Chef Life #1

I’ve been in hospo since I was 14 years old, working for $4.50 an hour cash on weekends. Eventually I was offered a promotion to night shifts at $8 an hour – exciting shit for money hungry school kid in 2003.

As a teenager I spent my Friday and Saturday evenings waiting on tables, a foreshadow of what most of my adult life would entail.

I ragequit that job when at 16 my employers wouldn’t let me be the weekend maitre d because I was “too young”. I thought I was more than capable. I wrote my bosses an angry letter, and despite them being lovely enough to call to my mother to say they understood why I was upset and they would love to have me back, I felt scorned and was stubborn a little asshole.

I left high school early to work full time, mostly so I could leave home because I was and still am fiercely independent and/or a touch overconfident. Since then my only breaks from the industry have been for small but frequent bouts of travel, a journalism diploma, and a brief stint of unemployment.

The journalism diploma (which I never ended up using unless you count 2 – 3 blogs, all failing due to lack of interest both from readers and myself) had me move to Wellington, where I worked on and off in various capacities at a restaurant called Trade Kitchen. The owner/boss, Olly Edwards, was an inspiration. His background was predominantly cheffing however at TK he was front of house, and he was damn good at it. I admired that he was able to assume the role of head chef when needed, but was a professional, charming, intelligent leader of the floor team. I decided that if I was ever to open my own restaurant, I would need to train in the kitchen so I could be called upon to do anything the business needed and to be able to direct kitchen staff with first hand experience behind me.

In late 2011 I moved back to my hometown of Napier, and after a couple of shitty jobs I found myself working my way up the ladder quite quickly at a popular local restaurant. I had been thinking about doing a chef’s course but my job had momentum and I was learning so much that I decided to stick with it and forget study for the time being.

Four years later, still at the same restaurant, and after 10+ years as a waiter and manager, I’m ready for a change. Owning a restaurant isn’t in my sights right now but I’ve started this FEED lark, and what better source of material than a fish out of water slicing her fingers, crying over onions, and burning herself on the oven?

I am lucky to work with a head chef in the form of Hayden Esau, also a member of team FEED, who is game/dumb enough to let me in his kitchen for the purposes of a blog. I am also lucky that my bosses were happy to go along with the ride.

This week is my last as a restaurant manager and though I am under no illusions that these will be my final shifts as a waiter, I will be celebrating this change with enthusiasm, alcohol, and a blatant disregard for my impending pay cut.

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