From the look on his face, I was sure he’d been told about the pasties. I kept my head down and carried on chopping. Long minutes past as Stein worked his way through the kitchen. He walked past the stove area, looked in at the pastry section, and I was praying he was going to carry on through the fish prep area and disappear up the stairs, when he turned on his heels and strolled towards me.
I sped up the chopping like I was in an Indonesian sweat shop, partly out of nerves, partly out of a lunatic attempt to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I got a glimpse of his shadow and then he was next to me.
“So how are you finding it? Hard work?”
I looked up pretending to see him for the first time, and gave him my best grin. He didn’t return it. I studied his face, looking for clues. All I could think about was those fucking pasties.
“It’s excellent,” I said. “I’m learning a huge amount. I really appreciate the chance you’ve given me.”
He looked surprised. We chatted for a few more seconds, but the conversation was stilted and I couldn’t think of what to say, so I asked him what he was doing the next day.
“I’m flying to Australia…as you do,” he answered. “Anyway good luck with it, and I’m glad you managed to arrange the week so…quickly.”
He let the sentence float in mid-air, and I knew it wasn’t just Jimmy who was suspicious of me.
:: 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...