Life's first little wake up call!...
I guess it all starts with that dreaded continuous question we ask our teenagers of what their plans are for the future! With every parent hoping that they aren't insinuating the act of a gigantic invisible hand pushing them out of that comforting protective and forgivable front door, into the "world's your oyster phase two of their lives".
This was and still is a question that haunts me, I believe it is one of the most daunting questions you can ask a teenager (or middle aged person!) that’s still coming to terms with venturing out into the world. Leaving his or her safety nest and realising they have to pay for a roof over their head with a measly student loan or wages from a first ungracious job “probably washing dishes and burnt pots” that doesn’t care if your belly is starving or you need a new pair of nike air jordans because your current pair are slightly scuffed on the side! Listening to my Careers guidance counsellor at school and close family members in the late 80’s saying, why not become a chef, they’re all on tv these days.
Those words kind of cemented themselves into the back of my brain thinking why not, you never know what could happen and
surely it could be an easy way to survive as everyone needs to eat! When you are about to leave
school and have that fear in the back of your head knowing that soon, you’ll be washing your own
clothes, feeding yourself with numerous pot noodles and toast and most importantly, wanting to
show your family that your not a loser! As most of us “think” we already are, as peer pressure of
“what are you going to be when you leave school” question from parents, teachers and society pops up every week in your mid-teens! That lovely pressure you surely do not need when you are still growing as a pleasant new addition to this planets calm and well-mannered society! With that miniscule comforting seed, planted in my brain of becoming a top chef and the realisation that college would be a good laugh “living in a flat or student housing with no parents or secret agents of nearby family police, with a legal drinking age of 18 in a small town working very well for 16 year olds. Oh’ and also no dictator in the house telling you to wash up your dishes left in your
room from the day before yesterday with that remaining bit of kebab lettuce looking like a decomposed piece of paper mache adhering itself onto the plate like a limpet on a rock! The ride of leaving school and starting out on your own is as big of a rush as any you will find in life.
So many new experiences and memories to make, all being controlled by your own choices and actions, please go with your gut feeling as that way in the future you only have yourself to blame or praise! Even if it were a wrong choice you will absolutely be rewarded for that life-long lesson and would steer yourself in the right direction in future plans. “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the Sails” – Dolly Parton.
My choice of career was to become a chef which led me from the Isle of Wight to Las Vegas. Back in the early 90’s there was a yearly green card lottery in which I applied and won one! After working at a handful of places in the UK including 5 star hotels in London where chefs throwing sauté pans
across the kitchen was the norm in the chef world plus working 13 hour shifts normally 6 days a week, tons of fun but I guess we learned rather quickly the importance of standards and respecting the ingredients.
During my years in Vegas, I noticed a big change in the workplace environment compared to the UK
with chefs speaking to their crew and not shouting like a drill sergeant with smoke coming out of their ears. The majority of hotels I worked in were large scale corporate places where this maybe
influenced the back of house politeness with human resources playing a huge part in the hotel’s
This led to a lack of swearing in the kitchen which is basically a main part of each chef’s vocabulary helping them express their feelings and passion into a dish or even dealing with a confrontational cook that believes his way is the only way. During my twelve years at Caesars Palace, a regular day would be prepping for the 2 service times in
our restaurant named Bacchanal “which was named after Bacchus who was the god of wine and
ecstasy”. The restaurant had a kind of adult Disney fayre to it with belly dancers and wine goddesses swirling around the customers wearing uniforms that Hugh Hefner would be proud of! I believe the wine goddesses might have made more money than the restaurant manager with tips, provocatively feeding the men & women grapes and washing it down holding the men’s goblets of wine! Even Caesar & Cleopatra popped in for a speech halfway through with a roman centurion governing Cleopatra’s assets! There were some intriguing rituals in the workplace in Vegas including, tips being shared out between the entire kitchen, as one day a prince of a middle east nation was comped “free” the entire floor in the hotel. These VIP’s are the guests you do not say “NO” to unless its deemed unsafe or an impossible task. One night at 4am their request was a kobe cheese burger with caviar washed down with a primat bottle of drappier champagne “the champagne bottle held 27 litres” in which I had to get from across the other end of the hotel. At 6am, the prince gave all staff in the kitchen, around 14, a $100 dollar bill each. There were some other bizarre activities going on in the suites I heard about involving celebrities and notable people of society, but of course, my lips are sealed as to protect my past co-workers.
Vegas was a whole new world I relished being in, as every hotel had around 8 restaurants, a banquet kitchen and a room service outlet, so I took advantage of that and moved around and learned various techniques and cuisines whilst experiencing different cultures at the same time. On my return to the UK after spending 20 years in the states, I realised that I had to downsize my ideals in the workplace as with working in 3000 room hotels with around 20 chefs in each restaurant with
some outlets of 50 chefs working in 24 hour room service kitchens to the UK’s average restaurant of
having 6 chefs under me!Going forward, I believe our apprentice system could do with some dressing up and seasoning, such as making the apprenticeship package more attractive and rewarding for the apprentice. I believe the government could help more in assisting colleges and prospective workforces coming together to make the “apprentice journey more attractive and logistically simple”. Job security is one of the
main stress factors these days so why not make the apprentice’s future more stabilized. Their wage should be slightly higher with a deal in place to work for that same company after the apprentice has completed their training. If not available to work at their current location, then there should be a government relocation package available to help that ex-student, which would then help to stabilise our next generations workforce and economy in the long run. At the end of the day, life is all about making your own choices, going with your gut feeling, rolling
that sail up to the wind and just go for it man. I am more than happy with the choices I made in my life, I’ve had the high profile jobs in Vegas and am now back in the UK focusing on my social media presence after publishing my first cookbook “from Cook to Chef” as well as writing recipes for a couple of food magazines. Stay safe my friends and just go with it! "in pic, interstate 80, nevada", the world's your oyster 🤘