I’ve thought about it for years, sat in restaurants craning my neck and ignoring my dining partner trying to catch a glimpse through rapidly swinging doors  of a master chef at the height of his powers commanding a small army of professional lieutenants producing top class food for a room full of happy patrons.

Likewise I have sat in mediocre eateries informing everyone who would listen, or was unfortunately for them in ear shot, how I could do far better myself before boring the absolute fuck out of them explaining in detail how I would have done every dish better.

Let me be clear, I can cook. I take my cooking very seriously, as anyone who read my 24 Hour Dinner Party Piece may have gathered. To be honest I take my cooking far too seriously, I went through a phase of making needlessly over complicated food simply to prove that I could. I would spend ages refining and tweaking recipes until I was happy with them. I once spent 3 months working on a dessert recipe which was for a Mushroom Risotto. That’s right, do not adjust your eyes, I said a Mushroom Risotto as a dessert. If you don’t believe me, or you simply want the recipe then mention it in a comment and I will post it. No one who isn’t being well paid for it should go to this kind of effort.

I did a lot of this kind of thing, I went to obscenely twattish lengths to show people just how good I was, doing back to front dinner parties where the starter was a cappuccino and the dessert was a soup. I refused to read cookbooks, preferring instead to write hundreds of my own recipes. I spent literally months practising my knife skills, going out and buying bags of cheap vegetables and then bringing them home and chopping them into stupidly small pieces (I still make coleslaw with a knife for fucks sake). The really sad thing is that this was before I had ever written a word about food or had any intention of doing so.

I could say it was a love of food but if that’s what it was it was a very obsessive and unhealthy love affair where both parties suffered dizzying highs and terrifying lows. It was that teenage love affair where you are convinced that you wont be able to breathe if your other half leaves the room. You see those kids now walking along arms wrapped around each other, gazing intently into each others eyes without a care for where they are going all the while thinking to yourself “why is there never a fucking open manhole when you need one”.

Once I moved past this period, ok so I have had relapses as the 27 hours preparation for a single dinner party will point to, I gained a much more enjoyable love of food, I wanted to learn something so I would have that knowledge and understanding and not simply so I could show it off to people.

When I began to write about food I became far more interested in the question “could I hack it in a pro kitchen?”. It’s always been something I thought about but it was more so in an aspirational sense for many years, then about 2 years ago I asked myself seriously if I could do it, not for a service or a day but like a real chef, go in in the morning and stay till the last table is fed. To do it for a living, no special treatment, no favours, no Chef World style theme park experience but as real and as raw as it gets.

I mentioned this to a few people and all were encouraging but mostly in the “I’m thinking of doing a bungee jump naked while holding a cactus” sort of way, where you say yes as you think it’s never going to happen and if it does the propensity for a hilarious outcome makes it a win win situation.

Oisin Rogers who runs The Ship in Wandsworth said, well why don’t you come down we will give you a try out and if the head chef thinks you’re good enough you can do it. I should point out two things Oisin has been in some way responsible for every half baked idea I’ve had since moving to London and never tell a man who runs a bungee school and grows cacti that you’ve often thought of leaping from a suspension bridge while holding a pointy plant because it may well happen.

So Tuesday night I rocked up at The Ship to be met by a dubious but friendly (and immensely talented) head chef David Faunch and a skeptical if curious brigade. The Ship is renowned for it’s food, it’s a major drawing point for people from all over London so to put it plainly they don’t fuck about, and having some 34year old who’d never set foot in a professional kitchen somewhat foisted upon them wasn’t really something they had planned on.

Dinner service was just starting as I donned my first ever set of whites and somewhat timidly entered the fray. I’d love to lie and say I swaggered my way in balls first and yelled “oi you, cheffy me lad have the night off, I’ve got this sorted”, but the fact it I was planking it. I just kept hoping that whatever they gave me to do first it’s something I’m good at, like chopping, or preparing meat or chatting up waitresses so when Robbie the sous chef produced a piping bag my first reaction was “oh bollox”. I had to heat the mustard mash and then pipe it onto the shepherd’s pies in readiness for service. I did it, they didn’t look too bad and after getting in the way for a bit at the pass Dave gave me a job that involved using a knife. “Here it is baby, its time to shine, let’s make sure those thousands of carrots didn’t die in vain”.

Luckily it seems that I have extremely good knife skills, which was enough to get me the job even though no one knew at that point if they were developed from a genuine ability with food or if I was just a large Irish guy with an unhealthy knife fetish. I put that worry to bed today when I cooked and dished up the staff meal to rapturous applause (ok I added the rapturous bit) but people mostly had seconds and the team of extremely attractive, young and trendy waiting staff, both boys and girls (so whatever you’re looking for they have you covered) some sporting unfortunate Movember moustaches (just the guys) all looked happy once they had cleared their plates.

So where does this lead? How long will it last? Fuck knows, its knackering exhausting work and it’s not going to keep me in Faberge Eggs but at no point in the past 3 days have I thought that I made a mistake. Not only that but I am completely unsinged and still have 10 fingers, ok so 2 of them aren’t mine but I am still counting it as a win.

I will let you know how it goes.

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