Monday, 22 September 2014

The Beast Within and the Philosophical Perception of Consciousness within the Kitchen Environment

I've got your back Jams.

"What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him — even concerning his own body — in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! She threw away the key."
― Friedrich Nietzsche.

"How do you know but every bird that cuts the airy way, is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?"
"Seest thou the little winged fly, smaller than a grain of sand?
It has a heart like thee, a brain open to heaven and hell,
Withinside wondrous and expansive; its gates are not closed;
I hope thine are not."
- William Blake

You're damn right I've got your back Jams - yes, my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard and I'm watching your back for you, son.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Planet Dan and a Terrible Tragedy

I can think of two things which these three people hold in common with each other - Danny Cheers, Danger and Jams.
The first is, that none of them appear to have an off-switch located anywhere about their person. They are compelled to be themselves, relentlessly so, and you may be able to read any random chapter of them which should be thrown open to you while enjoying the pleasure of their company.
The second is, that each has a ferocious sense of loyalty. The kind you would want behind you in the trenches.
I was working with Danny Cheers.
People may say, "Danny. He's a character."
But I disagree. He's not a character. He's the real thing. He's Danny Cheers.
The first thing you would have to say to describe Mr Cheers is that he is an Everton supporter.
The second would, perhaps, be to mention his distinctive, woolly Ushanka.
The third fact I would like to state would be, that if you had a brain, and a good ear, Danny could make you laugh.
Not everyone is blessed with the ability to appreciate the absurd, the ridiculous, the freedom. But Danny has also been blessed with that inconceivable, involuntary will to keep on driving forward - to just keep going. Perhaps a subtle form of psychological conditioning has taken place through his love of football - keep going Danny, it says, keep moving the ball up the field.
Yes, he is, if on form, relentless, and he did have a can.
I decided through Danny that the very thing that distracts me in the middle of service, is the thing that makes me focus more.
Danny, I was finding out, was easy to work with, relaxed, professional about his duties, a bit messy, but more than anything, he made the day go easier and quicker through a mutual derisory tone aimed at authority.
Yes, indeed, a man you would want behind you in the trenches.
No, Danny wasn't interested in how many people I had threatened, just as I wasn't interested in how many threats Danny had actually seen out.
Yes, Danny was a good man to work with and I had a feeling when I left work on Sunday night that I was getting to know a lot of people, not just him.
When the next day arrived, I got into work early, said good morning to Andy and the first thing I remember him saying was, "Did you hear Matt died in a car crash last night?"
At around 1.40 am on the fifth of April, 2014, Mathew Walton crashed his car into a fence and tree and died shortly after.
The big fella.
Tall, handsome, full of life, someone's son.
I didn't know him well, but he had put on a bad Scottish accent for me the previous evening, he always made me smile and I swear I'll remember his strapped up arm pushing through the door of the kitchen until the day I die.
That big, handsome, full-of-life joker - one minute here, the next minute gone.
I am so very sorry to Mathew's parents. For all those who loved him.
What a terrible, terrible tragedy.
And a dreadful, dreadful loss.
Another man, you would most certainly want behind you in the trenches.
I think that day I made some food and served it, but I never stressed about it, never worried, things in perspective.
Life is so suddenly sledgehammered into another lane and we find ourselves suddenly and unexpectedly going in a different direction.
A terrible tragedy and an awful, dreadful loss on the day of the fifth of April, 2014 - the same day my beautiful twin girls turned 11 and had a sleepover for their birthday.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Three Animals which Maketh The Tim

Tim should be spoken about in Biblical terms.
Because Tim is a Biblical figure.
Tim - The Troubleshooter.
The shooter.
The man who knows, not just how to cook, but how to set himself up for service.
Tim - the one who is coldly organized and grows on you like a wart.
Tim deserveth respect and he taketh respect - for he hath served his time in the pits of unholy Hell, he hath doneth the job, that you do now.
I worketh with Tim - and he teacheth me the Three Great Truths about cooking.

1- be prepared (work harder on prep than on service, do the real work before the cheques come on)

2 - set up the same way every day (both for service and philosophically)
3 - don't drop your guard

One of the most important traits, in chef, in a person, is the ability to listen.

