Saturday, 26 August 2006

Two Days That Shocked My World

Open-plan food preparation in Zuma, KnightsbridgeI spent yesterday working in Zuma, Rainer Becker's highly trendy contemporary Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge. Although Zuma is considered a little downmarket of Michelin-starred Nobu and Umu, it was highly recommended to me by a friend who has dined there and it attracts a clientle ranging from City yuppies to visiting Heads of State.

I loved every minute of my experience on a one-day "trial shift" in Zuma and if I get a chance I will certainly return. Unfortunately I have to be back in college full-time in two weeks, otherwise I would have been delighted to accept their very kind offer of regular work for the coming months.

The atmosphere at Zuma was buzzing to say the least, with quite a spectacular open plan kitchen allowing customers to sit at arms length from the chefs while admiring their technical skills. The friendly and relaxed style of izakaya was inspiring, ranging from simple presentation of fresh cooked beef from the robata grill to incredibly ornately arranged desserts.

The specialist sushi chefs could be seen preparing wonderfully fresh fish, using dazzling knife skills. It must be difficult for the chefs to concentrate in this open plan environment when someone like Claudia Schiffer is dining a few feet away in full view. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Now I can reveal that I had a very different experience earlier in the month. I was taken on for paid work in the West End kitchens of a Master Chef who consistently ranks in the world's top 20 and who has been honoured over the years with several Michelin stars. It was a very exciting proposition... but working there proved to be a very different story.

How some restaurants treat their commis chefsWith a few very honourable exceptions, the senior staff were unpleasant and rude. The cooking was, in my opinion, mediocre at best. This was not surprising as the place was staffed by a very odd combination of non-communicative professionals and incompetent casual amateurs, working shift rotas more appropriate to a Roman slave galley than a modern restaurant. The standards of hygiene would have had the place closed down were a health inspector to call unannounced and the interior decor and music would even have embarrassed my parents thirty years ago. I quit after my first day.

So - not a great deal of professional work this summer but experiences that will stay with me for a lifetime. Two wonderful weeks at Providores. One great day at Zuma. And a day to forget. Now I'll spend some time cooking for friends and family before college beckons in a fortnight's time.

Não havia muito trabalho profissional este verão, mas experiências que permanecerão com mim para uma vida. Duas semanas maravilhosas em Providores. Um dia grande em Zuma. E um dia a esquecer-se. Agora eu cozinharei para amigos e família. O termo novo da faculdade começa em duas semanas.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I bet it was Marcos place Criterion in
Piccadilly.

Johnboy said...

Yeah I bet it was m8, Marco puts his name on those restaurants but has very little to do with them any more, just a little money spinner for him.

BrianG said...

Still what a legend Marco was, he was a hero in his day.

Trig said...

I'm afraid you are all wrong. It was a restaurant owned by a chef still universally ranked amongst the world's top 10, so that excludes The Great White.

Pastryqueen139 said...

Oh yeah Marco was, correction, is the best chef ever to cook in Britain. If it wasn't for Marco we wouldn't have the Blumemthal's or the Ramsay's fuck me the man reinvented modern cuisine and we need to be thankful for that.

Johnboy said...

Oh yeah m8 Marco inspired a whole generation he was the cook of the 90's the man was a food obsessesed God. Marco brought the lightness of restaurant dishes into such popularity. We wouldnt have micro greens and light mousses, if it wasnt for Marco.

Have you read white slave?

If you haven't buy it today and get an education. I recommend it every chef starting outside. It is an insight into the majority of smaller kitchens are run in England.

Pastryqueen139 said...

Sorry Johnboy "starting outside"? where do you cook? Prison?

Lol

Tasha<3 said...

Hi Trig
Sounds like Gordon Ramsey to me. I've watched loads of hells kitchen, if theres one horrible kitchen like that in London it's probably his.

Did you see the one with Katie Price?

Johnboy said...

Bet it was Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester!

Trig said...

I've kept it secret for over three years and I'm certainly not going to name and shame now, but I can tell you that you're all wrong.

Johnboy said...

That only leaves Joel Robuchon, @ Atelier. He is the only chef in London that could be considered in the top ten who we haven't already mentioned.

Trig said...

The proprietor is listed in the San Pellegrino world top 10, never mind London top 10. There are simply loads of chefs at the top level who have not been mentioned yet.

Johnboy said...

Ha Ha, so that leaves Pierre Gagnaire at Sketch!!

We cracked it guys well done!

To be honest I don't blame you, its overpriced unorganised rubbish at sketch. The service staff ar arrogant and unhelpful and the food is uninspired. So you actually saved yourself time by realising on day one that it was Pish.

I'm just glad that we worked it out because it was bugging me.

Where are you now anyway Trig??

Johnboy said...

Lol and I don't cook in prison either.

I've just finished as a stagiaire at TFL thankyou very much.

Trig said...

I couldn't possibly comment Johnboy... other than to say that I'm impressed with your deductive powers as well as the stage at TFL. That said, I once had a stagiere on my section who came armed with a CV that included working at TFL alongside the great GA many years ago, but who survived just one and a half shifts before he was sacked/walked away.

Trig said...

Forgot to add - in London, TFL runs the public transport services (Transport for London). I'm in Euskadi right now.

Johnboy said...

Euskadi in France?

Trig said...

Euskadi

Johnboy said...

Who was that guy anyway who had been to TFL I might know him.

Heres a question for ya, If you were to be offered the job as a food critic for a well known newspaper, would you take it or would you carry on with your cooking in the fine dining restaurants?

Trig said...

Sorry, but it would be completely wrong for me to name the man. As for your other question - I've only ever wanted to be a chef and restaurateur. Writing can be fun (or not, as per my brief experience writing for The Guardian) but it's never been something I'd want to do for a living, thanks.


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