Let me tell you about my dreams. Not as in my dreams and aspirations (but since you ask, top 2 are fairly standard….swim with Steffi Graf
and make sweet sweet love to a dolphin. Wait…what?! Reverse that!
No, I mean my actual dreams. You see, I have recently been having a recurring bream (Dream! Ah you silly autocorrect. Recurring bream sounds like something you get from ordering the fish special on Sunday evening).
Incidentally, i’d just like to add that the reason I just made that crap autocorrect gag was because I screwed it up in the last blog, so as stubborn as ever, I wanted to shoehorn it into this blog…just to get that massive belly laugh! Totally nailed it this time me thinks! No? Well anyway, it was in the blog last time, a couple of them in fact, but I screwed them up by writing ‘spellcheck’ instead of ‘autocorrect’. Makes no sense does it when you say spellcheck? Spellcheck doesn’t take words in sentences and automatically replace them with other words that result in comedy genius does it? No..it..does..not. It just underlines in red the words that it feels you may have inadvertently misspelled. That was worth explaining I think.
Anyway, back to my bream…DREAM! There I go again with the funnies, hilarious aren’t I?.
Well it’s more of a nightmare really. So let me tell you about my nightmares. Let me give you a glimpse….a sneaky peek, into the dark, dank and sordid mind of achefabroad. No! Wait! Where are you going? Come back! It’s not as bad as it sounds, and it’s not that sordid, and Gary Busey is in it….sort of.
Ah, the magic words…Gary Busey and you all come running back. Yes, one mention of that swivel-eyed loon and you’re hooked again. He’s like crack but with massive scary teeth. How predictable. And old-sad-face, Keanu is in it to. And your back, good.
I go through periods in my life when I start dreaming regularly and finding it difficult to sleep. I know why. It’s almost always brought on by stress, relating to a big change in my life. A new job, a big move, visiting somewhere new and strange for the first time, that sort of thing. The same as a lot of people I guess. Occasionally it is brought on by eating too much Epoisse, but mostly through big upcoming events in my life. The reason for my current dream state, is that my very nice, newish bosses have decided to send me to Hong Kong to visit some fancy schmancy restaurants and hopefully pick up a few tips. When I say visit the restaurants, I don’t mean pop in for some grub, take a few notes and then jet back to the boat. No, I mean actually go into the kitchens and learn hands-on how to cook the stuff that they cook. The purpose of this exercise is two-fold.
1. So I can hopefully pick up some new dishes and styles of cooking that I can then recreate for my bosses on the yacht next summer.
And 2. So my bosses can lock me into a three year contract that ties me to them and their boat, that if I break by, say, leaving before the three years is up, they can legally have me tortured, killed, tortured again, have my bank account emptied, have legal entitlement to any and all income of the next five generations of my clan, have marital rights to any and all female offspring that I may accidentally or purposely father and finally torture me again.
It’s a fair deal and I am of course not complaining. It’s incredibly flattering to work for people who enjoy my cooking to the point that they are willing to invest in my future and actively seek to establish some longevity in our relationship. It has never happened to me before and I am more than grateful to them for doing it. Anyone who has a contract of employment that gives them a steady income for at least the next three years is a very lucky bunny indeed.
So what gives with the stress and recurring nightmares? I hear you say.
It seems to me that you are a lucky fucker indeed and deserve a slap the next time I see you? I also hear you say.
Well the thing that is worrying me more and more, as the date of my departure for Hong Kong draws ever closer, is that the restaurants and hotels they have been mentioning to me that they will send me to, are a little bit fancy. Like….super fancy. Like….super-duper-fancy-schmancy with bells on! Hotels with not just michelin star restaurants inside them and not just three-star michelin restaurants inside them, but hotels with more than one three-star michelin restaurant inside them. Hotels that are, beyond luxurious and are basically some of the best in the world.
“Well that sounds great, what’s the problem? I hear you say.
I tend to hear a lot of what you say. It’s a very special gift and just be aware of that next time you say that thing about me. Because I will hear you say it.
“Bollocks!” I hear you say.
Prior to me selling out for the rock’n’roll life of a private chef (it’s really not all that rock’n’roll, cooking for Sting with his fucking tantric lute gets a bit old after a while ((I don’t cook for Sting by the way, I’m just using him as an example))
I was for a number of years, a sort of proper chef. In, like, restaurants and hotels and stuff. Even some quite fancy hotels and restaurants. Anyone heard of the Mandarin Oriental, or The House Of Lords? Yep, I used to work there, little old me. I used to be able to scream at commis chefs “You’ve used so much oil….the U.S want to invade the fucking plate!!!” Just like Gordon. I never did of course, way too nice me, but it was an option.
