My natural slumber was broken early by that disturbing -where the hell am I feeling when you awake in a strange place , I was wide awake early, and went for a meander around the gardens as I was told to be in the Kitchen for 10am and had some spare time ( and feeling particularly peckish from my lack of food the previous day) I was also hoping I may get some breakfast before 1st kitchen day started…alas this didn’t occur, which in reality was best as I was pretty nervous.
So at 10am I reported to Sous Chef to start my day,
The commercial Kitchen has that wonderful hum of constant activity and it really is infectious, I was introduced to the team (with their names melting into the ether of nervousness immediately and then saw everyone had their names on their whites- salvation! This would help me initially).
I was given a guided tour of the Kitchen space, The main service area with the grills, ovens, prep areas and The Pass ( where the 2 star magic all comes together), and this space is small.
The central island is the cooking station with its large gas ovens and grills that consume the kitchen and the huge ventilation system that ensures you only smell the deliciousness with clarity. Everything has its place for a reason, its a small space with a lot of people in it – at full quota the kitchen chef team is 25 strong (this excludes the Service Teams!)
Each section (imagine the kitchen being quartered)-
- Front Quarter is The Pass- CHef will construct all components of the dishes
- Left Quarter Is the Hot Mains – Each part of the dish is cooked and placed ready for plating
- Right Quarter is the Hot Starters- Also Sauces are made on this section
- Back Quarter is Cold Starters
The next area is the Pastry Section which currently has 4 team strength, Heading up the Pastry Kitchen is Andy, he has been at Gidleigh for 17 years and counting, he starts about 330am and finishes anytime after 6pm! They make there own bread and also there complex desserts, Petit Fours, Handmade Chocolates (more on Pastry Section Day 5 Diary). This area has its own Pass smaller but just as important , it covers the start of the guest meal and the finish – so critical as an introduction in whats to come and the finale of any meal makes it memorable.
Again to envisage the space that the team work in The Kitchen has 2 corridors parallel to each other with the offices in-between, Storage, Fridge Section, Coffee and Cheese Station located in between the long narrow corridors and the other leads you down to fridges and Freezers, and meat and fish prep, Dairy fridges the list went on on my whirlwind tour of the place I was going to working in for the next 5 days , I was hoping everyone was patient and wouldn’t mind me asking question every 2 seconds where is this! I was soon to find out…..
We return back to the Main Kitchen and I was allocated to Jordan Chef de Partie on Hot Starters ( more on Kitchen Hierarchy on Day 3), Jordan had been at Gidleigh for 1 year (1st October is his anniversary!) and 4 previous years still with the Michael Caines Team just different restaurant.
I was handed over and put straight to task, Chef (Michael Caines) was doing a demonstration in Bristol and need it all prepping so I had my list, a MC Cookbook and sent off to find the ingredients and thankfully EVERYONE was patient, supportive and gave great directions and locations to where I would find everything I needed- Curried Carrot Soup , I have to say I was really nervous but pushed this aside in awe that I was prepping and cooking in the michelin starred kitchen and what a friendly team, during this whole time Jordan was giving me updates on what he was cooking, recipes and insights into the kitchen banter!
I Learnt all about Emuslions, Jus Gras, Mousse, Pied Bleu Mushroms, Lobster Prepping, Plating, How each component is prepped, Vac Packing and top tips and recipes!
Before I knew it Lunch Service was upon us and I was allowed to make the canapes up- I was blown away with the trust and the respect given to me by the team, this was a real honour and I was delighted.
The canapes where Quail Eggs ( that Jordan had prepped ) re-blanched in boiling water then into melted french butter, put in the bottom of a small canape dish with pea puree and the dressed with the most delicious Quail Jus Gras- a exquisite split sauce that truly has to be tasted. The whole combination is eaten as one by the guest -think Oyster style eating-.
Next I was moved onto Cold Starters with Joe and had to prep some of the components or segments of many dishes,
- Dressed Mange Tout and Runner Beans for the Fois Gras with Madeira Jelly
- Lobster for the Starters
- Shoots picked from there micro stems and placed in ice baths to retain them from service
Now my first miss was on the mange tout preparation I had done, after slicing the runner beans on a diagonal and angle for a specific standard. I moved onto julienne the Mange Tout, I checked with Chef were they ok, Yes. Pleased with myself as my knife skills are not my greatest strength, although when we got to service the mange tout was thrown away as being inadequate and this made me feel terrible as it held up service as more had to be sliced. Its 2 star Michelin for a reason- perfection when its delivered to the diner- my mange tout slicing fell short!
Evening Service with Chef- Michael Caines
Saw Sous Chef Mike welcome MC CHef- Michael Caines himself at The Pass, the dynamics changed when Chef arrived and even though there is a little “blue” air, the calm saw a frenetic uplift in energy with chaotic impact, the shouting that happens in kitchen is the demand for perfection
At evening service even though I was itching to have a role, I knew my learning was important and to observe was learning, watching the detail of plating, the operational process of all the prep, the focus, the delegation and transfer of ownership from commis chef to Chef , the tasting , the returning back to Commis to correct a jus thats not seasoned enough, to thin or just not to standard- each action being registered, noted by the commis and chef de partie’s- and this team really act upon all that is said, watching Front Of House, Check managing, timings, its a full on process and really amazing to watch.
All of this adds to the madness and charm, feel and impact of a commercial kicthen add to that the banter , the commercial kitchen becomes
very unique and you will either love it or hate it – Marmite- you cant be shy about the F*%& word and hearing a lot of Neanderthal male carnal desires, some of it childish but with this comes watching very talented people at work create amazing food,there dedication surpasses anything I have ever seen, the excessive hours, the passion for what they do, they don’t moan about the hours they work, the lack of breaks they laugh, joke and banter as they are a close knit family in a high octane frenetic hot environment that creates its own survival techniques and the production of incredible food is what joins them together – there are rows, there are heated discussions but what happens is they just get on with it. No matter what.
Day 2 draws to an end, I realise that I have only just touched a little of the day in this diary, so much was seen, learnt, felt, tasted and I was really included in the whole kitchen, the team were fantastic…I loved every minute of it…
I returned upstairs by the back stairs to my room, very tired and drained by the exhilaration and also disappointment of the “mange tout” and also making it though, I went to draw my blinds knocked of the lampshade, smashed the beautiful glass and decanter -oh no ….my day 3 was going to have to start with an apology ……….