St. Valentines Day Meatssacre

We are doing a special Valentine’s menu for Lovers of Burger Lovers

Starter

Deep Fried Duck Hearts with Oyster Ketchup

Main Course, choice of

Wild Boar Burger, with crispy pigs ears, garlic & herb cheese, foie gras mayonaise

Or

Tuna Burger, with tempura soft shell crab & lobster mayo

served with Smoked Horseradish Salted Chips and a side of Truffled Mac & Cheese

Dessert

Prosecco Floats

Tickets are £60 per couple and include a bottle of bubbly to enjoy with your meal

The bar will be open till 3am

To book contact us on Twitter @Burger_Breakout or email info@theoldcrownpublichouse.com

Advertisements

Menu for new joint venture with The Old Crown, New Oxford Street

The Old Crown
Featuring
@Burger_Breakout

Warm Ups
The Special Relationship: A traditional Scotch Egg wrapped in a hash brown casing, the most successful UK / US collaboration since D-Day
Love My Tenders: Free range chicken breast strips, coated in house seasoning, served with honey mustard mayo dip
Dunkin for Donuts: Fish donuts (no you didn’t misread that) served with tartare sauce dip
Courgette Fries: Deep fried in lemon & herb batter with hummus mayo
Tom & Moz on Toast: Fresh tomato and mozzarella (fior de latte)on toast with herb oil and balsamic reduction

Burgers

The O.C. Burger
Devon Long Horn 8oz beef patty, smoked onion jam, 3 cheese sauce (emmental, Monterey Jack, lyburn gold), hot pickle, lettuce, tomato & house made 1000 island dressing

The Camilla Burger
Free Range chicken breast fillet, sweet tomato relish, smoked gubeen cheese, crispy onions, lettuce & tarragon mayo

The Fabulous @Burger_Breakout Boys

The Whiskey Beast
Dry Aged Orkney beef patty, treacle cured bacon, strathdon blue & whiskey mustard

The Swine Time
Rare breed pork patty, 24hr cooked pulled pork, doddington cheese & apple and jalapeno mayo

The Bambi Bought it
Venison patty, tunworth, beetroot pickle, chocolate & quince BBQ sauce

The Baa-Baa Baby
Lamb Patty, crispy deep fried leeks, minted roasted garlic tomato ketchup

The I Don’t Need Your Bull
A burger for vegetarians that looks, tastes and feels like a beef burger, made to a super
secret recipe, containing no synthetic meat substitutes this give the burger back to
veggies, comes with lettuce, tomato, berkswell cheese and veggie burger sauce.

All burgers come with our smoked horseradish salted chips

On A Wing and a Prayer

Free range chicken wings coated in our Shake & Bake style house seasoning and served with your choice of 10, yes 10 different sauces
BBQ
Smokey
Spicy
Honey Mustard
Lea & Perrins
Pesto
Sweet & Sour
Thai Green Curry
Mustard and Tarragon
Guiness

The Supporting Cast

Ribs
Rare breed pork ribs, cooked low and slow then finished on the grill with our secret house made bbq sauce

Fish Tacos
Coley, coated in seasoned corn meal, deep fried and served in a crispy taco shell with smoked gherkins, salad and a jalapeno guacamole

Tri-Tip Sandwich
Grilled tri-tip steak, thinly sliced and served in a french roll with red onion jam and house made BBQ sauce

Blackened Salmon
Salmon fillet, coated in our house made blackening seasoning, pan fried and served with a rice and 3 bean salad

Steak
35 Day dry aged 10oz on the bone sirloin Devon LongHorn steak with a choice of garlic, blue cheese or horseradish butter, served with chips

Salad Patch Kids

Ave Caeser: Romaine Lettuce, crutons, anchovies, parmesan and house made caser dressing
Chop Phooey: Endive & Radicchio, celery, apple, chopped egg, spicy walnuts in a tomato and mint vinaigrette
‘Ave a go at Avocado: Mixed leaves, sweet roasted peppers, avocado, red onion, stickleton in a herb vinaigrette

