Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pissed Chefs

Watching Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ last night, I was unsurprised to learn that the chef in the Irish restaurant he was assisting turned out to be a chronic alcoholic.

Having been around the hotel and restaurant trade for years, I have encountered many chefs. They tend to fall into two categories: the psychotic, and the permanently pissed. Anyone who has ever witnessed the immense pressure that these people work under will understand the temptation to use drink or drugs to blur the frenetic hothouse that is a commercial kitchen. The psychopaths are thankfully rarer than the alcoholics; although they are much more lethal, having access to razor sharp knives.

My best mate Keith was an alcoholic chef. He was a strange alcoholic in that he only drank beer, most hardcore boozers preferring regular slugs of Vodka. He drank steadily throughout the day, beginning with a pint of bitter while preparing breakfast at 7.00 am. He managed to hold down his job because he was always able to function, and the food he produced was invariably wonderful. He’s sober now and can’t believe how much money he has. Drinking sixteen pints a day was putting a serious dent in his bank balance.

I never complain vociferously in restaurants as I understand how easy it is to cock something up. I draw attention to any shortcomings in a polite and reasonable manner. The last thing I want is a pissed, or psychotic, chef emerging from the kitchen brandishing a large carving knife.


Convict said...

Mrs C has worked with the psychotic kind of chef who also used drugs ... scary. It was most amusing to see Ramsey concerned for someone instead of trying to reduce them to a snivelling wreck.

The other bit that had me in stitches was when Ramsey had to put a pound in the jar for every swear word. 2 minutes and a fiver lighter hahahaha.

garfer said...

I once saw a chef emerge from the kitchen and dump a bowl of tagliatelli on a complainers head.


Sniffy said...

Most problems I have encountered in restaurants have been attributed to poor service rather than the quality of the food. I think most people are quite forgiving if the food isn't perhaps what they expected, but if the service is crap, then there's trouble.

Having seen the documentaries about restaurant kitchens and things, and even Hell's Kitchen, it shows you the fine margins that these people are working to; in terms of time for coordinated service (Hell's Kitchen), but mainly the additional pressures of profit margins. It is very understandable that these people turn to madness or addictions to get through it all.

funny thing said...

I save my complaining until after the meal, safely out of earshot of the restaurant.

My friends love to hear endless accounts of how terrible my life is (especially as a poor, victim of a vegetarian).
I really am the life and soul.

garfer said...

British people tend not to complain, they just don't go back. The more forthright American approach is probably better as it enables the restaurant management to nip problems in the bud.

I have a lot of respect for chefs. It's not just cooking, it's time management, delegation of tasks, and resource management. Most so called managers wouldn't last one night.

Steve said...

The only chef I know is also a chronic alcoholic and drug user.

He does own his own flat though . . . strange.

S.I.D. said...

Hitler was apparently good at cooking.

Does that make him a Kaiser Chef?



garfer said...

Arf arf.

It's the way you tell 'em Sid.

Kyahgirl said...

I worked in a restaurant where the chef actually killed someone with his special chef knife, but it wasn't in the restaurant.

Still...scary to think you'd been working with a psycho. You couldn't pay me enough to ever work in a restaurant again. *shudder*

suburban wonder said...

I'm more worried about the chef spitting (or worse) in my food if I complain too much, so I tend to keep mum.

The one positive thing I can say about Gordon Ramsay is that he keeps it real. There's no pretense about the man whatsoever. Aside from that, he's an abusive jackass.

garfer said...

I think he's quite articulate, in an arsehole kind of way.

You daft bint.

suburban wonder said...

Queynte ;)

Kyahgirl said...

'you daft bint'

That is such a charming endearment :-)

MHN for short said...

The last thing I want is a pissed, or psychotic, chef emerging from the kitchen brandishing a large carving knife.

No kidding. Can we say that Filet d'Garfer is on les menu tonite???

First Nations said...

hey, y'all *waves* been lurking.
"...I have encountered many chefs. They tend to fall into two categories: the psychotic, and the permanently pissed. "
truer words. had a chef once who drove a knife through a guys hand for 'giving him attitude.' problem was, guy had just wandered in, hadn't said a word.
*replaces wig and false nose, dissolves into shadows*

funny thing said...

I'm not too worried about someone gobbing in my soup, it's the idea that I might find a hair in it, or an eyelash. That really gets to me for some reason.

I think they should wear swimming-goggles when they cook.

Oh, and I propose that Garfer tells them....

*slams door*

Kyahgirl said...

ft, you're a great one to be complaining about eyebrow hair!

you eyebrow plucker you!

Kyahgirl said...

er...Garfer, I hope you don't mind but I linked to one of your posts in one of mine. don't know the exact etiquette for that. Would have mailed you but you don't have an email link (get on that will you?)

Also, I moved again. hate to make you edit your links. Wouldn't be surprised/offended if you hacked me from your blogroll altogether-aggravating fowl that am I. :-)