Saturday, 3 December 2011

London and Fifteen

Let me start with explaining what Fifteen is. In 2002 a celebrity chef by the name of Jamie Oliver opened a foundation which would run as a opportunity for young unemployed and down on luck people to start a new and put their stamp as chefs in the catering industry. The restaurant was named after the first fifteen apprentices to graduate from the programme. Every year a new group of apprentices would start and be given the chance to learn food through the use of fantastic produce, incredible sourcing trips, hands on training in the kitchen and support from a amazing foundation group. Fifteen is on its tenth group now and looks are promising for another ten.

  On my first day at Fifteen my nerves were high and the tension in my neck was strong. For only working in a kitchen just under a year, how was I supposed to match up to those who had either trained or worked a lot longer than me in this restaurant and teach the trainees as well? This wasn't like my last kitchen, twice the size, twice the covers and five times the amount of chefs. Lucky for me every one was very supportive. Someone would be with me on the first day then I was on my own. Lucky, a graduate from the 6th group was to be my help on the Anti-pasti section, Carlton. He had a big smile and a even bigger gold tooth shinning from his smile. I still say if I could work along side Carlton for the rest of my career I would be a lucky guy. Not only did he show me the ropes, we helped motivate each other to be better cooks. Not having much experience under my belt learning quickly was vital and fortunately Carlton and myself had found a routine with each other and was able to quickly get my prep done. So on quiet days offering my services to the pasta chefs at the time came in handy and they were more than willing to assist as it meant less work for them! Doing the best to show the trainees how to run the anti-pasti section and always reassuring them that my experience was almost as little as theirs. They respected that and in return I felt that they helped me learn as well.
Big Kev

  I took advantage of what I could, doing 16 hour shifts then getting picked up at midnight by Big Kev to work another 12 hours free at a fishmongers. Who is Big Kev? A whole book could be written on that however for the sake of making things short, if you were to come into the kitchen about noon on a Wednesday or Thursday you would find a Goliath of a man, as tall as he is wide wreaking of fish. Now he didn't have the essence of fresh fish because of bad hygienic practises, not at all it was because he had just finished a normal 12-13 hour shift at the mongers to come all the way to fifteen to show the trainees how to prep fish. This was all off his own back, all from his heart. To few are there men like Big Kev.

Preparing in the early hours!
Fresh Turbot
   So after 16 hours at work Kev would pick me up and we would head off to a non stop full on 12 hours of fish prep. With 37 years of blockmanship under his belt Kev is probably the best block man in London. The prep room was small and bloody freezing. Kev would toss some fish at me tell me what to do and as I mutilated these poor morsels who died for me to destroy them Kev would fix them in a flash. Thank god he was patient because the amount of times he has shown me to fillet a sea bass must be damn near the amount I have done. The orders would be sent early morning before the city was awake and as soon as the delivery men were back second orders would be rushing through. By this time it would be 9-10 in the morning and my legs were hardly standing. The only thing keeping me going was Kev and the cold. Finally the orders would be done and Kev would pull out the big boys the salmon and turbot. He can scale, fillet, and pin bone a salmon in 57 seconds. It's a sight to see, like watching a samurai in action, every fillet perfect and not one scale or pin bone to be seen. Kev showed me his technique but I still haven't got it down. I did shifts with Kev as much as possible but unfortunately I haven't for about 5 months now. The new year is around the kitchen and we will be back on it!

   Six months was spent on Anti-Pasti and Carlton had moved on to a new restaurant with bigger opportunities for him and he is doing exceptionally well. In February of this this year I moved onto the Pasta section in the Trattoria and have been there since. I have been able to touch several sections as cover and have been to Sillfield Farm in Cumbria, Mordon sea salt factory in Essex and all through Le Marche region in Italy thanks to Fifteen, helped run a supper club and done many events. Curred meat and spent a month baking bread with Stewart. I plan on leaving next year with Madara to Italy. Until then I look forward to see what will happen next.
With group 9 at Sillfield farm

  My next blogg will be on spending time with the trainees in Cumbria and some more work in the kitchen! Thanks for reading!


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