Life has been a whirlwind lately, hence why I’ve not managed to post for the past few months. Early starts, late finishes and an awful lot of heavy lifting fill my days but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way because I have so much fun doing it all.
Sure, there have been days when I’ve been so stressed out of my head that I’ve had to leave the kitchen to sob for 5 minutes, there have been days when I’ve questioned why I’m doing this, am I too old, too green, not tough enough, but at the end of the questions I come back to the same conclusion: I chose this because I love it, because the work I do is rewarding and because I’m so proud to be a part of it.
Lately I’ve been working on the tourier section which has meant midnight starts and midday finishes (on average – some days I leave a bit earlier, one day I didn’t leave until past 3pm) and, I’m not going to lie, it’s hard, both physically and mentally. Not only are you forcing your body to live in opposite land but throughout the night it’s a mad dash with strict deadlines, lugging heavy trays in and out of ovens, kneading massive quantities of dough and finishing every product perfectly. I literally run around the empty kitchen, pushing trolleys full of croissants, dodging wet floors, the night cleaners and workmen who build around us in the night. The first job is making the croissant dough which then has to go into the fridges as soon as possible or else they prove too quickly, the croissants you have trayed up and proved overnight must be baked and finished by 5am for Room Service to collect, scones must be mixed by 6.15am so that the night cleaner can clean the massive mixer (so huge that I could sit in it completely) and go home, I must be as finished as possible by 10am so that Francois, my Tourier Chef, can go home; the longer you stay, the less sleep you have because at midnight you’re coming back in to do it all over again. Like I said: it’s tough, but we’re now one of the only places in London who make their own laminated doughs and canape work from scratch. Nothing is bought in, everything is handmade and at the most there are only 2 people working the section at one time.
But when you survey the 700-odd pastries that you have single-handedly baked off at 3am, glazed, decorated and trayed up for collection, and you know that you have provided the baked goods for the entire hotel, or lined tarts for royalty and dignitaries, or made 250 bouchees and barquettes for a celebrity-studded function later that day, it’s all absolutely worth it.
That’s mostly how I feel about this life I live now – sure, it may be hard but I chose this and it’s totally worth it.
Every day my team and I make truly beautiful things for the endless stream of guests who come in and out of the hotel, whether it’s a dessert for lunch or dinner, or a room amenity for an anniversary, everything we do is special and beautiful.
In the short time that I’ve been part of the team I feel that I really am part of it – part of a family, as gushy and romantic as that sounds. But if you don’t work closely with your co-workers then you won’t understand what I mean. Sometimes I see my co-workers more than I see my boyfriend whom I live with, we fetch each other hot drinks, we laugh over our quick lunches together, we support each other and console each other, late into the night. It’s strange to bond like that with a group of people you’d never have met in any other circumstances, but you form fast and tight friendships – you have to – until the day comes when you have to say goodbye to them, and already we’re having to say goodbye to a few people.
And oh, the amount that I have learned. Tempering chocolate, building frames of cake, batch baking, efficiency and speed (which I’m still working on) – it’s all part of my every day work and I love it. I try to be like a sponge, absorbing as much good advice as I can, watching everything around me as much as possible, pushing, pushing, pushing. It’s hard. But, like I said: I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m excited to announce that this June I’ll be speaking at Food Blogger Connect at Battersea Arts Centre, on my path to becoming a chef, with tips and advice for those who are maybe thinking about doing the same, or starting their own food business. I attended FBC a few years ago and found the learning and friendships I made completely invaluable – in many ways it really pushed me to take this step and put myself out there.
I’ll be speaking on the Sunday, but, even if you don’t really want to listen to me ramble about the many ways in which I’ve cried (and there are many, believe me, you will be howling with laughter listening to me ramble on about the things I’ve shed tears over! I cried over cookies – COOKIES, PEOPLE) I’d highly recommend that you go. This year there are some truly great speakers, including the fabulous Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, my dear friend Regula and the lovely Chef Greg Malouf (whom, incidentally, I interviewed a few years ago!), plus an absolute plethora of old favourites and new faces.
You can register for and view the full conference programme online but make sure you get on it by midnight tonight, as ticket prices go up after that! June 6th – 8th – be there or miss out on me demonstrating just how crazy I actually am in front of a packed room full of food bloggers and chefs.
Until next time, peace and love,