When I worked in a pro kitchen many moons ago I felt oddly at home. I had an enormous feeling of warmth, snugness and contentment but it was the most stressful environment I have ever been in……ever! How can that be? How can you feel that you are in the right place at the right time yet feel completely freaked out….I still don’t get it.
I worked in a sea-side town in the North of Ireland and I would arrive at work at 9.00am and leave at 12 midnight – that’s a 15 hour shift 7 days per week covering brunch, lunch and dinner service…mental! But I loved that friggin’ kitchen!
I was skint, wages ostensibly ended up in a jar behind the restaurant bar save for a few quid going on rent in the digs I shared with 3 other ‘lost boys’. The kitchen I worked in represented all of the base elements a human being required to survive – heat, food and shelter and I suppose that’s why the stress of a pro kitchen never really crushed me. I could eat like a king, work in a vest and stay dry…so what if my fore arms were stung with oven burns or I was drowning under order dockets night after night after night. I was physically healthy, mentally…..well I dunno about that, I didn’t kill anyone so I suppose that angle was covered…I did get naked a lot in that kitchen though………
This is when my love affair with ‘The Kitchen’ began. The Kitchen began to take on something of a maternal focus for me – ( it did help that my Head Chef was a drop dead gorgeous woman with a jet black flat top hair cut who would wear nothing under her chef whites). The kitchen provided, it nurtured, it fascinated but it was ruthless and stern it could provide and take away in the same breath..I could curl up in a kitchen and sleep like a baby, in fact I have on several occasions.
The Kitchen also provides a buffer to reality. Chefs exist, only really exist when they are working in a confined space with other chefs, the real world on the other side of the Pass doesn’t figure, in fact ‘we’ don’t want it to figure ‘we’re’ very happy in our culinary maelstrom thanks very much.
The kitchen I inhabit these days is a much simpler place but it still provides all of the base requirements – warmth, food, shelter……along with table tennis and skate boards….I cook in this kitchen and if I could I probably would sleep in it……maybe…..:)