Tim may think Danger can talk, but he can talk the hind legs off a donkey if the feeling takes him.
But what a joy to learn for a man who has such a passion and knowledge of his trade.
The one reason Tim feels no pressure is the fact that no-one can say that Tim isn't a good chef.
And the one reason that you should listen to him in the kitchen is the fact that no-one can say that Tim isn't a good chef.

For the past few days the presence of Tim has dominated my working life, all the time knowing that very soon he will be moving to another site, extolling the same virtues of organization and preparation that he has been extolling to me...

 ...Mike, Andy, Jams, Joe, Gyula, Danger, all exist on the periphary - until tomorrow, when Tim will be gone and one of the others shall dominate my time again...

The Three Animals which Maketh the Tim, the Rottweiler, the Carthorse and the Big Cuddly Bear.

I've no doubt I shall see him in the future, perhaps on the other side, perhaps when there is a problem, to troubleshoot, perhaps when have become the problem
I shall try to remember, I shall try to organize and prepare myself for all and any eventualities, circumstances, outcomings, ongoings and such like - while at the back of my mind I know that there is always the one thing I can never get ready for - my own unpredictability - which will rear its ugly head with no prior warning and no way to prepare for it.
There are the three animals which maketh me, too, but they are different to Tim's, and will only reveal themselves when either under attack or when suffering through a lack of appropriate nourishment.
I now have the feeling I have been trained without being fully aware of it happening.
Tim is the man who traineth.
And Tim is the only man who knoweth what he train you for.

the writer, the chef and the big, big fucking joke

“Don't touch my dick, don't touch my knife.” 
Anthony Bourdain, "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly"

Jams is rocking the pass with his youth, his ninja blueroll headband and his effort to focus and concentrate on what he is doing.
It is not easy, especially when someone is distracting you.

"You can't say that, Danny," I said to Mr Cheers.
"Why not?" he replied.
"Because it's my wife," I said.
Danny turned and grinned at me, "We can say what we want, can't we? We're in here."
I looked around me and took it all in. The fans running noisily, the stove burning, the grill, the lights, the pans, the smell - the two big knives we each held.
I wiped my knife and grinned back at him, "Yeah. We can say what we want in here with these big knives and all this fire Danny."

I broke into Bon Jovi and it only took a verse before I started realizing what a parody of myself I'd actually become, what a joke I'd made of myself. We weren't in service and so my concentration lulled during prep time... ...all my life I had taken some interest in literature, philosophy and the concept of free speech, yet here I was singing "I'm a cowboy..."...

Not quoting Thoreau, Camus, Sartre, Joyce, Eliot on the banks of the Dordogne - but singing, "I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride..." in a Kitchen in Parkgate on the Wirral.
But then slap, bang goes reality and the cheque comes on... two -- one -- one -- one -- side of -- two  -- three -- one -- with starters... aaaand.... focus...
No I might not be quoting Thoreau, I might not be extolling the virtues of Plato, but I was equally and as intensely distracted. To boot, the only place you can really say what you want to is in the kitchen, with all those big knives and all that fire. Yes someone really must trust you to put you in charge of all that dangerous stuff.

And that might cover my interest in freedom of speech. I can say what I want in the kitchen because I'm the one holding the big knife.
As for philosophy, the perpetual and inexplicable cycle of service, the never-ending need for the human to consume and man's ultimate desire to create, begin to draw the picture of the aburd and horrific beauty that we all live. A pattern to study for one's own good. All the philosophy that one might need.
As for literature, it may ultimately be a mimetic substitute for real life experience and the vicarious living of emotion through another's perception - and therefore why not experience that life first hand.

When I attended the University of Liverpool I was banned from the English Society for writing a poem about them: The English Society
Yet no-one ever banned me from a kitchen for saying far, far worse..

The writer, the chef and the big, big joke...
...freedom of speech...
As a writer, I am compelling.
As a chef, I am adequate.
But a joke? A big, big joke?
As a big, big joke, I excell.
I am most certainly to be laughed at and neither pride nor vanity shall come in the way of that.
...I am drinking a cold, bold, black cherry Bulmers...

