KITCHEN TALES # 2

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COLD HEARTED BASTARDS

"Even my birthday?"
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"Ahuh, even your birthday"
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I used to utter these words to potential apprentice chefs at their interviews.
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"If you work here you'll be working all major holidays including Christmas day, your mums, your dads, your sisters even your grandparents birthdays"
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"Even my birthday?"
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That's the way it goes in hospitality, the busiest times are when other people aren't working, Friday and Saturday nights and any major event. Like the Australia Day fireworks or New Years Eve it all had to be staffed and Joe Six pack and his wife and kids have to be fed.
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Chefs have a reputation for being cold hearted bastards and it's mostly true, mostly true in the eyes of the uninitiated, those within the fold understand though. So we thought nothing of telling a young guy or girl just starting out in the trade that "No you can't have this Saturday night off to go to your sisters 21st birthday party" or "No, your mum will have to celebrate Mothers day without you this year, you'll be here making appetisers for all of the mums coming here for Mothers Day lunch".
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I did draw the line at funerals, they could always get time off for funerals. Sounds cold doesn't it? But when you and your friends roll in for dinner the last thing you want to hear from the serving staff is "Unfortunately due to the fact that 3 of the chefs are having tonight off to celebrate their birthdays we wont be able to provide a full menu this evening, oh and could you eat up quickly cos the party they're having sounds awesome and I really wanna knock off early and get there"
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Take my word for it the party would have been awesome, chefs and waiting staff know how to party, but it probably wont start up until around midnight, when they've knocked off, then it wont end until about the time you roll into work the next morning. Children of the night was never more apt a description than here.
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So that's the decision new apprentices had to make at their job interviews, an end to family life as they knew it, an end to the life they've known so far really and the beginning of a whole new life amongst the confines of a white walled room with hardly a mercy flung their way for at least the first year. Four years they had to give me, few agreed, less survived, I guess I could have had more say yes if I told them about the aforementioned birthday party and how they would probably hook up with one of the cute waitresses or barmen and how they would get to sample some of the finest (well whatever was available) drugs on offer, yes Jamie Oliver was right and that they probably wouldn't have to pay for any of it either. But you don't really offer that sort of info up at that time do you.
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In all honesty, missing Christmas day, new years eve, Australia Day fireworks, friends and loved ones birthday parties and Friday and Saturday nights, even if those nights where simply spent on the couch watching a DVD, was one of the things that helped me finally make the decision to change careers. After a time you stop enjoying those late night parties and you stop thinking that you're cool because you're sitting in The Moon cafe at 3 am downing a few brews and sneering at everyone else who's tucked up in bed. Eventually you start to want to be everyone else, you start to think the grind just isn't worth it. But what do worn out chefs do after they stop cooking? There isn't always a whole lot of choice, I guess I was lucky, I guess I timed it well and I had the drive to do something incredibly different, many don't, they just go on at it for longer than they should, it's all they know.
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Secretly though, I do still wanna hang out at The Moon at 3am.
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Comments

Van Strapp said…
GREAT piece Args, great piece! Timely too, since I've been watching Kitchen Confidential lately, haha.
Stu said…
haha good show too and cheers
Maja said…
Nice.
Anonymous said…
Fantastic piece of your history Stu,very much looking forward to the next one.
Mumb
Waz said…
3AM at the Moon it is then
Stu said…
hahah you're on, I'll see ya there