of 150 trailers aligned, curtains for the windshield.

The parking garage can accommodate 150 semi-trailers./Robin Jafflin for the cross

The parking garage can accommodate 150 trailers. / Robin Jafflin for the cross

In the dim light of the searchlights that ward off the darkness, it resembles a flock of large, large, sheep gathered around the sheepfold. "& # 39; Maf trustsyou have to get along, form a team. Muriel and Francis feel safe with me and I love being with them. " His two protégés propose croissants, chocolate and rolls and the battery of the coffee cups, awaiting the first starts. Francis regularly wipes the broom so that everything remains nickel.

The truckers are not concerned with the "yellow vests"

3 hours: long before it becomes light

The first early birds arrive on the radar. Little black swallows quickly, they do not hang around. Most have to be discharged before the day starts. The road will be long, in the opening of lighthouses.

4:30: The nose in the cup

The rate of sinking collisions is increasing. The truck drivers have their breakfast on the run, in silence, lost in the last remnants of sleep, the nose in the cup. Heavy bodies, tired, worn. Some go to grief, others come back. It is time for factory outings. Employees come to eat before they go to bed. They meet, without seeing them, some lost night owls.

On the zinc of L & # 39; Escale / Robin Jafflin for the cross

On the zinc of L & # 39; Escale. / Robin Jafflin for the cross

5.30 am: deliveries

In the back of the restaurant, in the cold of a night of winter stretching, the start of bulk deliveries, vegetables of the day, which Anthony Mercerais receives and controls, the head of the purchase, unmanageable on the price and quality .

6 o'clock: the confectioners at their stations

Maf swallows a hearty meal before breaking the camp and quietly greets the company. Zinc is the silent meeting of the infantry of the road. Philippe Mauduit, the famous confectioner, starts his day. Two teams of three patissiers will follow each other until midnight to prepare the 19 desserts and 16 ice creams on the menu.

L & # 39; Escale is considered to be France's largest road restaurant./Robin Jafflin for the cross

L & # 39; Escale is considered the largest road restaurant in France. / Robin Jafflin for the cross

6.30 am: new cargo trucks fall out of the truck

It froze tonight. The trailers seem to be covered with powdered sugar. A thick fog has just fallen. The pea puree hides the ice. the "Good trip! " fuse, bye bye. "They used to have time, sighs Muriel. Today they have a stopwatch in their heads. They are always in a hurry. "

7:30 am: the tide

Delivery of fish and crustaceans (special house card), ordered the day before, for a total of one thousand euros. One part is flooded by a cold room, another is torn away in the kitchen, for the hustle and bustle of the afternoon. Everything is homemade.

8 o'clock: in the distance, the noria and the rumor

The parking lot has been emptied. The rumor of the A20 has resumed, with its heavyweight noria. Executive secretaries join their office. Isabelle Thomas, the executive director, will not be late.

9.00: Return of the troops in the kitchen

Muriel and Francis make way for the day teams. Under the leadership of the chef, Laurent Bénali, the kitchen regains strength and warmth, awaiting the return of the troops.

11.30 am: Wapenwake, personnel travel

The morning teams type the bell; that of the afternoon rental. The preparation accelerates. Everyone at his post, ready for the attack. The smallest detail has to be expected. In the heat of the moment it will be too late to recover. L & # 39; Escale never sleeps.



The Escale village

truck opened since 1937.

Customers. 40% away, 40% local and 20% crossing.

A brewery where drivers have a special price (€ 13 the full menu).

A gourmet restaurant open from 12.00 to 14.00 and from 19.00 to 22.00

Private rooms (starting pots, birthdays, weddings, funeral meals, medal ceremonies).

A jazz club on the floor.

the workforce. 36 waiters, 23 cooks, 11 divers, 10 assistant chefs, 6 pastry chefs and a few students.

The service. On average 700 people, L & # 39; Escale can receive up to 1,100 customers per day.

Parking 25,000 square meters paid and checked. 150 seats with a trailer: € 1.30 per hour, free if the meal is served in L & # 39; Escale.

Road transport

Freight transport by road employs 300,000 drivers, according to the prospective observatory for occupations and skills in transport and logistics (OPTL). But these are just the so-called "other companies", ie companies that are authorized to transport their cargo. By adding the drivers of companies with their own fleet, you have to almost double that number.

Only 3% of the driver's… are drivers & # 39; s. In freight transport (with the exception of removals) there are about the same number of employees under 45 as there are employees over 45 years old.

France has 36,000 transport companies freight transport by roads, according to the national federation of road transport. 4% of them have more than 50 employees and 78% have fewer than 10 employees.

Jean-Claude Raspiengeas, special envoy to Châteauroux-Déols (Indre)