Sunday, May 06, 2012

Book Review: Down and Out in Padstow and London by Alex Watts

A newspaper review of my book in the Maidenhead Advertiser - original article HERE...

By Nicola Hine

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – or so the saying goes.

But how many people can actually say they've leapt out of the frying pan and into the fire in pursuit of the career they've always dreamed of?

Lennie Nash did when he ditched the relative comfort of the world of newspaper journalism in a bid to become a professional chef.

And while the results were pretty disastrous, the risk has brought success in the form of Down and Out in Padstow and London – the written account of his experiences.

An honest and enjoyable read, it begins when Lennie – better known as Burnham-based journalist Alex Watts – engineers a chat with TV chef Rick Stein and secures himself work experience in one of the restaurateur's Cornwall kitchens.

He's long dreamed of owning a seaside fish restaurant of his own and makes the decision to 'kick off the slippers and feel alive again'.

The need takes him from one restaurant to another, ranging from the most basic of establishments to the Michelin-starred kitchens of cooking royalty.

It brings about a failed audition for Masterchef, which sees Lennie make sushi in a bid to impress Greg 'the egg' Wallace and John 'the toad' Torode.

It also introduces a whole host of questionable characters ranging from a racist homophobe to a stroppy 19-year-old who locks him in a walk-in chiller.

Lennie's laugh-out-loud anecdotes include dressing in bin liners to pluck pheasants with a helpmate who does puppet shows with the dead birds' heads, and turning up to a placement at Heston's most famous restaurant armed with two knives in a Tesco bag.

In fact, arguably the highlight of the book is his time at The Fat Duck in Bray, which he describes as 'a three-star Michelin restaurant famous for concoctions like snail porridge, bacon and egg ice cream and a food poisoning outbreak that struck down 500 diners'.

From peeling grapefruits to prising open oysters – both equally painful but for different reasons – Lennie's jobs at 'the gastronomic equivalent of the centre of the universe' are a brilliant insight into Blumenthal's lair, although the real secrets remain closely guarded.

The whole book is a real eye-opener into the differences between the TV image and the reality of the kitchen, particularly where celebrity chefs are concerned.

It's sharp, easy to read and almost impossible to put down, whether you're genuinely tempted to follow in Lennie's footsteps or you'd rather stick to watching Masterchef on the sofa.

Personally I think I'll stick to my desk for now – but I look forward to a sequel.

:: Down And Out In Padstow And London is available as a paperback and eBook on Amazon CLICK HERE

Other Newspaper Articles...

Twitter Reviews:

"Cracking read...It's great - seek it out. Raw, honest, funny, great stories..." @eatlikeagirl

"Just finished reading Alex Watts’ terrific book - must read for anyone interested in food/cooking/restaurants." @jteramsden

"Bought your book and am hugely enjoying. Funny, engaging, interesting, lively." - @oliverthring

"Great book, Alex - a one-sitting read! Love the Chelsea-Barca scene! " @MarkLewis32

"A rattling good read." - @chrispople

"Sensational account of a chef’s life, couldn't put it down. Get it from Amazon now!" @Fishermansarms

"It's a fab read. The Fat Duck chapters are class." - @Mcmoop

"Really enjoyed it. Such refreshing food writing. Looking forward to your sequel..." @Jen_foodmag

"So this morning I bought Alex Watts’ book and now at the end off the day the book is done. Really enjoyed it - so easy and funny to read." @darrencoslett

"Bloody loving it..." @babaduck71

"Deserves to be bestseller - great book." @Blostins

"You will not be able to put it down - great read." @MTomkinsonChef

"Great, great stuff." @VictoriaHaschka

"Loving @alexwatts book, Down & Out In Padstow & London. A must read for wannabe chefs!" @londoneating

"A good read." @matkiwi

"A must read!" @brockhallfarm

"Currently motoring through your book. Great read - quite an eye-opener. Hopefully not an old wound-opener for you!" @drdickdixon

"Really enjoying Alex Watts’ book Down and out in Padstow and London. Worth a read." @Christian_Ace

"Thought the book was great, felt exhausted just imagining the work levels (and monotony - e.g. grapefruit!) " @applelisafood

"Just read Down And Out In Padstow & London by @alexwatts. Good read but couldn't take heat of being a chef." @karenmediawales

"Loved your book. Thanks for such a fascinating read." @hubbs

"I just finished reading your book, I very much enjoyed it. Bravo." @hungerincardiff

"Thanks for a good read, made my commute a lot nicer. My wife who's a Masterchef fan didn't find it as amusing as I did though!" @erik_me

"If you claim to be a foodie you MUST buy this book." @CorkGourmetGuy

"A great read about the reality of working at The Fat Duck & other less famed restaurants."  @alanbertram

"Very funny, very close to the bone." @AmeliaHanslow

"A great read and must have book for anyone in the industry." @philwhite101

"Thoroughly enjoyed it." @rosechadderton

"Excellent!" @MissCay

"Just finished your book, and loved it! Thanks for ending on a happy note; it needed it after all the reality ;-)" @voorschot

"Fab account of psycho chefs, plus work experience with Heston and Stein." @Laurajanekemp

"Excellent read & loved the ‘scary duck’ tale! I look forward to the follow up book (no pressure ;D). Great memories of first being addressed as chef." @granthawthorne

"I'm loving your book. Very enjoyable. Some great one-liners. "His legs wobbled like a crab on stilts" had me chuckling." @griptonfactor

"Highly recommended. A great book about changing careers for his love of cooking." @Whatsinmymouth

"Downloaded the book last Sunday and finished it the same day! Great read." @MTomkinsonChef

"Very funny." @SkyRuth

"Any of you who have flirted with chefdom, go and immediately download this book from Amazon - Down and Out in Padstow and London. Great read." @el_duder

"Truly brilliant." @kcassowary

"Just rattled through Down And Out in Padstow and London by Alex Watts in no time at all, what a great book." @leejamesburns

"It's brilliant, a fine piece of work. If you've ever wanted to peer into a professional kitchen I can't recommend it highly enough." @acidadam

"Fantastic read - the English Kitchen Confidential!" @cabbagemechanic

"A great eBook to buy about serving your time (literally!) as a trainee chef." @OkBayBach

"Great read." @rankamateur

"Don't start reading it if you have things to do:)" @NorthernSnippet

"Great book...couldn't put it down, read it non-stop on a train and finished it in one day."  @chunkymunki

"Jolly good read, feel free to do one more. " @esbens

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