Sunday, 22 June 2008

A Staff Oddity

Bonsoir mes hocks de jambon vitrés par muscavado!

Hurrah! At last. An uneventful week. No impromptu journeys to either Hospitals or other Countries. No more worries for the foreseeable future in regards to staff. In fact, I now have too many staff. Okay, they are not trained Chefs but......alright, they are not Chefs, but that is okay! To be absolutely and completely honest, I could not wish for a better Brigade at the current moment. Sure they have their flaws (like we all do) and of course they are not trained to a level or standard I would usually expect (as I always do). I prefer to call these minuscule flaws by a different name. Lets call them quirks. That sounds much better, my staff are slightly quirky.

I believe the majority of them are late almost every day, now that does not ruffle my feathers......Well, actually, it does. A few of them find it hard to retain the slightest piece of information and I care not a jot about repeating myself over and over again like a demented parrot......Well, to be truly honest, that does push my buttons a few times a day and I can get a tad irate about that. Sometimes they call me by my first name which......Bugger It, that really does p**s me off! In fact, all the above 'quirks' do. They may not be trained but they could show a little respect and show up on time and even my daughter knows the fundamentals of cooking and she is only 3 years old! As for the first name terms business, well, I haven't worked half my existence on this planet to be called by my first name! I have had to work damned hard to earn my title and that means, when at my place of work I am to be known by one name and one name only. That name is CHEF! They can even call my all the most blasphemous names under the sun, as long as the word 'Chef' is at the end of the sentence, I don't mind. Insult me, that's fine, but show some respect while your doing it!

When I was a young Plongeur/Trainee Chef, I daren't breath the wrong way. Even the Commis was higher than I was. Days were hard and nights were even harder. "Fetch this" and "Fetch that" would echo in my ears during the night terrors I started to suffer from. Years of mental and physical abuse have left scars, I can tell you. You never forget the first Jacket Potato that has been launched at you by an egotistical and angry Chef de Partie. You don't forget because it exploded into the back of your neck and you can still see a slight splatter mark when you are looking in the mirror at your latest brandings and slashes after a busy weekend service.

I must quickly just throw in a note of interest for you, dear reader. Chefs are not vain people! It is true that when we go out on the town that we like to look our best. We have to. We look like last weeks rubbish most of the week, so we put the effort in when we hit the tiles and strut our stuff at the local dance hall. The only time I have known a Chef to be proud of the slices, cuts, brandings, scars, burns and amputations is always in the presence of others Chefs'. We trade battle-scars if you like. It is a competition. Who has the largest and most gruesome scar. Pathetic......Yep! Necessary......Damn Right!

As for being late, well, lets just say that I don't believe there are many reasons to be late. I never thought I would hear myself say this but back in my day you were in thirty minutes before you were due to start work. That gave me fifteen minutes to make the coffee for the other Chefs, have breakfast, have a cigarette and get changed. The next fifteen minutes were spent getting my section set up, collecting heat cloths from the laundry room, sharpening my knives and making sure I had filled my stainless steel thermos with coffee (just in case I couldn't take a break later). Every staff member had their heads down and were working before the Head Chef even arrived in the car park. God help you if you were lagging behind. If you were even seen to be slacking, then the Sous Chef was always on hand to either shout obscenities at you, throw a large blunt object in your direction or, if nothing happened at that moment, you would be reminded of it later with a late night finish helping the kitchen porters or a good attempted rogering with a whole Salmon, head first. Those were the days of innocence. I remember them well.

Years ago, in a kitchen, you had to be able to retain as much information as possible. To forget or let a task or order slip by, could be a fatal mistake. You learnt to adapt to hearing three different voices shouting numerous tasks and orders. When your everyday punter has several orders shouted at them, you will usually get the first and last orders answered correctly. A Chef, on the other hand will multi-task, take every command in, take a millisecond to determine which command is the most important and then act accordingly, assimilating the order of the other commands as he/she continues with the first. A natural talent? No, a survival technique. Get it wrong and you will soon be experiencing the pain and suffering of the blunt objects, coarse language and hot foodstuffs being thrown in your general direction again.

This neat little trick of evaluating the order of commands comes in very handy within a commercial kitchen environment. Unfortunately, my staff have never worked in a proper kitchen environment which makes my job a little harder. "Example", I hear you cry. Well, today I asked for my small tub of Risotto from my walk-in fridge and it didn't arrive......instead......I got an egg. So, in retrospect, I should really have asked for an egg! How silly of me.

Joking aside, I have a lot to thank my staff for. They pulled together when my Father was ill and I was called away to Scotland to be at his bedside. They covered me when I had my daughter during the afternoons and they generally put up with everything I throw at them......literally! In fact, they put up with a hell of a lot and work as hard as possible. Each one of them doing the job required to the best of their ability. Which I must admit, is a very high standard. Even my Boss has the odd night working the pass and he is getting quick!

So a great big thank you to all of my Brigade. THANK YOU! I think highly of you all and thanks for putting up with me.

The end is nigh my succulent lemon sorbets and I must bid you Adieu, Auf Wiedersehen and Goodbye once again.

I leave you with the news that restaurants, fish and chip shops and the like will soon be requested to display nutritional value of their dishes on their menus. Its like a runaway train all this healthy eating and watching what we put in our mouths. I'm sure when I joined this Industry it was to cook, not be sat with test tubes and bunsen burners working out nutritional values and fat content. Bloody stupid. Also, McDonalds is set to increase prices on certain items on their menus due to the rise in produce. The 'one price fits all' strategy seems to be costing them a little more than a burger with cheese since their produce costs rose by 5%. What a damn shame. maybe the McDonalds restaurants in the UK should start using local produce as suggested by certain Chefs. Then lets see how easy it is to run a fast food joint.

On that note......

Le Chef Grincheux


SheR. said...

Bonjour Chef!!!
Hope you are fine and well.
I'm so missing those days when I toil in the kitchen at a 50 degrees C temperature and not complain a word.

When I started working as a chef in 2006, I had to work really hard indeed till I couldn't take it anymore and asked for a transfer to another restaurant. Those insults coming from the Snr Sous Chef were just to awful when they were repeated "barked" at me.

I was always early.. be sure to step foot in the changing room before 8am. I was only a commis and yet my Head Chef gave me the chance to work in one of the toughest section Hot Starter. That was why I worked even harder to show my gratitude and learnt as much as possible.

My battle scar? The back of my left hand has the reminder of my 3rd degree burnt. :P

Damn those new legislations about including the nutritional value of each food item. Arghs!

Bonne chance chef! :)

Anonymous said...

Well done chef, you must be very happy of your hard working staff!!!

parfitt said...

Come on Le Chef Grincheux. You were doing great. I am always looking forward to your next posting. So, where is the next one. Writers block?. Get through it! Hoping to see the new one very soon.