Outside the kitchen, it’s a different world. I recall the poor front-of-house manager’s distress when, following the Brexit vote, the entire pub filled with amateur pundits, spewing their vitriol all over the nice leather chairs.
It happened again when Trump was elected: shouts of anger, despair, joy were almost audible from behind the pass – I just turned the music up and got back to prepping a sweet potato that somewhat resembled the orange-hued gesticulator.
My domain, thanks to a rigorous policy of silence on my part – and probably because my sous chef thinks a referendum is something you give your gran when she’s had too much to drink – has remained neutral.
There is one rule in the kitchen that you absolutely do not break. Whatever the situation, whoever is holding a gun to your head, however compelled you may feel to do so, you never sharpen another chef’s knife. It’s a sackable offence.
I have seen £170 knives destroyed by the wandering hands of a gormless commis chef who thought he was ‘being useful’. You just don’t do it.
I am a forgiving head chef. Things I have caught underlings doing and not sacked them for include: showing up to work drunk, accidentally leaving cling film in a pesto sandwich and sending it out to a customer who was allergic to pine nuts (not fatally, thank Christ), and ‘fraternising’ with a KP on the pool table after being entrusted with lock-up duties. Stern warnings were given out, but, ultimately, I showed mercy.
But sharpen my knife, and you’re done for.
One of the few perks of slaving, I mean ‘working’, a long, hard shift in the kitchen is the smorgasbord of delights that returns from diners’ tables.
A KP can dine like a king, if he doesn’t mind tucking into food with the previous, careless owners teeth marks around the edges, while also avoiding the wrath of the head chef if caught.
Some of the kitchen team may frown on this kind of behaviour, judging the immediate scoffing of a party of eight’s leftovers as akin to dumpster-diving for a two-day-old Big Mac and fries.
But not us hardened kitchen kin, we’re straight in there, stuffing that half-eaten brie down our gullets, because, after all – if we don’t do it – you can be pretty sure the bar team will be straight out back, sniffing around for a few spare scraps like the scavenous scroungers they are.