There comes a point in everyone’s life when they decide that they want to settle into a career and forego the here and there jobs with no prospects; for me it was cooking. The joy that came with good food, making people happy, bringing people together and the sense of pride when that perfect dish goes out was made me realise this was what I wanted.
Being a fully qualified personal trainer, I used to teach sports and fitness to kids and adults but while it was a rewarding endeavour it isn’t always a
consistent job – we’ve all been there, promising ourselves we’ll get fit starting next week, next month, next year, but then three months down the line something becomes more important and trainers are forgotten – so being young and out in the world on my own I had to find something that was a little more reliable but I wanted something that made me happy, something where I could make people smile all the time.
I was drawn towards food; even as a child I would cook all the time – I remember when I was eight making my first Victoria Sponge using the ‘all in’ method and since then I have loved to cook for others but that is not to say the food I’ve cooked always come out brilliantly!
For me becoming a chef was a fairly simple endeavour by all accounts; I was looking for work when a friend put me in contact with a company looking for a cook. Baring in mind that other than what I had taught myself, I had no formal training in a kitchen when I applied so I often think that the fact that the Head Chef was a friend I occasionally enjoyed a drink with at the local pub made the application process that much easier.
On my first day I remember walking into the kitchen and thinking “why would a commercial kitchen need 4 microwaves? Especially when it has less than 30 seats”, it was madness in my eyes. I soon discovered that these microwaves were an integral part of how things were done here – I like to refer to this time of my life as the “microwave kitchen era”. Every dish would end up in the microwave at one point or another – it was the principle of the kitchen.
That place never made me happy, I couldn’t get on board with a restaurant that just threw everything in a microwave and thought it okay to serve that to customers – why would you pay for a meal in a pub that’s just come out the microwave, you could just as easily do that at home! So almost as soon as I started working there I was on the hunt for another job.
Soon enough was I fortunate to get a waiter job at one of the best restaurants in Bath, and after chatting with chefs and kitchen staff there I felt secure in my decision to immerse myself in food. A brief stint there and a call from a friend later I was asked whether or not I would like to move to another restaurant in the city – this time working in the kitchen; apparently word of my passion for food and my hard work had spread and so, with the promise learning and progressing I took the job.
I think one of the most complicated things I have had to learn are knife techniques, with so many unique styles it’s hard to believe that such small changes can make such a massive difference to your results; the European style of cutting of an onion compared to the English slicing, but to me as long as the end product is consistent and is always put out in the best manner it really doesn’t matter how you slice it.
Being in the kitchen is a constant learning experience, and if there is only one piece of advice I can give to anyone hoping to make a name for themselves in a kitchen: always check with the Head Chef. There are a lot of ins and outs in a kitchen that you might not consider, for example, by UK law no one is allowed to eat food in a kitchen prep area, so one of my first questions was how do you check seasoning?
The most important thing I have learnt about becoming a chef is you will always screw up and your head chef will always get on your case about it but it is no reason to give up. They are not going to push you for the sake of it, they want (for the most part anyway) for you to put out for the best food. They will ride you hard, they will make you sweat and if you are not sweating by the end of a shift you have probably done something wrong. When you finish a long hard shift and wipe that sweat from your brow, you will feel the change in you; all that food that went out , all those happy people saying thank you, is there a much better feeling?
This post was brought to you by guest blogger Patrick, an up and coming chef in Bath, England who is passionate about good food and happy people.