KITCHEN TALES # 1

PORRIDGE

I've been reading Waiter Rant whilst I've been travelling on planes over the past month, almost finished it too. I keep laughing out loud at some of the stories, which cops me a few stares, but meh. I can so relate to a heap of the stories in it as well, having had a career as a chef prior to my becoming an archaeologist. So I thought I'd chronicle a few as I'm always forgetting them and it may make me remember some.

Richard Harris

I cooked for a year in London, at a boutique hotel called The Halcyon. It was a discreet 44 room place tucked away behind Kensington Palace and a haunt for almost every celeb known to man. Sadly it has now closed its doors and is being relaunched as an apartment complex.

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It was London’s first real boutique hotel. After opening its doors in the early 1990s, the Halcyon hotel, in Holland Park, west London, swiftly established itself as one of the capital’s most exclusive – and most discreet – celebrity bolt holes. Regarded as one of the city’s best-kept secrets, the 44-room hotel played host to an extraordinary amount of celebrity shenani-gans in its short history.
A private detective hired by Jerry Hall to spy on Mick Jagger allegedly found the singer staying there, under a false name, with a mystery woman. Paula Yates was at the Halcyon with Michael Hutchence the day her separation from Bob Geldof was announced, and Liam Gallagher hid there after his split from Patsy Kensit – who had spent her wedding night with her first husband, the Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr, at the hotel.
Liza Minnelli, Geri Halliwell and Monica Lewinsky all lived in the hotel for a period of time. (Halliwell apparently demanded an exercise bike for her suite, which she mainly used to hang her clothes over.) The Halcyon was also the interview location of choice for celebrities such as Robert de Niro, John Cleese, Naomi Campbell and Yoko Ono. Oasis used one of the bedrooms for the photo shoot for the cover of their 1994 single Cigarettes and Alcohol
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All of that's true but wow there was a whole lot more. I'll get to that over time, but for now let me tell you about Richard Harris. You'll recognise him from heaps of movies like Gladiator, A Man Called Horse and Harry Potter (the first Dumbledore). Harris lived a hard drinking life and was well on the turps when he stayed at The Halcyon, I notice his Wikipedia page says he stayed at The Savoy when in London, I can tell you that's not true, he lived at The Halcyon, I know this because the memory of it is etched into my brain.

"Tell the fucking chef I want fried eggs, fried bacon, fried mushrooms, fried liver and tomato and I don't give a flying fuck if it is lunchtime, that's what I want"

To my head chefs credit when told of this he simply replied, "Tell him to fuck off" .... he ordered from the menu. The problem was that Harris's liver was pretty much shot from hard nights on the town with Oliver Reed and the staff where under strict instructions (at the request of his wife) not to let him eat bad food whilst he was there. So we often won the fight.

I had only been cooking there for about a month when I was informed that tomorrow would be my first breakfast shift on my lonesome. This meant dragging my sorry butt through the ice cold streets of North Kensington at 5am, where I lived, to Holland Park in order to prep for service. The room service waiters looked after the continental brekkies, I just had to deal with the hot stuff.

All was going well, poached eggs here, eggs benedict there, when one of the waiters came in with a VIP docket. "This ones for Richard Harris" I grabbed the piece of paper he was shoving at me and began to read it. 1 bowl of porridge, a fresh vanilla yoghurt and 1 banana. Now I'm just a guy from a small place in Western Australia called Perth that's been struggling to get a population level over a million for a long time now, London had what? 40 million or something? So cooking for celebs was exciting. I mean Perth's claim to celeb fame back then was Rolf Harris....yep. So I figured cooking breakfast for Richard Harris was quite a notch in my cooks belt.

Easy order to fill as well, took me no time at all, I plated it, called over a waiter and told him to rush this one up "VIP you see" Off it went and back to the omelettes and toast I went. A few minutes passed and then it all happened. Simultaneously the kitchen phone rang and the waiter I had sent up to give Harris his order re appeared in front of me with a look of terror on his face and in his hands a bowl of porridge which now had a container of yoghurt jammed into it and a banana sticking unceremoniously out of it.

I looked wide eyed at the waiter trying to figure out the concoction in his hands whilst bringing the phone to my ear

"Kitchen, can I help you?"

"Is that the fucking kitchen?"

"Yes it is"

Screaming "Well you can tell whoever it was that cooked my fucking porridge that I don't eat fucking porridge that is cooked with water I want full fucking cream fucking milk in it got it? MILK FUCKING MILK"

Suddenly it all started to come together, the waiter is holding Richard Harris's breakfast in his hand and this is Richard Harris screaming at me down the phone.

"Um...er...yes sir...I'll um" CLICK...thank god...he hung up on me.

All I could think was that my career as a chef in London was now over, I had followed the instructions left me by my head chef perfectly "Make sure you cook Richard Harris's porridge with water if he orders it, his wife said no milk, got it, no milk" So I did, but whoa, I sure didn't expect that kind of reaction to my cooking.

Within minutes the rest of the chefs started rolling in for the lunch shift and one by one they all heard what had happened and one by one they all mercilessly took the piss out of me.

"Welcome to London mate, welcome to London"

Good times


Comments

tiff said…
i'm hooked! Looking forward to the next installment.
Stu said…
oh no the pressures on :)

I'm sure I have more locked away in the vault
Anonymous said…
You cannot leave it at that, more please or your xmas dinner will be a bowl of porridge.
Mum
Stu said…
aaargghhh a fate worse than death, I will add more..... soon
Waz said…
I too am waiting...

:)