What to write about? Sponsored by Heineken.

Hello people, I’m back. Back by popular demand (well, back by a combination of boredom now that I’m on holiday and one of my mates convincing me while I was drunk that this blog might get me laid one day). “Where have you been, what have you been doing, why have you left us for so long, never leave us again, how could you you bastard, and that copy of Dire Straits Love Over Gold belonged to me and I want it back you heartless wench!” I hear you cry. Or that could have just been a flash back to the last time I saw my ex in the pub (she was the bastard by the way)

Please understand that I am in no way comparing myself to a writer. But I have been suffering from what I can only describe as writer’s block.

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Or it could be laziness. But for now, lets go with writers block. I am fairly uncomfortable describing my predicament as writers block…as that would imply that I am a writer. And that would be an insult to writers…indeed that would be more like a slap across the face to writers everywhere. It would be an insult to a 15 year old GCSE English lit student….and probably a slap across the face to them as well. But let’s not speak of slapping teenagers, even though on occasion we would all love to. 

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The fact of the matter is that I haven’t had a clue what to write about over the last few months. I have also, in my defence, been a bit busy working. I’m on a new yacht now you see. No more swanning around the South Pacific doing the odd 10 day charter punctuated by periods of over a month where I could finish at 4, walk 20 yards to the pub and watch the sunset over a nice big cocktail with an umbrella in it while writing this blog.
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Gone are those days. Now I have to actually graft for a living.
 I’m sorry, I couldn’t keep a straight face while writing that last sentence. I’m not sure their is a job in yachting that you could really and with conviction say that it is extremely hard work. Yes we work hard, but look at where we work and how much we get paid and all the perks. Compare that to a chef in a busy michelin star kitchen or a hotel employee doing beds and heads in a 500 room hotel or the guys and girls keeping a cruise ship clean and tidy and it really puts it into perspective
I mean I am now doing 4 to 6 week long trips with my owners on board which gives me no time to sit about trying to write this crap. I’m not complaining, as I love the new job, fantastic owners and a truly awesome crew. I’m just very busy now, that’s all.
But now I have a few weeks off and can sit down and think about writing again, I haven’t the foggiest what to write about.
Occasionally I will have an idea, a blinding flash of inspiration, and quickly whip out the old iPad, open notes and jot it down. But that hasn’t really ever grown into anything substantial enough to blog about. And also, often it will be on some very random topic that has nothing to do with my blog’s subject matter (foody travel ramblings) and so wouldn’t really fit in with the rest of it. I can’t go from chatting about yacht charters, owners and food trips to Japan to a random blog about how rubbish the Villa are at the moment and how if they go down this season I will probably not care that much as I’m not a crazy football person but that for the sake of making the blog a bit more dramatic I would have to shave my head, paint it claret and blue, then travel to the States and hunt down Randy Lerner. No, that wouldn’t do at all. I would instantly lose my key demographic, the 40 something American stay at home hockey Mom. Or is it the Japanese hard working salary man, or the Ecuadorian lama herder or maybe the North Korean dictator? I can’t really tell. There is a function provided by this blogs host whereby the writer can see how many people have read (or accidentally come across and then immediately left again without reading) the blog on any given day and in what country they were reading it. People have read this blog from every continent on Earth and from some extremely random Places. Nepal, Guatemala, Gabon and Dudley to name but a few. So I have no idea what my demographic or typical reader is. Housewife, quinoa farmer, yachty, bullfighter…who knows?
Here is an example of a random note I wrote after seeing the latest Bond movie Skyfall. I felt very passionately that I had something to say and that people needed to hear it. So upon leaving the cinema, I marched to the nearest pub, opened up the iPad and wrote this:
 
I know my blog is no great shakes but wouldn’t it be even worse if I was to incorporate product placement into it? As I sit here in the Tokyo Intercontinental having just enjoyed another earth shatteringly good meal, I can only think what would be the perfect way to end a perfect day. Mmm, yes, a nice cold Heineken beer. When I visit Japan I always relax with a tasty Heineken. “Sake with your sashimi sir?” “Pah, cats piss! How dare you!? Pass me one of those Heineken bad boys my good man and make it snappy.” 
And then, after I’ve relaxed with my tasty Heineken beer, I like to go to my hotel room and have a nice refreshing Heineken shower. Long gone are the days when I used to use water to shower in. No, for me it’s Heineken all the way, a nice long, golden, Heineken shower. Mmm, yes, yummy Heineken, the best way to relax after your secure headquarters has just been targeted by international terrorists and your former work colleagues and close friends have just been blown to smithereens by a remotely detonated gas explosion. Yes…pass me a cold one M. 
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I just came out of Skyfall the latest Bond movie. Now I am a Bond fan, a huge Bond fan and I thought that it was a great movie. But a great movie ruined by product placement…..
Etc, etc, bla, bla, bla.
 
You see, some geeky Bond enthusiast needs to blog about that guff, not me. I can’t just go off on random rants about stuff. And had I published that and unleashed it on the world, it’s guaranteed that I would have incurred the wrath of every Bond nutcase out there. Probably the scene references were incorrect or they would point out that Heineken have been associated with Bond sine 1998. I could care less.
 
