Out of the frying pan...
... and into the fire.
Day One; "Here's a case of guinefowl, can you take them down to the crown?" the head chef asks, My mind races; Oh shit, whats the crown? Ive never prepped a guinefowl in my life, am I going to be out on my ear right now, why am I putting myself through this stress? what am I doing here?
"Just demo one for me," I reply, confidence is the key, I remind myself. He sighs and gives me the look that all chefs have with new members of staff, I read his mind "your not going to be one of those," he thinks "all talk and no skills." I grin back reassuringly at him, (I can do this, I remind myself, confidence, confidence and more confidence.) He takes the fowl and deftly takes the meat off the bone, then he looks at me and hands me the knife. Im grinning with delight, Ive done this before, my nerves start to subside, he watches me do half of one, my skills are solid, he turns his back satisfied and leaves me to get on with the rest. First test down, phew. How long will I last? ....whats next on there list?
Just so you know, Ive started to work in the kitchen of a two rosette hotel, theire working on there third rosette and also maybe a michelin star. Ive been thrown in a hot frying pan, I'm on the hot station, prepping the meat and fish, It is known as the hardest station in the kitchen; lots of mise en place, technical knowledge and a hot and fast service. Although Ive breezed through many restaurants, Ive never really cooked meat or fish. In France its left to the sous chefs and chefs and the most experienced chef de partie.
My mind raced for the first few days.... Why did they put me on the meat and fish? Is it a test? Do they know Its my weakest station? - Stop being paranoid I keep telling myself, the kitchen Is the worst place to be empathetic and paranoid, chefs are pretty much just a bunch of classy louts, f'ing and blinding worse than the pirates, armed with pans and knives they make great food and care about it. Thats what I do, I make great food and care about it. Im one of them... NO Im better!! I can do this.
Day three and Im already, running my service for the evening. Well, it wasn't my best, I know but I survived, No pans came flying back from the pass, and the chef actually smiled at me and asked me how it was going near the end of service. It was great, Sea Bass with a great fennel risotto. Lamb served in Five different ways (belly, shoulder, best end kidney and tongue) And it all came flying off my station, pretty much perfect. When my sweaty balls had started to dry during the clean down I actually broke into smile, and by the time I was sat down for a fag when it was all done, my mind was relaxed and I just sat and contemplated the service dish by dish. Learning and drilling it all into my mind, It can only get better from now on. Soon i wont have to think of each step, I will become automated and then I will be in a sleep walk taking my time to get perfection. I Just have to keep my head down and keep steady. I remind myself of what Anthony Bourdain said in his book;
"the kitchen is the last true meritocracy. Here, you are what you do. Simple ability determines whether you are an asset or a liability; a culinarian or a ham and egger. Respect is a direct reflection of sharpnes of knives, of the efficiency of movement, of tidiness, punctuality and, especially, of the ability to perform under pressure. In the heat of the kitchen, cars, girls, lifestyles and personal idiosyncracies become irrelevant. Those are nothing but fodder for politically incorrect banter that fills the verbal void left behind the instructions, orders, demands and requests of the resident tyrant. The Chef"
I am the culinarian, not a ham or egg in sight, no burgers or pancakes, no noodles or pre-prepped sauces. I am the Gastro kid, this is what I want to do so, head down and COOK mutha fucka!!
So the end of the week is here; In this kitchen the chefs are drama queens, the rest of the staff in the hotel are in awe of them; they work the most hours, they party the hardest and have the hardest jobs. The gardener comes up to me, while I'm taking a quick fag break in the after noon;
"how you getting along?" he asks in his sussex accent,
"Fine I reply," giving him a big grin
"Its not too hard for you then?" he quizzes,
"Nothing that I cant handle," I say
"You must be hard as nails, then." He says and wheels his barrow off up the hill.
Hard as nails I think, that's not how I feel now at the end of my first week. My head is spinning from tiredness and lack of food, my back aches, my legs are burning from spending 60 hours on my feet, my hands are cut to shreds, Ive got burns up my arms, and I cant smell anything cos of stove grease. I cant taste anything but fennel risotto and salt, and even if I could walk in a straight line I wouldn't be able to make it off my boney arse. It seems as though Ive put my body through a week of hell, but I made it and I'm happy to say, It was fun. Now for some reason Ive got four days off, the new restaurant is opening next weekend there is a big banquet booked. Ive got a few little things I want to do include getting this blog up and looking cool so I can update it from the island and keep you all informed of my movements.