So I know just how stressful these environments can be, and how hard the girls and boys work in these places. And after a while, as soon as I realised that I could work at the top of a mountain in a ski resort or half way around the world in some tropical paradise cooking for four people and their pet Chihuahua and earning twice as much as my old exec chefs were making…..well, you couldn’t see me for dust. And now that I’ve had a taste of this life, I can never go back. Never….never ever. So the prospect of being tossed back into that mayhem at the tender age of thirty something is, to say the least, a little daunting. And add to all that the fact that this will be in Hong Kong, far far away from friends and family, plus the fact that 95% of the chefs that I will be working next to will most likely not speak a word of English, and will most likely take an instant dislike to the clumsy foreign oaf who is making their lives even more difficult than they already are, and it’s fair to say that I am filling my pants.
So back to my recurring nightmare that currently has me waking (resisted the temptation to slip in another little autocorrect gag there, but I know my Mum’s gonna read this) with a start in the middle of the night covered in a cold sweat and screaming into the night “But Gary Busey! I thought you said brunoise not chiffonade! Please put the knife down! And by the way Gary Busey, who chiffonades a carrot or brunoises a spinach leaf!?
In my nightmare, I am bizarrely thrust into a strange nether world in which I am about to go and work in a high-class hotel restaurant that is weirdly populated by the main characters of the film Point Break. I can only guess that due to some involuntary residual trauma deep in my subconscious brought on by the news that those twats in Hollywood are planning to remake one of the most awesome and classic films ever made, this has now crept into my dreams. So often now I am having this nightmare, that I can pretty much recite it word for word. It gets more detailed every time I have it, even Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers has a cameo in my nightmare.
Here below is a transcript of my nightmare for your pleasure and enjoyment.
Scene 1: A five star hotel lobby somewhere in deepest darkest HongKong:
Me: “Good morning, I’m here to start my stage in the hotel. Can I just tell you how grateful I am for you guys allowing me to come and learn from you here. I know it must by a real pain in the ass, but I really appreciate it.”
Hotel Manager: “You’re a real blue flame special, aren’t you, son? Young, dumb and full of cum, I know.”
Me: “No, no sir, I’m just here to learn. Anything at all that you guys can teach me will be great. I can say, categorically, that I am in no way a blue flame special. You’ll hardly notice I’m here. Young? Well thankyou, I suppose I am the right side of 40. Dumb? Offence a little bit taken, but that’s ok. I suppose in terms of 3 michelin star cooking, I have a lot to learn so let’s just leave it at that. Full of cum? Erm, my boss is picking up the bill for my hotel room, which includes the pay-per-view, so let’s just say that on that note, I am running on empty and……”
HM: “What I don’t know is how you got assigned here.”
Me: “I think maybe my boss is friends with the hotel owner and has managed to pull some str….”
HM: “Guess we must just have ourselves an asshole shortage, huh?”
Me: “Not so….”
HM: “This is your fucking wake-up call man. I am a 5 star hotel general manager!”
Me: “Yes, yes, of course, I understand you must be very busy. Perhaps you could just let me know whom I should report to in the kitchens and I won’t take up any more of your time. How long have you been working here if you don’t mind me asking?”
HM: “22 years. Man, HongKong has changed a lot during that time. The air got dirty and the sex got clean.”
Me: “Erm, right, maybe too much information. So the kitchen is where?”
HM: “Back off Warchild, seriously.”
Scene 2: A large five star hotel kitchen somewhere in deepest darkest Hong Kong:
Me: “Ah, good morning chef, let me just take this opportunity to say how very grateful I…..”
Chef: “Let me tell you something. I was in this kitchen while you were still popping zits on your funny face and jacking off to the lingerie section of the Sears catalog.”
Me: “Wait, what…”
Chef: “But there’s something I’ve learned in all my years….Respect for my elders!” (Chef punches me in the face, knocking me to the floor)
Me: “That was a little uncalled for, but I am totally down with the rough and tumble world of kitchen initiation chef, so I’ll go along with it. And by the way, I have total respect for my elders, not that you are old of course….no, you must be, what….mid thirties?…..”(Chef punches me to the floor again)
“I’ll be quiet shall I?”
Chef: “I’ve been on the job for over 20 years, and they got me babysitting some quarterback punk, named chefabroad or something.”
Me: “The shit they pull, huh? The name’s Neil.”
Chef: “Who cares!”
Scene 3: I am introduced to the local Chinese Sous Chef and his team somewhere in deepest darkest HongKong:
Me: “Okay. I get it. This is where you tell me that ‘locals rule’, and that yuppie insect private chefs like me shouldn’t be cooking here, right?”
Chef De Partie: “That would be a waste of time…”
Senior Chef De Partie: “We’re just gonna fuck you up!”
