Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Taking A Break

One Saturday morning when I was just 15 years old, I got dressed, grabbed a quick breakfast and set out to catch a bus from Hackney up Blackhorse Road to Waltham Forest College.
I was understandably apprehensive that morning. I was heading somewhere new, meeting a bunch of people for the first time and about to realise a dream I'd had since I first helped mum to make cupcakes as an eight-year-old. Months later, in the spring of 2004, I returned to Waltham Forest for the final time, to proudly collect my Junior Chef's Academy certificate. From that moment I knew that I was never going to look back. I would become a professional chef.My Junior Chef's Academy certificate
Of course I couldn't realise that ambition overnight. For the next few months I had to put all thoughts of cooking aside and concentrate on my GCSEs. That was a condition laid down by my parents for allowing me to go to catering college and, as it turned out, it was also a demand of the college.
Parents' Day at Westminster KingswayWestminster Kingsway took no prisoners when it came to the battle for achievement. Those three years were mercilessly hard at times, but that merely served as a foretaste of the pain that was to come later as a hospitality professional. It's not an easy industry in which to excel. At least we were well prepared, with great work experience postings and a "realistic working environment" restaurant open to the public. In summer 2007, I collected my Professional Chef Diploma.
During my second year summer break I had discovered the fun of writing something about what I was doing and this blog was born. In those days I had buckets of spare time - enough to research and write, to document and record, to video and share my thoughts and experiences with the wider world. For a while I even managed to knock out a few pieces for a national newspaper.
But my focus was always on my career and during my third year I spent a lot of my spare time researching the world of fine dining. I concluded that Spain was the place to be and found a restaurant that looked just perfect. Back then I was as cynical about the awards system as I am today, but that feeling of being part of kitchen team winning its first Michelin star was something I'll never forget as long as I live. Being part of that crew at Comerç 24 taught me so much about teamwork and I'm so proud to count many in that kitchen today as life-long friends.Winning a Michelin star
If Comerç gave me a solid foundation, Martín Beresategui's Lasarte gave me a taste of cooking at the next level of refinement. And that prepared me for Ferrero, where I learnt such a massive amount about self-discipline, professional organisation and perfection of execution. I may have had a few difficult moments during my time there, but I'll always credit Paco Morales as the man who showed me how a restaurant should be run.
Working at Viajante with Nuno MendesViajante was never part of my career plans but was always destined by the Gods to happen, like an adventure of Jason and the Argonauts. Bacchus was my last fine dining experience before I set off for Spain and I already knew by then that Nuno Mendes, working just a few hundred yards from my London home, was one of Britain's most creative chefs. And when I returned to London, Nuno was preparing to open Viajante down the road in Bethnal Green.
Very few restaurateurs get an opportunity to work through the agonies and ecstasies of the birth of a serious fine dining restaurant before they open their own establishment. I'm sure that in future years I'll count this as one of the most valuable learning experiences of my career. And it reinforced what I always knew - that there are very few chefs in this country with the creative brilliance of Nuno Mendes.
It's been six and a half years since I made that first bus trip to Waltham Forest. Six and a half years during which I've emerged both as a chef and as a person... and it's time to take a break. My passion to become a chef and restaurateur hasn't diminished one iota, but lately I've come to understand that there are some things in my life of even greater importance than my career. Working 17-hour double shifts and then collapsing in bed at half one in the morning is a guaranteed way to lose those precious gifts and that's not a mistake that I intend to make. Last week I handed in my notice and Sunday was my last shift at Viajante. I wish Nuno and the crew the best of luck with a venture that, if all goes well, will surely become one of London's most respected places to dine.Jocelin and me
For the time being, this will be my last blog post. It was becoming increasingly difficult in any event, as regular readers will have noticed. Lack of time is one factor, but it's also the case that at this stage of a career it's almost impossible to write about your activities. You can't criticise your employers because that undermines your own position and you can't praise them without being thought biased. So with that in mind, I'm taking a break - from fine dining and from blogging - to do something different for a while.

I'll keep the blog open, because I know from my email that many young people starting out in the business come here and read about my experiences. I can be contacted via the email link if you click on contact above. Friends can search me out on Facebook as Aidan 'Trig' Brooks and keep in contact that way. All that remains for me to say is - in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger - "I'll be back."

34 comments:

Brian said...

Very surprising. Still haven't seen any pics of the food at Viajante.

Best of luck with whatever comes next.

Trig said...

If you link up on my Facebook page (Aidan 'Trig' Brooks) you will find plenty of photos. Some are mine, some taken commercially and some by other bloggers.

James said...

Er. Oh. Well that was a quick stint. A break to reassess is always good.

Su-Lin said...

:( Sad to hear about the break but I understand. Hope all is and will go well for you. Good luck!