Add Chicken or Bacon to any Salad

Side Lined

Deep fried pickles in dill batter
BBQ battered onion rings with Jack Daniels Dipping sauce
Green Salad with lemon oil
Hand cut chips with smoked horseradish salt
Burger Slaw

Desserts

The Drunken Cow
(alchoholic milkshakes)

Salted Caramel: Dolche de Leche & vanilla ice cream, bourbon, salted pretzils
After 8: Creme de menthe, Kahlua and Chocolate ece cream
The WTF: Tequila, cayenne pepper and coffee ice cream

The Sorbombs!
Jack Daniels sorbet with Coke Jelly
Jager sorbet with Red Bull Jelly
Morgans Spiced sorbet with Ginger Ale Jelly

Burger Breakout

On Sunday the 22nd of July at 6 St Chad’s Place I will be launching my first ever pop-up Burger Breakout.

I have teamed up with the guys from The Cornish Grill to use Cornwall’s best produce to do a burger pop-up with a bit of a difference

Here is the menu

The Whiskey Beast

Dry aged, Cornish beef patty, topped with smoked bacon, Cornish blue cheese and Whiskey Mustard

The Swine Time

Cornish minced pork patty, topped with pulled pork, cheese and apple and jalapeño mayo

The Baa-Baa Baby

Cornish Lamb patty, topped with deep fried crispy leeks and minted roasted garlic tomato ketchup

The Bambi Bought it

Cornish Venison patty, topped with beetroot pickle, Cornish Brie, Quince & Chocolate BBQ Sauce

The Dab Hand

Cornish Dab fillets, smoked gherkins, peri-peri tartare sauce, po boy style

Sides

Chips with horseradish smoked salt

Deep fried deli pickle in dill batter

Burger Slaw

 To keep informed with everything that’s happening then follow @Burger_Breakout on Twitter

First They Came For

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Why did I choose that poem? It was written about the Nazi Party in Germany after all over half a century ago, what possible relevance can it have today to our attempts to raise funds to help fight male depression.

Well here’s the thing, you can look at most charities and think “well I’m never going to need the help of that charity”, you can say you’ll never get cancer because you don’t smoke or drink and live only on berries foraged in virgin rain forests by Belgian monks.

You can say you will never need help from addiction charities because you don’t gamble or do drugs.

You can rationalise that you will never need the help of any charity buy you can NEVER say that you won’t need help from a charity which works with people with depression.

The problem is that depression doesn’t care who you are, what your circumstances are, how you live your life, what your job, income, orientation or social class is. It is an incredibly politically correct disease, it discriminates against no one, it is as happy to strike down a street sweeper as it is to strike down a captain of industry. You can run, you can pull the covers over your head, stick your fingers in your ears and shout “I’m not listening” until you’re voice is hoarse, it simply doesn’t give a fuck. If it wants you it will take you and if it does who will help you?

Charities that work with depression are at the back of the queue when it comes to any kind of funding or any kind of press coverage because people simply don’t want to speak out about depression.

I contacted an editor of a national newspaper recently to ask for some press coverage for Chefs For CALM and the response I got was “as a story it doesn’t really jump out at me”. I pointed out that 9 men in England and Wales take their own lives every day but still that didn’t help make the story “jump out” at them. Maybe I could arrange for all 9 to come to London and commit suicide on their desk, would that grab a few lousy fucking column inches. Don’t think this is simply a rant at one idiot print editor, I contacted over 20 radio shows and stations and asked for them to help promote the charity dinner, want to know how many of them even responded,  none, not one.

You will get the same story from John Comyn, who is project managing  the dinner. He has spoken to various companies about obtaining help or support from them and again got the same response of strained sympathy and mutterings of apology.

Maybe it’s because people think that these helplines don’t really work that it would just be throwing away money and would make little difference. Well they do work, CALM have proved this in Merseyside, the one area of the country that they have managed to successfully operate a full time help line, where young male suicides have dropped by around half.

