“Do I look like a cunt?”
Head chefs can be bad tempered bastards with a prima donna streak a mile wide.
Bernie was no exception.
“Err No.” I reply.
“Well then don’t insult me with piss-poor presentation. If Salmon was meant to have that much fuckin’ dill on it we’d call it dill with fuckin’ salmon wouldn’t we?”
As first words on a new job go, they take top prize. Bernie then aims a swift slap to the back of my head – aren’t there laws against this sort of thing? – and he moves along to rain down abuse on the other poor foodies in line. For we are foodies, foodies are we. Otherwise known as kitchen hands or assistant chefs depending on the day and the rate of pay. At least these titles afford us a modicum of respect unlike the dishwashers who are referred to as dish pigs. Oink oink.
I stand in front of a slow moving latex conveyor belt – the latex is for hygiene rather than fetish reasons – and have roughly fifteen seconds in which to assemble the ingredients from a row of stainless steel pots. The plate then passes into the next foodie’s realm and is not my problem anymore. I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. I’m in the culinary bowels of a gargantuan casino that shall remain nameless. It’s so immense you could walk the corridors for weeks and still come across restaurants and gambling dens you were unacquainted with. The place has its own climate and vibrates softly through the plush wall to wall carpet. I feel like I’m on a starship with a five year mission to explore distant planets and introduce the finer points of modern cuisine to whomever we find living there. Todays planet wants salmon with dill starters for one thousand five hundred bipedal lifeforms and this is what I’m busy doing when a band begins to sound-check out in the banquet hall. This is a nothing short of a personal insult. What the hell am I doing stuck in here when I should be out there with a guitar strapped to me?
The whole “let’s do a modern George Orwell thing” suddenly strikes me as a badly thought out, poorly executed idea that’s going exactly to plan. The band massacre a Cyndi Lauper song then dismantle Van Halen with aplomb. Fantastic! They’re an 8Os covers band. Existential crisis averted; I hate 80s covers bands. I’d rather be putting dill on salmon.
Another half hour of this and I’m pulled off foodie duty, given a change of uniform and catapulted into a banquet hall the size of Switzerland. The corridors running alongside have been turned into long food factories where chefs sear, braise and stew for a congregation of ravenous souls on their annual outing. We – the waiters – have to serve the 50/50 split menu to the guests before they consume too much alcohol; that was actually the brief given to us. What is a 50/50 split menu you ask ? It’s a cunning way the catering industry has contrived to reduce the amount of waste by only offering two choices, usually one beef, one chicken. The guest doesn’t even get to state a preference and has a plate of food put in front of them. If they don’t want what they’ve got they have to swap with someone else at the table. I find this weird but apparently it’s the norm here. As the entrées are served the band play “Karma chameleon” badly and segue flawlessly into hopeless renditions of hopeless songs, but then that was the eighties for you. I am surely being punished for something I unwittingly did in my youth.
The next two hours blur into a feeding frenzy on a truly industrial scale leaving the kitchen looking like the aftermath of a battle you just want to walk away from or let the grass grow over. They’ll surely have to bring in the army for this clean up operation. Personally I’d just burn the place down and start again. Over the next hour I bin eighty steaks and 100s of chicken breasts that were cooked but not consumed. My part in criminal food wastage now over I’m hiding round the back of the Kosher house right in the middle of kitchen. One door in, one door out with a Rabi on guard duty. It’s probably 35 degrees and here he is in full costume; furry doughnut hat, the works. So here I am, having a breather, burning my tongue on an illicit coffee, ignoring the warning that last month someone got the sack for eating a single chocolate, when who should walk round the corner but Head chef Bernie.
I am definitely not kosher.
I thought he’d have run out of cunts by now but it would seem he has an unlimited supply.