Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Whose Idea was it for me to Work in a Professional Kitchen

Rather late in life, I decided to really get to know how to cook. So I took a 6 month full time cooking course at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London. I was a pretty good cook, and enjoyed it immensely. So when I started the course, I realized how much I did not know. Incredible, but I enjoyed the new learning experience. The theory side kinda bored me a lot, but had to learn the hows and whys.
After I finished in March, we popped over to Asia for six months. (See blogs below). On our return in October I decided to work in a restaurant, kinda wishing I had done it back in March or April, but Asia was fantastic and I am so glad we went.
Luckily enough I got a job in a new restaurant that was going to open in a new shopping centre in West London. The head chef was an ex teacher at Leiths, so thankfully I was taken aboard. In the kitchen there was 7 of us to begin with. 4 commis, a junior sous, a sous and head chef. This over the following 6 weeks dwindled down to just 5 of us.
The menu originally was fast healthy food for ladies who were going to lunch in this new shopping centre. They still came in but not as many as was predicted. Recession maybe.
Like in Sushi bars we had or a conveyer belt where the cold starters were to go. Thankfully this idea was aborted after the 2nd week. It became clear with the lack of customers there was a lot of wastage, as everything has to be cleared within 2 hours. So in the end I was making to order. A better idea.
The restaurant never fully recovered from a shamble of an opening, and we slowly went down hill over the next 2 months. Although we were really busy for weekend brunch …. Not enough to keep a place alive. So the owner closed up shop quite suddenly 2 weeks before Christmas.
For me it was a good introduction into kitchen life as we were not too busy but busy enough to give me an idea of what it was like. The hours were painful though as there were so few of us we used to do shifts of 16 hours. A killer. Normally at least three times a week.
I had a few weeks of doing nothing before Christmas before my Sous Chef gave me a call and got me a trial in a kitchen that is part of the Soho House Group here in London.
Now if I thought Ito was a killer. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I normally do 7 or 8 shifts a week, which are nine hours each. A few doubles in there for good measure. But sometimes the aount of work is relentless. Just to prep my station takes me several hours and if I am doing two at once. It’s a killer. At 38, my body can not really take much more of this. I’m hoping to last to the end of March, then take it week by week.
At one point I realized that over 3 days, I had slept for 15 hours, and eaten very very little. No wonder I was so mashed. All I do on my days off is sleep.
Now this sounds like either I’m moaning or torturing myself. The thing is I am really enjoying the job, and wished I had done this when I was younger. Much younger. I am learning so much more. Basically all I learnt in college does me no good here, as restaurant ways are a lot different from there and at home. 

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