Every week I speak to 2 women who in their own way drive us forward to make this dinner a success and to make a difference in the lives of people with depression. Jane Powell is the founder of CALM, the person who manages, under incredibly budget restraints to keep the charity going and helping people. Almost without fail every time I talk to or meet Jane she has just come from counselling a family who have just lost a son to suicide. The  toll this must take is almost unimaginable, to every day feel the sheer weight of grief of these families is something that I know I myself could never handle. I don’t want to call the work they do “thankless” but it’s not like the people who’s lives their helplines save pop by the office with some Milktray and a bottle of Cava. They simply carry on with their lives, in many cases never opening up to those close to them about what they went to or how deep their depression was. The people at CALM simply hope that the person stopped calling because they had been helped and they move on to the next call and the next person in desperate need of their services. Through Chefs For CALM we want to raise the money needed for them to employ more counsellors to man their helplines full time and save more lives.

The other woman is Patti Boyle, Kevin Boyle’s Mum. We had never spoken before her son’s death, she in fact contacted myself and John through replying to an earlier blog post. The more I speak to Patti the more I wish I had the chance to know Kevin and the more I want to help her bring some good about from her son’s tragic death. She talks about Kevin’s dream of having an allotment and cafe where people could come by and do a little work in return for a nice meal or some produce to take home but that would also function as a focal centre for support not just for people with depression but an entire community. Somewhere that they could speak to others struggling with the illness, or simply be around other people and not feel so alone not feel like there was no where for them to turn for help or no one to turn to. Patti is driven by the wish to stop other mothers going through the tragedy that her and her family have gone through, she is attempting to have parliament close down websites that sell these so called “suicide kits”. When she speaks about this fight you can hear an unmistakable determination in her voice but that yields to a mother’s pride when she talks about fulfilling Kevin’s dream of an allotment to help others who are struggling with the same grave illness that he fought so bravely for almost a decade before it finally overwhelmed him and took him from his family.  Part of the money raised at the Chefs For CALM dinner will go toward the memorial fund set up in Kevin’s memory and will hopefully help make his dream a reality.

The Chefs For CALM dinner will take place on the 28th of May at Floridita in London’s Soho. It will be an evening where guests are treated to a one off spectacular menu cooked by some of the finest chefs in the UK, there every need will be catered for by a truly exceptional front of house team from some of London’s best restaurants. As always in these cases it’s these people who are the first to answer the call. Almost every night in London there are charity dinners and fund raising galas where hospitality industry staff give their time for free for worthy causes, this time they have a chance to give something back to their own industry.

We have had offers of help from companies who were brave enough to support a cause like depression without the irrational fear that it would be bad for their brand to be associated with suicide. This help has come from the people behind these companies who have worked with the hospitality industry for years and have seen the toll it can take on people, Justin Preston of Allens of Mayfair told me that he had seen up close how the stresses of the job effected chefs before telling me simply to let him know what we needed and he would sort it out, the same is true of Jess Latchford from Secretts Direct and Conor Tait from Meantime Brewery amongst others.

We have agreed a deal with Channel 4 to build a documentary around the subject of depression within the hospitality industry which will air during mental health week in July. The 1 hour piece will focus on the experiences that some chefs have had with depression and the attempts of these chefs and the others involved in the dinner to make a difference in the lives of others who are affected by the illness.

We are of the belief that if we are to pull this off we will have to do so without the aid of the mainstream media who simply don’t want to tackle the subject, so as always we turn to Twitter as our means of starting the quiet revolution, we rely on you to make noise and affect conciousness and force editors and news makers to look at this subject and shine a spotlight on it. Depression thrives in darkness, it envelops its victims and stifles their screams for help, those not suffering from it themselves rush into the light away from the darkness for fear they too will be infected, dragged down, suffocated under the weight of depression.

But if people refuse to shine a light on to depression, retreating and retreating instead to the centre of the light then when depression finally does come who will be left to protect them from the darkness?

If you wont speak out when depression comes for others

Who will be left to speak out when depression comes for you?

