Updated: Oct 15, 2019
33 years, half my life and some, working in kitchens up and down the country, some big, some small, some well equipped, some not so, but all with one thing in common. They get bloody hot in the summer, and working in these sweat boxes are some of the most incredible people in the world. All slightly mad, but lets face it, you can't be that sane if you decide to work 12 hour plus days in 40 plus degree heat with complete strangers with big sharp knives.
Chefs are a breed apart from other people. You spend more time per week with your work mates than with your family and you probably know more about them than their wives. You become family, you look out for each other as you have one common enemy, the people who try and drop you in it on a daily basis to cover their own arses. Front of house staff and management. You also have one common goal, to get out and get to the pub before closing time.
The chef is always a good scapegoat because the public rarely see us and it's easy to pass the buck onto us, but we will always within reason bail everybody else out of the shit with no thanks, its just part of our unwritten job description.
Please remember this, we will only cook what is sent through to us on a food order ticket, if it's not what you ordered but its what you get on your plate, that means that the serving staff have written it down wrong, we didn't cook the wrong dish for a laugh. But at the end of the day after all the shouting, we are all mates again, heat of the moment disagreements put to one side and forgotten and we all have a beer together and put the world to rights.
I have worked with some amazing characters over the years, some are no longer with us, some have moved on to better things, some are probably still as mad now as they were when I worked with them, but they have all left me with some incredible memories and stories, which I retell to the young chefs in my brigades.
As I've got older and seen most things that can happen in everyday kitchen life, I've started to mellow slightly (not everybody will agree with that statement), but compared to say 15 years ago I am very laid back. Don't get me wrong, I still stress out and get the big adrenalin rush during a busy service, and bring the job home with me and have the odd sleepless night trying to work out the best way to get through tomorrows busy day, but I've stopped throwing things, swearing copiously and walking around in complete despair, so on the whole I feel that I am very chilled.
Being a chef takes its toll on your health in a big way, long shifts (not including the traveling), lack of sleep, drinking heavily, poor diet, standing for 12 or more hours a day, working in temperatures that you would be arrested for if you kept animals in and general stress.
The catering industry is changing, so many rules and regulations being brought in all the time that I am ending up spending more time holding a pen than a knife. It's not for me, I don't want to be a desk jockey, I need to create things. I cook, it's what I do, I am passionate about it but I now feel that the passion is being drained from me, so what do I do, I thought? I can't do much else, too late to change careers as I have a mortgage to pay and a family to support, so I needed to look into something that I could do along side my day job which can give me the same buzz of creating new flavours, recipes and ideas that I got from creating menus and new dishes over the past 30 odd years.
I have been making pickles and chutneys for years, they have been enjoyed by hundreds if not thousands of my customers over time in the various establishments that I have been able to ply my trade in over the years. So now is the time for me to make these wonderful spicy piquant treats for a wider audience. I have tried and tested recipes, and I can also start to experiment with new flavours, creation is what I do.I can make them at home, so with the idea fresh in my mind, S.tuck in a pickle was born.
Offering private dinner/lunch parties also gives me the chance to create special menus with clients on a nice one to one basis, and passing on my knowledge in the form of cookery lessons, gives me a huge buzz.
Chutney making takes place in my kitchen where I wash, peel, chop, zest, crush, dice and juice everything by hand. I do have a food processor but it's a right ball ache to clean it, and anyway hand cut is so much nicer.
The kitchen is filled with the sweet smell of cooked fruit and vinegar, and the air filled with the delicate sounds of Planet Rock, nothing beats chopping onions to a bit of Led Zeppelin, the aroma is so much nicer than the smell of stale chip fat associated with most catering kitchens.
Once cooked and bottled its time to sit down with a nice cuppa and a biscuit and relax - I could seriously get used to this pickling lark and eventually working for myself.