I haven’t written a blog piece in a while, I should probably have written something directly after the Irish Times did a piece on me but I was too busy looking a gift horse in the mouth! For those of you who missed it, if you live in Cork it’s probably because my Mother bought every copy you can read Marie-Claire Digby’s article on me online at this link http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/magazine/2011/0205/1224289009251.html

Through this blog I have been fortunate enough to come into contact with like-minded (or warped minded) individuals who have decided to try and grasp a life long dream and embark on a career as a chef. One was Lennie Nash the other was Lesley Connelly, both like me left very different careers to enter the kitchens and both like me blog about their experiences. Lennie’s blog can be found here http://chefsandwich.blogspot.com/ and Lesley’s here http://www.okbaybach.blogspot.com/ both are very worthy reads and provide insight into this surreal world of professional cheffing (both also contain considerably less swearing than mine does).  Despite never meeting in person we have formed a sort of ad-hoc support group, basically we bitch and moan about the hours, the pressure and the pay and then try and convince each other it will all be worth while.

Lennie had taken a break from the kitchen when we struck up out first Twitter conversation but was planning an imminent return to the kitchen (well as soon as he is done eating his way round south-east Asia) and Lesley was toiling away in one of New Zealand’s top restaurants. She like me had developed the habit of going in early and working through breaks to try and keep pace with a busy kitchen. So last week when she told me via Twitter that she had decided to leave the restaurant I was stunned. She is not giving up her culinary dreams but has decided to take a different direction and has accepted a job offer as a chef on a small cruise boat in the south island cooking for 16 passengers, they will be very lucky to have someone with her passion for food preparing their meals and I have no doubt that her food will become a major draw for returning passengers.

So that just leaves me as The Last Man Standing.

Since the last blog post business at The Ship has continued to increase, we no longer have quiet nights and weekends are barely controlled mania in the kitchen. It is getting to the point that it is barely possible to prep enough stuff to get through the weekend. I’ve made more fucking burger mix than McDonald’s (better tasting too) and seen more buns than a proctologist and seen them all run out before service ends. This generally leads to a mad scramble in the kitchen to get more made. Of course when you run out of burgers and chutney at the same time at it seems the national association of burger eaters have turned up looking to be fed you have 2 choices, you get smart or you get fucked!

Now let me explain chutney, or at least chutney at The Ship. It’s a labour of love, it involves slow cooking onions to release their sweetness before adding peppers, 3 different forms of tomato, spices, the finest vinegars and lots of dark brown sugar. From start to finish it can take 8 hours or more! Yup that’s right 8 hours for that little ramekin of dark red delight that you dip your chips in and think “mmmm nice” before going back to demolishing your burger. Last Sunday week less than 30 minutes before evening service kicked off we had run out of chutney and burgers. This isn’t down to bad organisation or poor planning, plenty of both were on hand when we started serving diners we just got smashed during lunch.

I calmly turned to Damo and said “I can give you chutney in 15 minutes”. He looked at me in disbelief and said it simply couldn’t be done. I assured him it could, no it wouldn’t as good as our usual chutney but it would be a fucking damn site better than the chutney we didn’t have. I then told him that he might want to leave the kitchen so as to maintain plausible deniability on this one. When he left I grabbed 2 large tins of tomatoes, opened them and chucked them into a colander to drain off the excess liquid, I then grabbed some tomato puree, dark brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and erm…….. Branston pickle (don’t worry it was the small chunk variety, I may be a cowboy but I am not a Philistine) and chucked the whole lot into a saucepan. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and a pinch of chilli powder and put the whole thing on the heat to cook out the sugar and vinegar and added a healthy amount of Heinz ketchup before giving it 1o minutes and then slamming the lot of it in the blast chiller to cool it down in time for service. To coin a phrase “It’s chutney Jim but not as we know it!”

Over the last couple of weeks a few more of London’s foodie elite have passed through the ship. Andre Dang and Rachel McCormack were in for dinner, I only found this out when Osh popped into the kitchen and asked me to do an assiette of desserts for Rachel. Now I am known for many things but my skills as a pastry chef are certainly not amongst them. None the less I was determined to make a good impression so I quickly googled “asseitte” and then just pretty much made mini portions of 4 of the desserts on the menu and put them on a plate with some small scoops of ice cream and delivered it to the table myself.

I have this week being doing quite a lot of Tristan Welch style dining room schmoozing, well sort of like Tristan Welch if he had gained weight and fallen on hard times but schmooze none the less I have done. I spent some time on Thursday chatting to Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker and Lee Behan of Friday Food Club fame, I even got to cook Dhruv’s main course and was thrilled to see an empty plate in front of him when I walked over to chat. Lee for those of you who don’t know runs one of London’s finest supper clubs. Supper clubs intrigue me, I love the idea of cooking great food for an intimate and appreciative audience of diners and getting to chat with them as they enjoy the food. I want to cook at them, I want to do pop up restaurants fuck it I want to have a BBQ on an upturned oil drum in the middle of Leicester Square on a Saturday afternoon. Trust me I am a god on a BBQ, I will take any chef on a BBQ. I recently made a challenge to Chris Pople, one of London’s most prominent and respected food bloggers that I would attempt to usurp The Meat Easy as the maker of the best burger in London and will give details on that soon, I am looking forward immensely to putting my money where my mouth is.

Don’t get me wrong I love my job at The Ship, I am extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity and I work my ass off every fucking day to pay back the chance I have been given but I don’t to lose the side of me that turns an old metal watering can into a smoker or who puts 8 house bricks in a roaring fire for 2 hours then pulls them out to use as a make shift flat top. The more I adapt and understand the structure of a kitchen the more I want to indulge the wild side to my love of food, the side that does a cappuccino as a starter or a margarita sorbet with a pop rock rim on the glass. I want to continue to work at The Ship but on my off days I want to try new things, I would love to hear from people who have ideas or options that could help me do this!

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