#ChefsForCALM

email: CalmDinner@Gmail.com

Chefs For CALM Dinner

Tuesday I wrote my last post. I woke up to the news that missing Chef Kevin Boyle’s body had been found in a garden in south London, it had been there for sometime following his death at his own hand. As I said at the time I didn’t know Kevin or work with him but his story saddened me greatly. I had the day off, a rare and precious thing these days, so some work on the new spring menum an afternoon shopping with my girlfriend and a relaxing evening at home were on the cards.

The thing is I couldn’t shake the news about Kevin, that anyone should feel they could not turn anywhere for help and had no choice but to end their life is in itself tragic, the fact that his body lay undiscovered until many months later is truly heartbreaking. Through out the day my thoughts kept returning to Kevin and that evening when I returned home I decided to write a blog post on it. I just wanted to take what was in my head and commit it to paper (or in this case a screen). I posted it, I tweeted it and then it just sort of took on a life of it’s own. I was inundated with retweets and comments on Twitter, depression and suicide have touched so many people’s lives and people were glad that someone was willing to highlight it. I thought maybe something positive could come from this terribly sad end to a once bright and promising life.

From the first mention of this idea on Twitter there have been offers of help forthcoming. Chef’s have responded, in most cases simply with the words “I’m in”. Chef’s give their time to help any number of worthy causes, given the chance to help with a problem that exists within their own industry they haven’t hesitated. Cheffing is a tough job, we know that and we accept and in a way it’s what drives us. However we can not ignore that the stresses and the pressure it places on those who wish to succeed and reach the top.

Yesterday I met with Jane Powell the director of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a charity who work exclusively with men who are suffering from depression. Given that suicide is the number one cause of death amongst young men in this country there is very little help available for men to prevent them taking this drastic step. She told me about the work they do and the struggles they face to provide a desperately needed place for men to turn to. They operate on a very small budget, receiving some funding from The Lottery and Comic Relief to help them deal with callers under 25 but receive no funding what so ever that is earmarked to help men over 25, ironically had Kevin called CALM they would have had to fund the cost of handling the call from private charitable donations. Even then they can only afford to keep their phone lines and text support service open till midnight.

On the 30th of April we are going to hold a Chefs for CALM dinner in central London. Plans are still at a very early stage but we hope to provide 200 guests with the chance to enjoy an amazing meal cooked by the best chefs in the country and hopefully raise a lot of money for a cause that so desperately needs it.

We want to raise the money needed to extend the helpline and text service till 3am, given the hours that chefs work having those extra 3hours could make a very big difference to someone seeking help. We also want to work with CALM to help their counsellors better understand the unique stresses faced by chefs.

More than anything by having the very chefs that these young guys aspire to be cooking at the dinner and backing this cause we want young chefs to know that it is ok to admit you need help and that there is somewhere they can turn for help from someone who is familiar with what they are going through.

If you can help in any way then please email us at CalmDinner@Gmail.com

Please put the type of help you can offer in the subject line (e.g. Chef, Front of House, Supplier, Sponsor etc) and John Comyn (@CityJohn on Twitter) who is organising the logistics will be in touch.

Depression is not a sign of weakness, it’s just a sign that we have been strong for too long. -Elizabeth Gilbert

Over the last few months I have seen the campaign to help find Chef Kevin Boyle develop on Twitter and through other media, social and traditional. I have retweeted calls for help and checked the website http://www.FindKevin.Co.uk to see what news there was. I don’t know Kevin, I have never met him or worked with him, those who have speak very highly of him as both a chef and a person. His story caught my attention if I am honest because of his link to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who mentored him on the first series of his TV show 15, when Kevin was one of the young people looking to train as chefs under Jamie’s guidance.

This morning it was reported that Kevin’s body had been found at the bottom of a garden in Coulsdon where it had lain for some months, his death is being treated as a suspected suicide. For some reason I simply can’t put this out of my mind, I can not simply get on with my day.