So my point, really badly made once again is that I have found it difficult to find subject matter to write about in my chosen genre of blog. I can’t really write anymore about my current boat as I now work within a large crew, some of whom might be foolish enough to read it, and that would be bad. Writing a manifesto for all to read is not a great career move, as was pointed out to me when I posted my blog ‘Owners’ on the yachty website Dockwalk, but accidentally posted it under my actual name and not my alias achefabroad. Oops. So there will be no more tales of current employers. You’ll have to wait until I get fired for that.
There was a subject that I did think about briefly rambling about and that was a kind of open letter to those wishing to enter the yachting Industry. But understand that this is just my unqualified opinion. It’s just what I think, scribbled down while I sink a Heineken, and published on the web to share. So here goes.
 
I don’t consider myself to be a very good chef, despite what people (mainly my mum) continue to tell me. I have great references and pretty much all of my previous employers on yachts, the captains and mostly everyone else I have worked for over the last few years (that I consider the cheffing years) has said and continues to say, how awesome I am. I don’t believe them, never have and probably never will. And I think that stands me in very good stead. No ego you see. None whatsoever. I basically think that I’m shit. 
The reason it stands me in good stead is that I now work in an environment where I live very closely with my co workers often sharing a cabin with one of them and a very small area with (at the moment) 18 of them. So whereas someone with a massive ego could choose to maybe be a little less than tactful or sympathetic about the skills or job performance of a fellow employee or just be a dick to them for no reason as has been the case with many many chefs (and other roles) that I have worked with over the years, and then go home, take a couple of days off and then come back to work having forgotten all about it, even though the victim most definitely will not have. On a yacht, when you finish work, like I said, you are still living with that person. They are pretty much in your face all day every day. and more importantly, you are in theirs. So a little diplomacy is required. 
Even if you think you are hot shit, if the owner thinks you are hot shit, you absolutely have to drop the ego on the dock if you want to do well in yachting. I’ve been cooking for over 20 years now, and I remember back in the day when I used cop a slap from chefs 15, 20 years older than me if I did anything remotely wrong. I still meet chefs now who think that that sort of attitude is ok, that the bullying is a necessary tool in the forming of a young chef. Like its a ‘code red’ or something (watch A Few Good Men).
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Mostly I have met them when I was killing time in between jobs or getting spells in high-end kitchens by doing agency work in London. Except they weren’t killing time, they were on the scrap heap. Outdated attitudes. 
Just be nice, is my advice. I can see the slogan now, even a bumper sticker maybe. I’ve been in a few world class kitchens, mainly as a diner popping in to thank the brigade but also having worked in a couple, and it has been true of all of them that everyone is calm, everyone says please and thank you and everyone is respectful of each other. And as a result of that, they are a success. Start shouting and screaming and generally being unreasonable and unless you are Gordon Ramsey, you will only succeed in freaking everyone out.
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The result being that people start making more mistakes. Blumenthal: calm, Ferran Adria: cool, Michel Roux Jnr: practically a saint
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 Keller: a Dalai Lamalike, Buddhalike beacon of peace and tranquility.
So if you are coming from a restaurant background where you were maybe running or part of a brigade, realise that now you will more than likely be on your own. You may have a sous chef or crew chef but when starting out on yachts, it will most likely just be you. Cooking, cleaning, washing up, provisioning, maybe serving, maybe even doing deck work so it pays dividends to be nice to everyone. The more you are nice, the easier it will be. The more people will help you out. Start snapping at the stewardess because she is maybe carrying three plates when you would prefer her to carry two or she is not sure what foie gras is, and things are not going to go well for you. And she has regular contact with the owner, your boss, so you could easily end up back at the agency if she takes a disliking to you. 
I find it difficult sometimes. I am a bit OCD sometimes and get freaked out when someone has moved the salt or the peeler isn’t in it’s designated place, but I bite my tongue. Someone who is 5 years into the hospitality industry may not appreciate how important it is to you, someone 20 years in, that all the spoons in the condiments accompanying your caviar or steak tartare have their handles pointing in the same direction or that the plate needs to be put down in front of the customer a certain way so as to present the dish more effectively.
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It is more important to me to get along with the people I work and live with than to get in their faces about stuff like that. So I try to put my point across as politely as I can, which can be difficult when you are speaking to someone who is on her 26th straight 16 hour shift and you are explaining to her why its better to buy square or rectangular Tupperware rather than round Tupperware as it will make better use of space (why would someone buy round Tupperware unless you have a tube shaped cupboard!?). It can be seen as petty.
So I think what I am trying to say is just be nice. Be nice and chill out. If there is a problem, there is no point in going nuts and hitting the roof, it’s easy, you know how to solve the problem so just do that and learn from it. Yes, being a chef on a yacht is sometimes a difficult job but when it gets hard, just look out of the window and look at where you are and where you could be. Smile and enjoy it. 
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If any one has suggestions of what I could write about then they would be more than welcome.
 
TTFN
 
a chef abroad x

2 comments

  1. I would like to know more about chefs aprons and the differences between them, do pastry chefs tend to wear black aprons and chefs wear butchers aprons? What’s the deal with the white apron? Is it the highest accolade as in, look at how clean my apron is, that’s what a great chef I am? Is there any correlation between apron colours and the martial arts ranking system used for belts?

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