09 December 2005

The real world (sort of)

Chefette got her first taste of a real kitchen up close and personal this week. So much has happened in the first week of the work placement. Where on earth to begin??

It's all a big change from school, of course. And one that highlights in spades the massive gap between competent home cook and seasoned professional chef.

To start with, irony of all ironies, the station I had for the first 4 days was (you guessed it ......................) pastry. When I realised that's what I was going to be doing for a few days, I have to confess my tummy tied itself into a wee knot with dread. But it was all for the best in the end, as the pastry chef turned out to be a really great, down-to-Earth gal. She's South-East London through and through -- in a good way (on the 'cheeky cockney' end of the spectrum, far removed fom 'chav-ette'), and lives less than 5 minutes drive from our flat. Best of all, she's already given me a tip for a good butcher that's not too far away, who's got great lamb chops.

The other chefs have been pretty good to me, too. Despite the fact that they think I'm Positively Bonkers for leaving investment banking to go into food service. So despite a few terrifying moments -- i.e. , those very brief seconds when I've been alone on my section -- it seems to be going fairly well. At least I haven't completely humiliated myself. Yet.

What floors me is how often they cook from knowledge rather than actual recipes (the sole exception being the pastry station, where everyone has to weigh up accurately). Chef will say, "Knock us up a nice mango salsa", and you have to know what ingredients you've got to hand, and what your quantities/ratios need to be. It has hit home that I'm going to have to start benchmarking both quantities per serving and ratios of recipes (rather than actual amounts) in school if I'm going to be able to create instinctively during a busy service.

Another enlightening truth that has revealed itself is the sheer shortage of everything. Cutting boards, clingfilm, knives, containers and good serving platters. All are sought after and hoarded at various points during prep and service. As far as I can fathom, there is only 1 pastry brush in the whole of the kitchen where I'm working. (And a pastry brush is one of the most useful tools for any station.) On my second day, I overheard Chef asking for a pastry brush, and I told him he could use mine. Since then every day at least once, if not two or three times daily, chefs come to borrow my pastry brush. How amusing! At least one area where I'm welcomed in the kitchen.

Anyway, must dash to get my own dinner on the table. Anyone who wants to know about my trials and tribulations on muffins or meringue baskets can ask me when they speak to me next.

Ciao for now.

1 comment:

marpoo said...

Wonderful! please continue Blog. Write a book.