Suicide is the leading cause of of death for men under 35, think about that for a minute. Think about all the warnings you see to prevent you shuffling off this mortal coil, from what you eat, what you drink, how you drive, even warnings aimed at people who are attempting to prove Charles Darwin right and remove themselves from the gene pool by racing the lights on a level crossing. The government spends millions every year on campaigns to save people from causes which result in far fewer deaths amongst young men than suicide.

A number of years ago I suffered kidney failure, over night I went from being an extremely successful self made tribute to the Celtic Tiger to being an invalid who couldn’t get out of a chair unaided. As my illness progressed I watched the trappings of my success being taken away from me one piece at a time. I saw my business collapse, my car and boat being repossessed or sold to try and meet my obligations, with no sign of a cure or even a correct diagnosis as I got weaker and weaker. In the last few weeks before I was evicted from my apartment I would lie awake at night in total darkness (I was unable to pay my electricity bill but refused to actually move back to my parents house until I was forced to hand over the keys) and while I never thought of taking my own life, I did pray that maybe I wouldn’t have to wake up the next day. I could never have taken the drastic step, because I know how devastated my family would have been, but had there been a button to press to simply slip away in my sleep I can not honestly say I would not have pressed it.

This was never due to a lack of support or of people to turn to. Yes, there were so called friends who dropped away when the good times stopped but those who were my friends before the money and are my friends today were there throughout not only willing but begging me to let them help me. I refused, too proud, too stubborn but mostly too ashamed and embarrassed to talk about how depressed I was.

In today’s world men dare not show any sign of what they perceive as weakness for fear of being ridiculed or thought less of. In sport we laugh off our injuries, we make light of any pain and we “walk it off”. When we deny we are suffering when there are obvious physical signs how can we admit to suffering from depression which has no scars, no bruises no plaster casts of proof? For any man that is an almost impossible ask but for a chef it is almost unthinkable.

Cheffing is a macho world, it’s tough, it’s demanding and it has absolutely no room for weakness. Getting smashed on service and coming back for more is a badge of honour. You don’t show you’re struggling, you don’t ask for help, to do so is going to get you precious little in the way of sympathy and more likely a barrage of piss taking comments from your colleagues. While these are not usually meant with any bad intentions they will still be made. It’s what we do, we’re chefs. we are tough, we laugh at people who complain they are exhausted by the time Friday afternoon rolls round in their office jobs. We strive to show how tough we are in a kitchen “want me to do 4 doubles on the spin? Fuck it mate give me 6, make it interesting”. This is not in any way an indictment of chefs, the overwhelming majority of those I have met are great blokes.

The thing is when you look at it as a job choice, cheffing with it’s long unsociable hours, hot often cramped working environments, extreme physical demands, high pressure and low pay should stand out as an job that could (and should) trigger bouts of depression but Health.Com doesn’t even list it in the top 10 jobs linked to depression (although waiting staff do get a mention). Maintenance workers, teachers, sales assistants and financial advisors are all in there but not chefs! Why? Is it because flogging jeans at The Gap is more likely to cause depression than doing back to back 18 hour shifts in a kitchen? Of fucking course not, it is because CHEFS DON’T COMPLAIN. We bitch and moan constantly but about trivial and petty things, we will bang on about how some wanker split the hollandaise, how clueless our front of house staff are, what fucking twat on table 12 ordered the steak well done or any number of other things but you will never hear a chef publicly admit to his peers that he is feeling depressed and unable to cope. Why do you think so many people crash out of this game? It is because they never admitted they needed help before it became too much.

This must stop, this tragic story of Kevin Boyle must not simply fade from memory, something must be done to give people in our industry somewhere to turn before this happens again.

What a difference a year makes

I’ve just returned from a fantastic meal at The Ship in Wandsworth, that’s hardly surprising to any of you who have eaten there. What may surprise some of you is that almost exactly one year ago to the minute (11.20pm) I returned to my rented room in Tooting having completed my trial shift for a job as a chef there.

