The Facebook post came from a junior cook from Devon, and it was the first thing I read this morning. I found it on a closed group called “Chefs Arse” – made up of some 35k chefs finding comfort in taking industry frustrations online. I’m one of them cunts finding that sort of thing diverting.
It’s been an hour – 86 comments and still counting. Most colleagues agree with both the spelling and the statement. In case the diagnosis is new to your ears, Chef’s Arse (or Chefs’ Arse) is the excruciatingly irritating plague you get in the butt crack after consecutive 18-hour shifts with hardly any time or energy to shower in between. Its only known cure is a good dusting of corn flour. Many chefs suffer from it in the most chronic of ways.
My first Pretty F*cking Good blog post was going to be all about why so many chefs are cunts who can’t spell, but that’s all been said before. Instead, I’ll write about how I fought chef’s arse and won. I refer to the condition of course. The Facebook group is a much tougher cookie.
I haven’t had chef’s arse since I worked my notice and waddled out of my last fine dining restaurant, leaving a trail of corn flour behind. My arse has been relieved for a bit more than two years now. And yet, I’m still a chef and I still embrace modernist cuisine like none other. Most Michelin star restaurants are an amazing place to work. In the kitchen of one the world’s best restaurants, you will be able to count more chefs in the brigade than chairs in the dining room.
Everything in there works so perfectly it’s annoying. If only things were as humane as they are perfect. The caste system in a kitchen is really fascinating. Underlings must be cool with the kind of treatment that is deemed unacceptable, perhaps even illegal in other industries.
£1,200 monthly wage for 360 hours of work, for instance. That’s £3.30 an hour, about half the national minimum wage. And that’s for ranks higher than an apprentice, who of course, most often go unpaid for working the same amount of hours.
Make a mistake in many offices and your boss will call you in for a word over a cuppa. Make a mistake in many kitchens and your boss will call you “a bell-end who needs to grow balls and quit dicking around like the cunt your whoring mum raised you to be”. In such cases, your best bet for a retort can only be limited to: “Yes Chef, it won’t happen again. Thank you, Chef.”
Take it in or you’re spat out of the industry faster than fairies. It’s the nature of the beast. Sadly or luckily, I was 30 when I started craving a Michelin star for myself. I had been working in kitchens, on and off, for 14 years. In my “off” time, because I could spell, I mostly wrote about food for a living. In my “on” time, I took as many shortcuts as I could up the ranks and became one of those loathed head chefs at 24. My brigade could be counted on one hand (after an accident with the mincer).
It turned out that by then I was too old and haughty to start thinking of a proper career on the finer side of the fence. I tried for two years after my apprenticeship at Noma came to a welcome end. When the elusive star kept getting obscured by clouds, my knee jerk decision was to take to the streets. Street food was probably one of the best career decisions I ever made.
I treasure what I learnt from Michelin star restaurants. With street food I can put all that into action without having to be a dick. I have time to eat out, watch and learn as trends develop in a revolutionary time like no other for the food industry. My arse doesn’t hurt anymore and I even have time to write blogs. I allow myself time to experiment on my own taste buds and perfect my dishes by the time they reach people I feed. In fine dining I worked on meals costing £200 a pop. I’m taking all that to toasts at £5 or so per portion.
I hope you enjoy your pretty f*cking good toast!