Chennette said...

good luck with whatever comes next Trig...Sometimes a break is for the very best - I took a year from my planned path when I did the Masters (and spent all my meagre money) in Edinburgh, and it bore greater results than I ever expected. Of course, now I am contemplating another such major break...
I wish you all the best for yours.

The Boston Foodie said...

Say it ain't so!I understand the break tho.

Helen said...

Oh my goodness it's the end of an era! Best of luck though, whatever it is you have planned.

Trig said...

Thank you all.

Niamh said...

Best of luck Aidan. I think you've been very wise. You've also gathered enough experience and skill to take a break without damaging any future prospects.

I will miss your blog though. I am pleased you are keeping it open.

See you on facebook! :)

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Oh my word! We were just talking about you last night, wondering whether you were still at Viajante... The British foodie blogosphere will be poorer for not having you in it - but I will seek you out on FB. Best of luck for your plans, whatever they may be.

Pete said...

Wow, didn't see that one coming...and I didn't make it to Viajante while you were there. I guess there's a certain amount of reading between the lines to be done here. Good luck and enjoy the break.

Douglas Blyde said...

As I said, I really enjoyed the trio of dishes you worked on at Viajante.

I am glad you will keep this magnificent, lucid blog open and sincerely hope you feel able to come back and update it.

I wish you every success in your foodie future.

Trig said...

Thanks for your support guys. No - there's not much to read between the lines.

If history recycled and I had the opportunity again to come and work with Nuno opening Viajante, I'd make the same decision again. It was a great opportunity that I wouldn't have missed and I've parted on the best of terms.

My leaving shouldn't put anyone off going to Bethnal Green and enjoying Nuno's amazing food. I simply wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend while she's still in London and just couldn't manage that while working the long hours that a senior job in a top restaurant demands.

I'm not planning to leave the food industry and should have some interesting news soon.

Richard said...

I'll miss your posts, Trig, but wish you well in whatever you decided to go on and do - I'm sure it will be a success.

Nicisme said...

Good luck with everything Aidan, hope you return to blogging in the future. I always enjoy reading your posts, and wish you all the best.

neil said...

I'm lucky enough to work at michelin level now and have my weekends free. This really means the world to me as I get to see so many friends that I was starting to loose touch with. Unfortunately I'm half asleep when I see them but you know the score.

I think we all need to be careful that life doesn't pass us buy without us noticing, cause after all it's only food right ?

Good luck whatever

neil

eatinqueens said...

I wish you all the best for yours.

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Hmmn, I don't think you'll be able to stay away for too long. I'm a fairly unreliable blogger myself but always find myself coming back - and why not, I love food. You have the added advantage that you can actually cook, so we enjoy reading about it!

S Lloyd said...

We all need a break. Take that time to relax.

Cooking Fairy said...

Really enjoyed reading your blog Aidan! good luck with your future exploits! as you said- sure we wont see the last of you!!

Michael said...

I like your Blog and your posts are very informative. Very inspiring. I’ve recently set up a Blog about cooking and was looking around for inspiration and came across this page and I have to say I’m impressed with your dedication and hope that mine can reach this level someday. Congratulations
If you would like to check out my Blog and give me some pointers I would be very appreciative.
http://howtocookanegg.blogspot.com/
Thanks

tschoerda said...

hey thanks, you really were an inspiration for me over the years (YEARS, MAN!) and i am sure you will find happyness in whatever comes next in your life!

all the best!!

Neilesh Patel – Loving the Food Industry! said...

I enjoyed some of these posts, thanks for writing. I will share them with my colleagues. Is it ok if we include some of your posts in our newsletter? We will link to your site, of course. :) I think our audience would enjoy these tidbits from time to time – they are all food and beverage industry professionals. You can email me at the address I provided.

Neilesh
neilesh@myfoodrecruiter.com

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Oh my benefits it's the end of an era! Best of success though, whatever it is you have thought out.
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Cp Bags said...

I don't think you'll be able to remain away for very lengthy. I'm a pretty not reliable writer myself but always discover myself arriving back again again - and why not, I really like meals. You have the power that you can actually prepare, so we appreciate examining about it!
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Noel said...

What a shame that you are so busy. Its still work blogging and writing. It may turn into a book later on who knows?

Mills said...

I have been following your site for some time. I really love it.

Juicer said...

Best to you. Go get 'em.

Fine Dining Restaurant said...

i've seen the pictures at Aidan trig brooks fan page, and i really love the most of them. However, six and half years is a lot of time but i still wish you to grow more in coming years.

~Aansy Stone

sewa elf said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Broad Paul said...

I'm probably being a snob about this considering how misty eyed I get thinking about the Eiffel Tower but, much as I admire it's execution, I'm not terribly fond of its presence. student accommodation london

Alex Dumpfree said...

I really love the most of them. I'm a pretty not reliable writer myself but always discover myself arriving back again again - and why not, I really like meals.

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