I didn’t come to London to be a chef, I came here looking for work in Event Management and hoping to further my food writing career. I had gotten to know Oisin Rogers (www.twitter.com/mcmoop) the GM at The Ship via Twitter and had even helped out with the outside food at his other pub The Orange Tree in Richmond during rugby international weekends. He suggested that I try my hand at cheffing, even if it was only to keep me occupied till I found a job in the events industry, he felt it may even make for an interesting piece should I choose to write about it.

I took the opportunity of the trial shift and haven’t looked back since. Have I loved every day of it? Fuck no!

I sat opposite the pass at The Ship tonight enjoying my meal and smiling to myself remembering my first night there, after I had done the jobs that Dave Faunch the head chef had set out for me he brought me up to the pass to watch the dishes get plated. He only did so to be nice and because he wasn’t really sure what else to do with me, I was there for 4 hours and had finished my allotted tasks with time left to spare. In the 20 minutes I was there I must have gotten in the way about 30 times, the more I tried to not get in the way the more I crashed around the place like a hard on sporting drunk elephant in a brothel. Dave sent me home early but I got the job.

I have been fortunate, very fortunate to get support and encouragement from people in all areas of the food community, I’ve also had more than my fair share of doubters. The thing is no one doubted me more than I doubted myself. This was madness pure and simple, who the fuck was I trying to kid? I was a month shy of my 35th birthday and I was entering an incredibly busy, high pressure kitchen and expected to keep up, with experienced talented chefs and keen, fit and youthful commis who were less than half my age. I lacked the knowledge of the experienced chefs and I lacked the physical stamina of these 17 year olds who haven’t racked up 2 decades of piss ups, curries, debauchery  and general fuckwittery that left me as an old Irish comic once said “temporary lazy and permanently tired”. I may have joked that my body was a temple but that was only because it was falling to ruins, full of spirits and I kept the boots on the outside!

The only 2 things in my favour was I wanted this, I really fucking wanted this, I have been consumed with a wish to cook for longer than I can remember and secondly I am even by Irish standards one of the most stubborn bastards walking the face of the Earth. In life when all else has failed me, ego, pride, brute force and ignorance have seen me through. I struggled a lot in the early days, physically I was a wreck, emotionally I was frail, I would lie on my futon in my rented room in tooting suffering aches and pains and sheer exhaustion and suddenly feel a wetness on my face and realise that I was crying, I don’t know why, I was usually too shattered to think, it was just my body’s way of saying “enough, please stop this, don’t make me go back there again tomorrow” but I did, and the tomorrow after that and the tomorrow after that.

I compressed about 3 years kitchen time into about 4 months, I looked to make every day better than the one before, I didn’t always manage it but on the whole I learnt quick and physically got to grasps with the job. After 5 months I made a move away from The Ship and went to The Engineer in Primrose Hill. If at The Ship I learnt the mechanics of a kitchen then at The Engineer I learnt it’s nuances. I studied head chef Ollie Prince with an almost stalkerish level on interest, here was a guy who made it look, if not easy, then certainly doable. His calmness was in stark contrast to the frenetic energy of Dave my previous head chef.  Job wise I guess I was treading water, Ollie had a fully staffed brigade and the battle to save the pub from brewery repossession meant that my planned career move was put on the back burner.

It was a chat with Johnnie Mountain that made my mind up, he told me point blank I needed my own kitchen, those of you who know or know of Johnnie will see him as one of the great culinary rogues, a gifted chef with little care or regard for how people react to what he says or does. If you get the chance however to talk to him at length you will discover him to be a thoughtful and extremely intelligent guy but being Johnnie that intelligence is accompanied by a brutal honesty. He told me I would always be as much of a hindrance as a help to a head chef, sure I could run a service and boss a brigade but I was always going to want more input than would be wanted from me.

The say that “God protects fools, drunks and children” and I qualified for at least 2 of those, 3 if you count mental age and pretty soon the chance to take on the head chef job at The Alexandra in Wimbledon came up. I met Mick and Sarah the managers and took the job when they offered it to me.

