If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen they say. Well I could take the heat, just not the fat racist I worked with...
August 2003. I’d spent my first year at university working 40 hours a week as a dishpig under two huge, tattooed, shaven-headed Scouse chefs. It was a right laugh. We drank all day, they fed me and we got on because they knew I was working my ass off at both Uni and for them to sort my life out. They also let me do starters two days a week, I’d developed an interest in cooking, my old man is a chef and I got good at it pretty quickly. Unfortunately, over the summer of 2003 they moved to a restaurant 20 miles away and I just didn’t have the time to commute.
So they set me up with an interview with a mate of theirs, Big Earl, who owned a huge quasi-French restaurant around the corner. I say mate, they thought he was a cock, both had worked under him, but they sorted it so he paid me and gave me tips.
“So why do you want to work here?” Said Earl
“I wanna cook French food,” I replied.
“Well you will here, we use everything fresh, no microwaves or cheats.”
We use everything fresh
First day, Friday morning prep. “Do you know how to make an apple crumble?” asked Earl. I replied in the affirmative and asked him where the apples were. “Out the back.” Off I went, looking for a sack of Bramley’s. Unable to find them, I went back and said I couldn’t find the apples I needed to peel. “Peel?” he said incredulously, “there’s no peeling here mate, they’re in tins.”
And so it begun.
Although it’s a long time since I burnt my whites and sold my knives, I worked in four different kitchens while I was at uni. To a man, boy and idiot, I got on with everyone in three of the kitchens. In this one I got on with no-one. I could cope with Earl, I laughed at his shit jokes and said his food tasted nice, but the other three pillocks were unbearable.
Think of the most miserable person you’ve ever met. Now double the misery. Now add a massive dollop of suicidal depression. Times it by ten, add early grey hair, a scrawny body, a face that makes you want to stab your eyes out and I can guarantee you’re still not close. Worst of all, he couldn’t fucking cook, didn’t like food and was an Everton fan. He did my head in that much that I had to prepare for the days with him by smoking two huge skunk spliffs on the way to work, and rolling a couple of little ones for when he broke me with his depressive wailings.
He picked me up (my feet were, at least, a clear foot off the floor) and began to swing me round and round while screaming.
A big round nonentity. Also didn’t really like food, had McDonalds three times a day and was only interested in the fucking cadets he went to. Who goes to cadets at the age of 23? Who? Jody was meant to do hot starters while I did cold, but after two shifts, I proved I was quicker and better, so we swapped. I thought he’d hate me, he loved it. All he now had to do was the garnish and a cut Pate while I went wild with Mussels, Chorizo, Prawns etc.
Quite simply a cunt of such proportions that I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who comes close. A short, round, ugly, stinking alcoholic who had worked with Earl for years and was so far up his ass he probably performed fellatio on his esophagus. A racist waddling little prick. I put up with his BNP shite for a couple of weeks then we came to blows. It was a busy Saturday night, 250 people over 4hours in two sittings. I came round the corner, fast, giving the cursory shout of coming through. He must have been pissed, didn’t hear me, came round the other side at a similar pace and smashed into me with a pan full of duck breast and raspberry jus. It covered us both, just as I was about to say sorry he screamed, “you want to slow down cunt, ever bang into me again and there will be trouble.” I saw red, got him in a headlock and dragged him through to the wash-up area to dunk his head in the sink. Earl just got there in time. It was a little frosty after that.
The restaurant manager, an insane Serb who I actually got on with, but who was beyond mental. With a coke habit that would make Keith Moon blush, all he wanted to do was, after lock-up, stay and snort and drink until dawn before going home, changing his shirt, ignoring his wife and getting back in for a bacon sarnie. And who did he choose as his partner-in-crime?
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have loads of great nights, we always replaced the booze and we shared a love for The Pogues and The Clash. Good things, however, can only go on for so long.
It was 12.20, we’d just all cleared down after a heinous Sarturday might. The chef’s had waddled off and there was just me, Ivan and Breeny left. Ivan passed me a bag over the bar and asked me to go and rack them up in the disabled loos. So I did.
I’d just hoovered my two down me, when I hear the door go behind me. ‘Here you go, pal,” I said, turning round with a rolled up tenner, only to be faced by the looming presence of Earl. In the 5 seconds it took him to realize what was going on, I tried to wipe the rest off the cistern. Bad mistake.
He picked me up (my feet were, at least, a clear foot off the floor) and began to swing me round and round while screaming. We’d been set up, that racist wanker Percy had got wind of our sessions, stayed upstairs in the changing room and called Earl when I hit the bogs.
Despite them knowing Ivan was in on it, I took the flak, said it was all mine and got the boot.
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