Artichoke Hearts

And then I got my second job offer as commis chef. I was feeling alive,  I had woken up at five in the morning just to make sure I would get there on time. Second trial in London and it was at Soho’s heart. What more could I want? I arrived in front of the restaurant and no one to be seen. But then a mirage appeared just in front of me and there he was, the Head Chef walking down the empty street with some take-away coffees for the staff that were already working downstairs. He looked at me and I asked the sentence I’ve been saying a lot lately – do you work here? And then the biggest smile came out of him and he said – yes, are you Sophia?

He took me downstairs, I got changed, couldn’t stop shaking. It was the most beautiful kitchen I’ve ever seen. Dark, full of chefs looking really neat, talking an English that I could barely understand, running and making jokes and teasing each other because hey, it was a Saturday and despite of being the busiest day of the week, they would all be off the next day.

The Sous Chef was responsible for me. He put me to work right next to him to dice some cucumbers and tomatoes. Easy stuff – I thought. Until then I didn’t even know I was at a restaurant with a Michelin star. Perfection was important but the Sous Chef looked more interested in getting to know who I was and where I came from than how I was dicing.

He put some music on, almost like a dubstep to get everyone going. He gave me a lot of the prep to taste, asking if I knew all the ingredients. So far I was having so much fun on the trial that I didn’t even care if I would get the job.

Breakfast time came. Someone had done pancakes for everyone and there was orange juice and coffee. That was a way of showing that this would probably be the only meal of the day. Back to the kitchen and the running around started to became faster and the stress started to get in higher levels. The Sous Chef put me to the side and told me that he couldn’t have me at the pass so I would have to just watch the service and ask questions when possible. And then I did.

I was feeling like a little kid, wondering around, asking people if they needed any help, asking them how long where they there, if they liked it. Because lunch wasn’t that busy I stayed a long time talking to the Pastry Chef while she was yelling SERVICE with all her lungs (being the only girl in the kitchen) and talking me through all the desserts. Lunch was over. Time to prep again.

Clear all up and back to normal pace again. The Sous Chef gave me more things to try. But then he didn’t have much prep I could do, I didn’t have enough experience to do anything without supervision, so he found a container full of this roasted things that looked like tiny sweet potatoes and he said – have you ever seen artichokes like this? He told me how they prepped just the heart and slowly roasted them to then make a purée out of the roasted artichoke hearts. My job was to cut them in half and take the most out of the ‘meat’ that was inside of them.

Time for a smoke.  All of the smokers went outside, around the corner of the restaurant (because is not good to be seen smoking near the restaurant). They asked if I smoked, I went with them. The Sous Chef sat next to me to break the awkward silence and asked how was I feeling about the day so far. He said – I know the job is shit and the payment as well, but all the boys really liked you and we could use someone exciting, friendly and willing… like you. It’s your call.

I said – I think I’ll get back to the artichokes now.

They all smiled back.

I was one of them.

(I didn’t take the job though)