My first day as head chef at The Alex was every bit as nerve wracking as my first trial shift a mere 7 months previously.

I had put dishes on menus before, I’d written prep lists, I’d run services but now I was going to write an entire menu, detail every prep item and run every service. Trust me that’s a fucking daunting thought. The few days break I had before starting there were taken up with furiously writing and rewriting menus, trying to balance starters and mains, trying to make the whole menu hang together, trying to be original but not different just for the sake of it. My menu had to reflect my food but it also had to make people want to eat it. I agonised over the final draft and asked a few trusted friends who work in the industry for their opinion, they loved it (or at least said they did) and I proudly walked into the kitchen on my first day with a print out of it in my hand and promptly ripped it up.

I couldn’t change everything overnight, I had taken no real account of the people who ate there, the local food options, the lay out of the kitchen or the level of the brigade I was inheriting. I was also replacing a chef who may have been quite disillusioned but was also quite close with the rest of the gang in the kitchen. I wanted them to believe not only in me but in the food I wanted to produce, likewise I wanted Mick and Sarah to feel they made the right choice in giving me the chance. I also needed to get the punters to believe in what I was doing and to trust me to deliver good food for their hard earned money.

It hasn’t been easy and it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing, I accept that at times I am impossible to work with, I accept that I can at times appear arrogant and precious about my food, I am, I have to be. I have to believe that every plate I put up is equal to or better than an plate of equal value put up by another chef with vastly more experience in this industry than me. Every part of me is tied up in the success or failure of my first head chef job. Should it all go arse over tit than The Alex will still be a massively successful pub. The one thing I will never let myself fail because of is lack of effort on my part, when I took over I worked 22 days straight without a day off and in the first 5 weeks I had about 3 days off in total and 2 of those were to attend a wedding. Mick Dore has on occasion all but physically ejected me from the building, despite working 3 50+ hour weeks while suffering from terrible sciatic nerve trouble in my back I refused to cut my hours until he ordered me to take a weeks holiday.

This week has served as time to reflect, it is the first week off I have had in my year as a chef, it’s the first time I’ve had a chance to look at what we have achieved at The Alex. Mick said early on that he felt we were recasting the dye in how food in pubs is done, we are not a gastropub, everything isn’t served in massive white bowls, there isn’t a designated dining area (no matter how much I kick and scream and demand one), you can sit anywhere and order anything on our menu. I believe we have reintroduced south west London to the bar snack, we have put on potted ham with home made piccalilli and braised ox cheek with roasted shallots in red wine gravy and we recently placed tied 5th in the Scotch Egg Challange, just behind Heston’s Michelin star pub The Hindes Head and ahead of a number of other equally rated pubs. Our menu reflects the best of traditional British food but done at a level that has been sadly lacking in most pubs for a very long time and it’s already being embraced by diners.

More than anything seeing the difference in the brigade I work with has been my most gratifying experience to date, to see an enthusiasm for the profession that simply wasn’t there in August is something I am very proud of. I said recently that everyone of them is a a better chef now than when I took over and someone joked about how modest I was being, the thing is all the help from me in the world wouldn’t make a difference if they didn’t want to learn or put in the effort to improve.

We have received some amazing feed back and write ups, people are seeking us out as a place to dine, they are trusting us to cook dishes that in my first week they would never have dared order. Are we the finished article yet? No, no more than I am the finished article as a head chef. There is so much more for me to learn and so much more for us at The Alex to do to take us to where, when reached I will be completely happy with. Am I going to upset some more people along the way? Without a doubt! Am I going to get more things wrong? Of fucking course I will. Am I going to put every ounce of my spirit, soul and effort into making it happen? What do you think?

To those of you who have supported me this past year, there is no depth of gratitude that convey how I feel about you all, through what may have seemed small actions or comments on your part you have help me achieve a dream that only 1 year ago was just that, a dream, you are my friends and you will always be so, thank you.

To those of you who have followed my journey I thank you also, and a year from now? Who knows!