Memories from Claridges kitchen

As a chef, I spend a large portion of my day, chopping, slicing and dicing. Luckily I love what I do, but I still have the occasional flashback to my tough early days working in the professional kitchens at Claridges – a five star London hotel where Gordon Ramsay cooked and other great chefs have also served their time.
Working in a kitchen is hot, fast paced and adrenaline fuelled. The morning starts with hours of preparation. I was once asked to ‘turn’ a bucket of carrots. (A turned carrot if you are unsure, is cut to form a barrel shape that is identical in size to others on the plate – thus ensuring even cooking time, whist being pleasing to the eye!) The bucket took me most of the morning to prep, a true labour of love. However, when the head chef inspected my hard work, I was rewarded not with praise, but the entire contents of the bucket being discarded. My carrots weren’t perfect and literally didn’t make the cut. 5* means 5* and my work was second rate. It was a tough lesson to learn.
Once ‘service’ begins, the pace picks up, noise levels rise, the heat from the kitchen increases and although working as a team, each chef is 100% focussed on their individual task. As the end of the mealtime draws near, orders reduce from a torrent to a trickle and eventually dry up. Leaving everyone exhausted from the pent up emotion and physical demands of the day. But there’s still work to do. The smell of vinegar used to scrub down surfaces is one I will never be able to erase. I also remember the relief of coming outside into the fresh air – a life beyond screaming orders, steam, and intense heat. Pay was poor, the work was tough but the experience gleaned was invaluable. I used ingredients I’d never tasted before and learnt how to make incredible dishes that I continue to make to this day.
30 years on I still love cooking and have built on everything I learnt in my early career, although I have never turned a vegetable since!

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