Saturday, 9 December 2006

Farewell Boxwood

My workplace for the past five weeks
The Berkeley Hotel, Knightsbridge
Doesn't time fly when you're enjoying yourself?

It only seems like yesterday that I rolled up at 7.45 a.m. at the Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge to begin my work experience placement at Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café.

Five weeks of getting up at 6 o'clock every morning, crossing London from the inner East End to the outer West End, eight hours of work in the kitchens followed by the long schlepp back home. And now it's all over.
I've been feeling a bit guilty about the relative lack of food postings recently. The truth is that after a full day in a professional kitchen it's hard to summon up the energy to cook anything worthy of a food blog. Don't get me wrong - I haven't been visiting Kansas Fried Gristle or anything like that. But I have been cooking some pretty boring meals of an evening recently - not the sort of thing my fellow food bloggers would be excited by. Now I'm heading back at college, with Christmas to plan and look forward to, so I'm sure that will change.

Before I started my work experience I made no secret of being somewhat disappointed. My culinary interests lie in global fusion - integrating the best of the world's produce, drawing on the best cooking techniques of both modern and traditional chefs and creating the dining experiences of the future on this ever-shrinking planet. So working in the culinary mainstream of anglicised modern European cuisine was never going to hold much excitement for me.
A large part of the exercise was, of course, to understand and cope with the daily demands of the real world of work - to turn up on time, follow orders and maintain an even keel.

Judging from the enquiries as to my availability at Christmas and on completion of my Diploma next year, I think I've got a tick in the box on that account.

And I've learnt a few things, the main factor being the ability to maintain quality while working on a much larger scale than I'm used to.
Preparing rosemary and thyme at Boxwood Café
I've finished preparing the parsley and sage...

I've taken a few ideas with me, which is essentially what I intend to do at each restaurant I work in. I'll be able take influence from my travels around Europe and hopefully Asia and Australasia at some point. I had a little look at Boxwood's a lá carte menu earlier and realised that during my time with them I've worked on just about every dish on the menu, from killing the crabs for the bisque to making up huge mixes of banana sticky toffee pudding.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with cooking pumpkin ravioli with a balsamic reduction, goat's cheese and soft herbs followed by confit leg of duck with pan-fried wild mushrooms and celeriac puree. Nothing, of course, except that hundreds of other restaurants are cooking the same meal.

In a highly competitive marketplace, if diners didn't want to eat this food they would soon vote with their feet. So it's no criticism of my erstwhile employers. It's just that I want to cook food that can't easily be found elsewhere. Maybe it's an idealistic dream but, what the hell, I'm 19 years old and entitled to be an idealist!
A beautiful meat salad from Peter Gordon's: 'Salads: The New Main Course'
Peter Gordon's lamb loin salad I made for a recent party
Next year I shall be packing my bags and heading off to the place that we British, despite 33 years of EU membership, still call "Europe" (as in the famous "Times" headline: "Fog In Channel - Europe Cut Off!").

I intend to work my way across from Portugal, through Spain and France to Italy, with a good dollop of Mediterranean sun, sea and sangria en route. After that - who knows? Probably South East Asia and Australia.

The offer of work in London SW1 is one that I am genuinely honoured to have received, even though I must politely decline.

Perhaps one day I'll be offered the opportunity to run my own restaurant in Knightsbridge and present my own menu. And then, maybe, I'll be delighted to accept.

Ao fim do meu trabalho em Boxwood Café, vou ter saudades deles. Aprendei algumas coisas importantes. Eles perguntaram-me se posso trabalho lá permanentemente, mas tenho plantas de começar trabalho em Portugal e depois, viajar em Europa.

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