The culinary adventures of Jeff the Chef … fictitious kitchen stories based on plausible events.
As many of you will concur the robot coupe (robot to its friends) is possibly the world’s finest food processor …
For the second time that week we had lost our robot coupe, and for the second time that week Bobby (chef garde manger) sent me down to the dining room kitchen to retrieve it. As boldly as ever I asked the sous chef “hey Bri’ can I have the garde manger robot?” Brian looked down at me with his usual scowl, the look that said “f*** off college kid, you are nothing and I am everything.” If that was what he was thinking, part of it was true, I was a college kid, and in the big picture of the culinary world, I was nothing. I was working at the hotel to gain experience, learn a few things, and get a taste of the day-to-day monotony and repetition that I discovered to be the reality of kitchen life.
Brian shoved the food possessor into my chest. Still scowling he said, “It is not the garde manger’s robot coupe, it’s the kitchen’s, it’s everybody’s, OK?” I nodded and scurried back to my glorious department, taking my red face and the said piece of kitchen equipment with me. That night we locked it in our cupboard …
The next day proved to be interesting, a learning experience of sorts. I was about to realize that in the culinary world, being paid next to nothing went hand in hand with taking abuse from a sous chef.
At 10 a.m. Brian arrived in the kitchen, we were his first port of call. Bobby and I were working on a most interesting task—peeling twenty dozen hard-boiled eggs. Brian screamed “Bobby what did you do with my robot, we were looking for it everywhere last night?” Now at this point of the conversation a smart commis chef would keep their mouth shut and let the big boys do the talking, but no not I, I had recognized a floor in Brian’s argument. I pitched in “Hold on Brian, I think it is the kitchen’s robot, doesn’t it belong to everyone?” For about half a second I felt really cool, and then came the reprisal. “Listen boy,” said Brian “the grown ups are talking, and when the grown ups are talking people like you keep their mouth shut. Once you have conquered the skill of egg peeling then maybe, just maybe, the grown ups will let you talk—but only if you put your hand up first.” Suddenly I felt about as big as an overcooked poussin, my big mouth and small brain had yet again worked their usual magic.
I did not say much for the rest of the day; I peeled my eggs and worked through my prep list—a bounty of long arduous tasks. Now the beauty of repetitive tasks is that they give you time to think and my thoughts were for revenge.
Two weeks later my time at the hotel had drawn to and end, and the end of my work experience signaled the beginning of a new mission, a mission of revenge. Taking a piping bag from the pastry kitchen I filled it with a pint of crusty béarnaise sauce that was left over from breakfast. I said my farewells to the guys and set off to the changing room. The number seven may be lucky for some, but on this particular occasion I proved it otherwise, seven was the number of Brian’s locker. I removed the piping bag from my knife box, placed the opening of the bag up against the vent in his locker squeezed it like a champ. According to eyewitnesses, when Brian opened his locker and found his clothes had been successfully napped, he was none too pleased…
There is a moral to this story, (you knew there would be). If you’re the little guy in the kitchen, keep your mouth shut and your head down, don’t get involved in arguments that don’t concern you and you won’t leave work feeling like a complete spanner… And if you’re a big cheese and you piss off the little guy, you had best know a good dry cleaner.
By Jeremy Emmerson
Related story: A Dream Kitchen