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Dish of the Day: Times gone by

Dan Doherty

ollesvensson Dish of the Day: Times gone by Last week I was sent an article from The Telegraph, speaking of an upcoming book by an ex-chef who tells stories of how life in the kitchen supposedly really is, how chefs are hard-core messiahs who tolerate abuse like no others, who lose an arm during battle and carry on cooking, having cauterised themselves on the plancha so as to not drip blood on their venison wellington. Ok, maybe I egged that up a bit, but I cannot believe how such a worthless book ever made it to print. I’m speaking of Simon Wroe’s debut novel ‘Chop chop’, hopefully his first and last.

The problems I have with this are two fold. Firstly, Anthony Bourdain, whether you love or loathe him, pretty much covered all of that in his cult hit Kitchen Confidential, and, whilst some stories in the book may have been exaggerated slightly, it’s a great read that I don’t believe will be bettered. Even my dad loved it, despite at the time of reading almost having a stroke at the thought of his then 16-year-old son living in London alone among drugs and whatnot in a kitchen, but, safe to say I survived unscathed. Not only because I am strong willed but a) it wasn’t like that and b) even if it was, there were enough good people looking out for me that even if I did get involved, my mates would have given me a good kicking. I’m looking at you Mark Fry, Michael Paul, Tom Cenci etc.

The main problem is some chefs, in fact most chefs I know, have all been working very hard to lose this stigma that our wonderful industry unfortunately has. I don’t bully my chefs, I don’t hit them (most are bigger than me anyway) and there are no 22 hour days where the chef won’t let you go home until there are no creases in your cling film. We do have time where we can sit down and eat a meal and I’m sure my fellow chefs are the same. Anyone is welcome to come spend time in my kitchen, hell, even if you eat in the restaurant you’ll see that my guys are happy, they are fresh and definitely not exhausted, and no doubt you’ll see smiles all round.

I’ve got nothing to hide, and I know the industry has come on leaps and bounds, but an article like this, based on jacked up stories from 20 years ago, does nothing to help make people want to work as a chef, or front of house for that matter. We are already struggling to attract young people to work in hospitality, but things are slowly going in the right direction. It’s no longer seen as the go-to job for those with no qualifications or any real direction in life. Chefs are proud to be chefs, and rightly so.

All of that probably makes for poor reading though, so I guess poor Simon had no choice but to cling to times gone by, but, while there are always going to be idiots in every industry, I’m proud to say it’s all a load of bull. And if you do find any egotistical losers bulling people, do give them a slap, they deserve it. I’m not just talking about chefs either.

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  • Nick_Tamair

    BouRdain; CAUterised. My spelling’s great, but my cooking’s unremarkable.


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