Me: “Ah….is that really necessary. I am really just here to try to learn as much as I can from you guys and not at all to get in your way. Maybe we could start with you explaining about this dish over here that you are preparing? What is that…chicken mince?”
Sous-chef: “You think you’re a real cowboy, huh? Batman and Robin, huh! You know what this is, punk? This is two kilos, uncut, pork mince!”
Me: “Ok, cool. So what’s it for then, what delicious dish are…..”
Sous-chef: “You think I like this hair, man! You think I like these chef whites? My wife wants me to stay at the Ramada! I’ve been working on these fuckers for THREE MONTHS! THREE MONTHS! Now I finally get them to play wheel of fortune with me so I could find out whom their pork mince suppliers are. Then you fuckin’ cowboy show up!
Me: “Riiiight. Erm, thanks for sharing, but not sure what the problem is. Surely you can just ask them where they get their pork mince from.”
Sous-chef: [slams bag of pork mince into my chest] “Fuckin’ jerk!”
Scene 4: I am introduced to the butchery department and team somewhere in deepest darkest HongKong:
Me: “Pleased to meat you…geddit? Meat you. Butchers…..meat? Sorry, I’m not having a great day. Please, so what’s going on here then? You slaughter and butcher your own pigs here? That’s amazing!”
Head Butcher: “I hate this. I really do. I hate violence. That is why I have Rosie my sous chef do this.”
Me: “Your male sous chef is called Rosie?”
Head Butcher: “I could never hold a knife to this pig’s throat.”
Me: “Bit squeamish are you?”
Head Butcher: “She was my woman. We shared time together.”
Me: “Oh God! That is definitely too much information.”
Head Butcher: “But, Rosie, he’s like a machine. He’s got this gift of blankness. Once you set him in motion, he will not stop. So, when three o’clock comes, he will gut her like a pig…”
Me: “It is a pig”
Head Butcher: “…and try not to get any on his shoes and there is nothing I can do.”
Me: “Riiiight….I think I’m gonna just have a wander around the other departments….see what’s going on…bye then…lovely to…erm…meat you.”
Final Scene: Main kitchen just before dinner service somewhere in deepest darkest HongKong:
Me: “Hi, so you are the sauce chef yes?”
Sauce chef: “Saucing’s the source man….swear to God.”
Me: “Ok….moving on. Hi, you must be the head chef here in the main a la carte restaurant. Is service about to start?”
Head Chef: “Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll”
Me: “Ok great, you must be a little nervous what with a full restaurant to serve?”
Head Chef: “100% pure adrenaline!”
Me: “Wow, what a great attitude you have. How do you manage to motivate the rest of your brigade, say the younger commis chefs for example?”
Head Chef: “It’s basic dog psychology, if you scare them and get them peeing down their leg, they submit. But if you project weakness, that promotes violence, and that’s how people get hurt.”
Me: “Riiiiight….that’s and interesting philosophy. Whatever works for you I guess. You’re not worried that that might promote a culture of fear within the brigade. That doesn’t sound too healthy.”
Head Chef: “Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.”
Me: “Yes….that’s my point.”
Head Chef: “Listen you snot-nose little shit, I was takin’ shrapnel at the Marriot Khe Sanh when you were crappin’ in your hands and rubbin’ it on your face!”
Me: “Ok ok sorry. For the record though, I have never defecated in my hands before…..although…..there was that New Years Eve back in 98’ when…..lets not go there. So can I do anything to help during service. I have whites and I hope it doesn’t bother you that I use my own knives rather than your traditional Chinese cleavers?”
Head Chef: “Special private chef abroad!! This is not some job, flipping burgers at the local drive-in! And yes! – Your knives bother me! Yes! – Your approach to this whole damn kitchen bothers me! And yes! – YOU BOTHER ME!”
Me: “OK…sorry again. Look, I’ll just get out of your way. Tell you what, how about I go down to the staff canteen and grab you a coffee? How would that be?”
Head Chef: “Speak into the microphone, squid brain!”
Me: “I said would you like a coffee.”
Head Chef: “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass end out of a dead rhino!”
Me: “Wow….graphic….can I grab you a snack as well then?”
Head Chef: “Right around that corner is the staff canteen and they sell meatball sandwiches. Best I’ve ever tasted. Would you go get me two? Come on, partner. Two. Thank you.
Me: “Sure partner, coming right up”
Head Chef: “Neil! Get me two!”
Me: “Yes….two….got it…heard you the first time.”
Head Chef: “Vaya con Dios, Brah.”
And then I usually wake up screaming into the night. It’s a very weird dream/nightmare but I somehow feel a bit more at ease now that I have shared it with you. So thanks for listening and Happy New Year to you all.