Next Tuesday will mark the 1 month anniversary of me first setting foot in a professional kitchen, 1 month, it’s not exactly a long time yet it seems like I’ve never done anything else. I may only be doing this for a month but I have been preparing for it my whole life.

A lot of people talk about being obsessed with food but in truth I have been more obsessed with cooking, from the time I watched Keith Floyd cook a steak on the engine block of a Toyota Landcruiser I have wanted to cook. Though you would find it hard to believe looking at me I have always been far more interested in cooking than eating. I rarely actually eat the food I cook, preferring instead to cook for others.

If Keith Floyd was the guy who got me started cooking then Eddie Murphy was the guy who made me want to cook well. When I was 16 I watched his movie Boomerang, a pretty average film in most people’s eyes, but he bedded a succession of beautiful women, including Halle Berry and Robyn Givens after cooking them a good meal. Ok, ok I know it was a movie but as a hormone charged 16 year old guy this was a revelation, this was my St Paul on the road to Damascus moment (without the BBQ’d donkey). If I learned to cook well then there was a chance girls would let me get my hands on their goodies! I hit the kitchen like a man possessed, the fact that at 16 the chances of me being allowed to invite a girl over for a romantic dinner were slim and the chances of me being allowed to take her to my bedroom to express her gratitude afterwards were fucking non-existent didn’t stop me. This I told myself would stand to me in later years, and boy did it.

You may well laugh but let me assure you that I can produce a chocolate tart that can open a bra at 28feet, my record is actually 34 feet but that was a “frontsie” so under international rules it’s isn’t counted. I once rang an ex-girlfriend at 3 in the morning to get a reference as to how good my food was when I was trying to get a girl to agree to let me cook her dinner. In fairness she gave glowing reports about my food, less so about me (the words cheating bastard may have come up), but the girl agreed to let me cook her dinner.

I used to get told on a regular basis “oh you should be a chef” and I would shrug, smile and make some make some witty comment about wanting to maintain my amateur status so I could cook in the Olympics (trust me it’s far wittier when heard in context). The fact is though that honestly for all my cockiness and swagger I never felt the confidence in my food to think someone would pay to eat it, this despite numerous offers from friends and firends of friends to pay me to cook for them.

So rather than use an obvious talent for the benefit of all man kind I used it to shag a succession of attractive women. I would drop into conversation early that I had to take it easy on the booze as I had to be up early to do a lunch for a friends birthday, my parents anniversary or a benefit for war orphaned baby ducks (that one worked a treat). They would respond “oh are you a chef” and I would reply with various lines about being just a talented amateur, that I thought about it but I wanted to maintain my joy of cooking and doing it for a living could lessen that and finally with “If you’d like I would love to cook you dinner sometime!”. Considering any single girl is likely to get chatted up by a litany of increasingly drunk guys over the course of a night, a guy who is offering to cook for them, and sounds like he knows what he is doing (in the kitchen anyway) is going to look like Prince Charming by the time they are standing in the cold, cursing their shoes and trying to hail a cab.

Despite misusing my power in a manner not seen since Superman straightened the leaning tower of Pisa, food saved my life. Don’t worry this isn’t going to be the storyline from some dreary movie about “one man’s struggle”, full of heart string pulling and eye dabbing. For one thing I am not the type and secondly I fucking hate those movies.

A few years back I was the poster boy for the Celtic Tiger, big apartment, sports car and engaged in the type of frivolous spending that would make Elton John wince. I was literally the boy who had everything (luckily the penicillin cleared it up), then I got sick. I suffered kidney failure and spent the next 8 months being misdiagnosed while peeing into more beakers than Castor Semenya.

When you’re sick people treat you like you are sick, your opinion is less valid, people expectations of you lower, they make excuses for you that you never asked for. This drove me fucking nuts, I was used to being the most important guy in the room, I was the person people deferred to, I was the guy all my mates turned to for help when they needed it and then over night I became a spectator in my own life. The only time people really listened to me was when I talked about food, so I talked about it constantly. When I wasn’t talking about it I was researching it, trolling through forums, websites, reviews, chef’s biographies, writing recipe ideas, drafting whole menus for imaginary restaurants I dreamt of owning. Suddenly when I talked about food I was back to being the most important guy in the room if only for a brief time. That make smack of a huge fucking ego but when you’re sick and there is no sign of you getting better, or even getting correctly diagnosed, you cling to what ever gets your through and I clung to food like a drowning man with a life raft.

When I got better, food was all I had left, my business, home, car and all my fucking money were gone. I spent a brief time afterwards in London being “homeless in the Kensington Hilton” as I termed it (there’s a whole other blog on that, for that matter there is probably a book and a movie deal but I doubt I would ever get to tell the story). Out of boredom I would spend evenings walking around West London reading menus of countless restaurants that I couldn’t afford to eat in. I know it sounds odd coming from someone who lived in the Kensington Hilton for the better part of 2 months but that’s the way it was. I could eat and drink in the hotel to my hearts content but as soon as I set foot outside I was back to being broke. I would walk around reading menus and then spend the rest of the night jotting down recipe ideas in my room or in a quite corner in the bar. It was during this that I realised that I wanted to do something with food, I wasn’t exactly sure what. I somehow managed to fall into food writing, which lead me to Twitter and its that which lead me to a faithful conversation with Oisin Rogers and wound up with me in the kitchen at The Ship.

So what now? Where do I see this going? Honestly I haven’t thought far enough ahead, I am loving every minute of being in the kitchen, I have been extremely lucky to get to work with a fantastically talented brigade of chefs who have been more than patient with me as I get up to speed with just how a kitchen works, especially how it works during a busy service which is sort of like a football riot that’s been choreographed by The Royal Ballet School.

Do I want my slice of culinary fame? Of course I fucking do. Do I look at people like Ainsley Harriot and think he is just a Butlins Red Coat who got very lucky? Yes I do. Do I look at Gino D’acampo and just see Chico from the X-Factor with a frying pan? Yes I do. Could I cook the balls of these guys, hell yeah! Do I want to have my culinary Mrs Robinson style flirtation with Penny Smith on Market Kitchen? What do you fucking think?

More than anything though I want to cook, every day I spend in the kitchen is a day that makes me realise this is what I want to do. I know there is a lot of you out there who have thought about doing this, if you haven’t actually made the move then you obviously have a far stronger grasp on your sanity than I do on mine. They say that a chef requires a certain amount of passion, arrogance and lunacy, three traits that I have been accused of having in spades over the year.

The question is can I make it? Do I have the talent? Working under a great head chef is hard work but being one is infinitely harder. Do I see myself getting to that stage? Truthfully, yes! I wouldn’t be putting myself through this if I didn’t. People talk about me being on a steep learning curve but that’s bollox, its more of a learning right angle, there isn’t a curve in sight. When I walk back into that kitchen in January I know I have to bang on in everything I do, the guys I work with deserve that from me and I need to be able to deliver and I intend to.

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