Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tuna-Friendly Dolphin And Other Stories

I arrived at the Fat Duck prep room the next morning, checked the rota, and found they’d put me down for service on the amuse bouche section. I was surprised. After my last performance, I didn’t think I’d get a second chance.

I went across the road, flexing my hands and worrying about whether the oysters would open my wounds again, and found a young US stagier called Eddy in my place.

They told me it was Eddy’s last day, and were trying him out for commis. They told me to come back after lunch service.

I returned to the prep room chores, cutting bags of onions on the slicer. After a few minutes, the larder was smoky with sulphur fumes. A workman arrived to fix the ice cream machine.

“Jesus,” he said, his eyes streaming. “You need bloody goggles to work in here!”

I headed over the road in the afternoon, and got one of those rare moments of kitchen joy - Eddy had opened the oysters I needed for evening service.

My hands were saved, and I was able to concentrate on the other jobs like juicing red cabbage for the gazpacho, and picking chervil leaves for the ice-filtered lamb jelly. Only the top piece of the leaf was used. They were like tiny green footprints dotted over the lamb tongue, cucumber, and tomato confit garnish.

At one point, Danny squeezed past me to borrow a spatula from pastry. After a minute of whining, he stormed back into the main kitchen like a child refused sweets. I could hear him moaning to the head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts. He sounded like he was about to cry.

“Ash, can you tell the pastry section to lend me a spatula! They don’t want to give it to me.”

Ashley came through and mediated calmly.

“Guys, let’s act like adults here,” he said. “Come on - let’s help each other out.”

He nodded a few times as the pastry posse went through a memorised arraignment of unreturned items, and occasions when they’d been refused equipment. Then they mimicked Danny’s whining voice for the rest of service.

:: This blog eventually became a bestselling book, called Down And Out In Padstow And London by Alex Watts, about my disastrous attempt to train as a chef, including stints at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck and Rick Stein's kitchens in Padstow. You might like it if you're a foodie or have ever entertained the ridiculous idea of entering the padded asylum of professional cooking. It's here on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book if you want a read...


Sarah said...

Love the blog as always. Made me laugh again!


Some Chilean Woman said...

I would love to see the sort of dishes Henry VIII gorged himself on. I have lived in America too long!

Jane Wightman said...

Nothing wrong with good honest cooking - glad you've come to your senses Lennie!
Perhaps the pretentiousness of the more elaborate recipes has enabled you to appreciate the star quality of basic cookery, excellently executed.
Also reckon the French deserve to be waged war upon - after the yanks that is - their food crimes are far more heinous than the frogs!

Square Orchard said...

Great blogs Lennie, really enjoying them, keep up the good work! We're just starting out so feel free to dive into our initial bits!

MsMarmitelover said...

I lived as a tudor for three weeks eating only old world food.This means no tomatoes, no potatoes, no chocolate, no tobacco, no pasta type stuff. Very interesting.
Now, Lennie, you are a very naughty boy.
We were supposed to meet last Friday and you didn't reply to my messages or even cancel.
If you are too busy that is fine but I'd appeciate a message.
Is it this new lurve that is taking up all your energy?

Melinda said...

Missing Paul already.