Throwback Tuesday Part 2

This is a piece I wrote back when I was just starting out as a commis chef. Another one from my Old Bell Hotel days. I think I must has written this back in 2014. It is once again exactly as I first wrote it.

A Day in the Life

8:45am and I am en route to work, I puff on the first cigarette of the day and go over my prep list in my mind as I walk. Its only a short walk to The Old Bell and soon I’m heading in. I get changed into my whites. In the staff room J informs me the clean laundry has arrived. Hooray! Its been a long time coming. I put on a fresh pinny from a neatly folded stack and grab a couple of snowy white oven cloths. This luxury never lasts long.

I head into the kitchen where T is busy with breakfast service. The smell of bacon and eggs and the mornings fresh bread fill the air. Time to work. My first job is to start the white onion soup, the onions need to sweat for at least 2 hours. I grab 4kg of sliced onions from the fridge. I’m so glad I had time to slice them last night! I crush 6 cloves of garlic and pick the leaves off a big bunch of fresh thyme. Next I melt 2  blocks of butter and leave the onions garlic and thyme to sweat slowly. With just the occasional stir the soup will take care of its self.  When the onions are ready I’ll add 3 pints of cider and 3 pints each of milk and cream. Then I’ll just need to season it and put it in the blender.

 10Am a cheery cockney ‘good morning’ heralds the arrival of Chef. He strolls into the kitchen and takes a look at what everyone is doing. He pronounces everything ‘noice’ and enquires about coffee. I call a friendly waiter and procure an Americano for chef and a double espresso for me. Morning prep is now in full swing, the soup on the stove I turn my attention to the fig and apple jam that’s next on my list. 24 figs and 4 apples to dice is the first task. Chef is working on preparing the weekends fish and meat he has a side of salmon for me. I make a note to brine and smoke it tomorrow. Over on pastry J is making banana cake. T is working on tomorrows breakfast prep.

We chat as we work today’s topic is the horse meat scandal. We all agree that whilst there’s nothing wrong with eating horse people have a right to know what they are eating. From this seriousness we descend into what animals we would and wouldn’t eat. J asks would I try Gerbil after a  moments thought I reply that I would. Not much meat on one though!

12 noon the time for banter is over. Lunch service has begun. The tickets start come in, 2 sandwiches then 3 baguettes. I quickly ready the plates and start to send the food out. Another check, soup and more sandwiches. Looks like the lunch tickets are all for me today. I put the soup on the stove, dress more sandwich plates. So far so good. Another ticket comes on fish and chips, this one is for R. He quickly and efficiently cooks and plates the dish and calls for tartare sauce. I pass it over and another table is taken care of. In what seems like no time at all it is 2pm. Lunch service is over, we begin to clean down and put things away. I hear the printer, looks like one more ticket before I can head out on break. Mozarella fritters and a bowl of chips, simple. I notice we are low on fritters so that’s another thing on the list for tomorrow! I clear down my section and check my sandwich fillings, low on coleslaw and egg mayo. I quickly knock up some more of each for the afternoon. Its now nearly 3pm. Break time!

No rest for the wicked though. I head home, put the hoover around and put a load of chef whites into the washing machine. A bite to eat and some Netflix takes me up to 5:15 and time to head back into work.

I arrive back at 5:30. R is going to run T to the train station he asks me do I mind holding the fort and straining his beef sauce. No problem. Still the first order of business is the staff evening meal. I get the pizzas out of the oven and drop some chips into the fryer. Distinctly peckish I grab a plate. J comes into the kitchen. “Grubs up” I tell him. He declines with the excuse that he ate a whole packet of Maryland cookies on his break. I tell him not to worry and that I had 3 packets of Monster Munch on mine. Sorry folks but a lot of chefs eat the most dreadful crap when they’re off duty! I strain the beef sauce and set up my mise en place for dinner service. 6Pm and S from reception strolls in with tonight’s bookings, quite a few tables between 7-7:30 then 1 table at 8:30. Not too bad. As we don’t officially open for dinner until 6:30pm I use this time to look at tomorrows prep list. I scribble down a few jobs to go with the smoked salmon and mozzarella fritters. I make a note to order pomegranate, raddichio and chicken livers. I write horseradish cream on the list and then change my mind its a quick job, just adding horseradish to cream and whipping it, I decide to make it before tonight’s service.

6:30pm, the staff all fed. I clear away the dishes and set up the pass for service. Spoons in a container of hot water on the pass and each section. A bucket of ladles, spatulas, slotted spoons and tongs next to the stove. R is back and all set up. J does a few jobs on pastry it’ll be a while before he gets any tickets. We’re ready to rock and roll all we need are the tickets. The printer buzzes, here we go again! First table, a soup and a fishcake for me. The fishcake takes 8 minutes in the oven so this goes into a pan to seal first. I put it into the oven and get the garnishes ready. The soup goes on the stove. The oven timer beeps. Lets go! Tomato and anchovy sauce goes on the plate, then spinach, then the fishcake, a quick dribble of aioli and we’re good. The soup goes into a bowl and I crumble some stilton into it. ‘Service!’ I shout, then to R ‘Starters gone on 2.’ More tickets, fishcake, cauliflower and beetroot salad, haddock broth, next table salmon parpadelle and a grilled squid. The fun doesn’t stop. I send the starters in a steady stream. The main courses follow.

8pm the bulk of our customers fed R and I turn our attention to tomorrows special, devilled chicken livers with sour dough croutons and a fried duck egg. The first task is the devilled sauce, english mustard, Worcester sauce and tobasco. We put an egg in a pan to fry, coat the livers in seasoned flour and seal them in a hot pan, we add the devilled sauce with a generous splash of cream and a good handful of chopped parsley. The egg goes on the plate first, then the saucy livers. A handful of croutons and a scattering of baby salad leaves completes the dish. R calls the restaurant manager we all grab a spoon and dig in. Delicious!

8:45pm the printer buzzes with the last ticket, 2 chicken liver salads to start. I get a pan on to heat and smash the dishes out. Thinking I’m done for the night I reach for the cling film and get everything wrapped labelled and put away. R makes a start on the main courses for the last table. J strolls over and seeing my clean bench says ‘Beck, you know you’ve got a parpardelle main on this table?’ Aaaaaaargh disaster! I can’t believe I forgot the parpardelle. I quickly grab a pan, crab stock, olive oil, crab meat, spring onions and chives. I shove it on the hottest part of the stove. The printer buzzes, mains away, this needs to go out now! I run to the fridge, the hot smoked slamon goes under the grill. I dunk the pasta in boiling water. At the pass Rob is ready to go. To a bit of stick from my collegues I finish the dish, pasta into the stock, a bit of rocket and we’re good. ‘Why are we waiting?’ R starts to sing. ‘We’re not!’ I reply and bring the dish up to the pass. Phew!

9pm, soapy water goes down and R starts to scrub the floor. I clean the work surfaces and then turn my attention to cleaning the solid top range. A bucket of ice to cool it down and I start to scrub. I then finalise my prep list and orders for tomorrow. R goes into the office to call in the orders. J works on a couple of desserts.

9:30pm The call comes from front of house ‘ No more desserts.’ This means one thing HOME TIME!

9:45pm I walk home, the night air cold and crisp. Orion hangs low in the sky. I’m exhausted but glowing with the satisfaction a good hard days work brings. I love being a chef!

10:30pm Time for bed it’s a single bed in a small room in a shared house but I’ve never slept so well!

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