I sometimes have to hold my head in my hands with some of the comments people come out with. One fine afternoon I was visiting a large food market. A stop at one of the butchers turned up some very good quality products and a real gem.
A passer-by, obviously “in the trade” was moaning about how he had just had to “push through” 250 kays of mince for a local posh burger place. To put this into perspective, 250 kays, or kilograms to we mortals, is just shy of 15 minutes work with a lower end professional mincer. Had this public schoolboy had to scrape down the butchers block? Sharpen all the knives? Clean out the slicers or bleach the floors? Nope he had just had to do 15 minutes work and then cart this stuff into a van on a trolley.
To train a professional sushi chef in Japan takes an apprenticeship of 10 years. For the first year they might get to ride delivery bikes and by about year two they are allowed to wash the rice. Take this to another country and after two years of catering college some hard done to individuals want to get Michelin stars in their first week and work Monday to Friday, 9 till 5.
Flashing back to when I was 14, this was long hours of washing pots by hand in a kitchen run by a violent alcoholic. Sometimes this guys would throw stuff at us, sometimes he would hang one of us from a coat hook and sometimes it was just verbal abuse. On the flip side, he did supply us all with beer and food we wanted on a regular basis. Sometimes we would pay him back by microwaving prawns and leaving them in there on the days the kitchen was closed.
Education is life long, whether it is great books, formal lessons or a valuable mentor. A good friend of mine is going into semi retirement this year. After 50 plus years in the advertising world he has decided that at 77 he is about ready to slow down a little. What keeps this guy going is walking everywhere and constant reading. He can devour books at a rate that is astonishing. As a result of this he is probably one of the best writers in his industry if not the best. Later on, I am going to buy him a pint or so. I think I will wait until about number six before telling him about the apprentice butcher though.
Ross Boardman is author of “101 Restaurant Secrets” and an award winning restaurateur.