Reviews and link to the book "Chef and I: Lyrical Salads and Literary Vandalism" by Craig Guthrie

“[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.” 
― Anthony Bourdain, "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly"

Friday, 19 September 2014

Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Venn Diagram of Interests

A few days ago...
"I've been a beast today, Joe," I said in the walk-in to Chef, around 10 pm.
"Why? Have you beasted the prep?"
"Well, not entirely, but I have been a beast."
I walked out of the walk-in.
I couldn't really remember what I'd done that day, but I had the distinct feeling that I had been a beast.
Now, at midnight, I remember.
I remember I had had a plan at 7 am  when I woke that day.
Well, I had had a plan the night before when I finished my shift at 11.30 pm.
I had a mental list - and the list went mostly, thus:

Sort and bake breads
Check sauces/salads
Slice ham
Finish ratatouille mix /make lasagne
Confit duck
Sort pate/make new pate
Make spring rolls
Make spring roll mix
Grate cheese
Melon balls
New Veg of the Week
Back-up salad prep
Cut goats cheese
and so on...

I got home around 11, there was no beer in the fridge so at around 12, I had to begin my second list, but only ever got to the first point:

Be a good dad.

A couple of days later I made a similar list, but this time, I got in, in the morning and half the list had been done.
Chef had got in early, done half my prep and half set up my section before I even started. Not only this, but Danny Cheers works my side and Chef shares service all day.
But I still know what to do with myself.
Danny has his interests.
Chef has his interests.
I have my interests.
And so on, creating the Venn Diagram of Interests and Emotional Attachments which we are all a part of.

I don't speak to Joe about what I speak to Danny about.
I don't talk with exactly the same inflection in my speech to Andy as I do with Jams.
I don't discuss matters of the Gyula kind with Mike, and vice versa.
We each, I'm sure, have a distinct personality in the modern world, with almost every person we know. We each play out some level of Dissociative Identity Disorder, merely by existing in the modern world.
We, each and every one, in Old Skool Psyche Speak, are "Schizos" - split-personality schizos who barely know our real selves, as in every work place around the world.

So where is the metaphor? Where is the philosophy in this? The obtuse knowledge? The lesson to raise the quality of our life?
Here is the metaphor. Our lives exist in temporal lists. Past, present and future. If my daily lists were boiled down to one short, lifetime list, my first move, may be to steal a reasonably-sized luxury yacht and sail off with my family to sunnier and more naturally abundant climes.
Here is the philosophy. We are all capable of intense, insightful epiphany. The ability to have sudden and life-changing realizations about our existence which we can act upon and not simply overlook.
The obtuse knowledge. Someone is always there to help you when you least expect it.
The lesson. Make a list. But make your list based upon your true feelings and not the mundane mechanics of everyday life that we are all sucked into. Prioritize your list... make the first thing on it, the very fibre of your being, make the first thing on it, your every passion, your dying soul. Let the beautiful, horrific beast which lurks inside of you write the very first of your priorities for the day...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The KPs and the true meaning of Humility

I have written in the past, many pieces which I have considered to be types of philosophical metaphor, through the form of poetry and short fiction - too many to mention. When considering this entry and draughting the basic ideas in my head, I bore this in mind.
Well, what is philosophy?
The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline?
And what is a metaphor?
A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else?
And what is a KP?
A Kitchen Porter?
A person employed to wash dishes and carry out other menial duties in the kitchen of a restaurant or hotel?
No, not exactly.
A good or bad KP holds one of the most essential roles in the kitchen. With no clean pans to cook the food in and no clean plates to put it upon, we could not even begin.
The KP is the backbone of the kitchen.
And what is humility?
A modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.
I'm really not sure about that.
Humility is not a trait that everyone in the kitchen naturally possesses. And that just might be a terrible shame.
What if humility was actually the ability to put all thoughts of anyone else's opinion of you, out of your head. What if a dignified humility was the ability to say, I am in your charge, yet I am worth no less than you.
Then I say that Nick and Flapper both have some humility.
And both are quite simply, the very best of KPs.
The problem is, that the only time that anyone recognizes a good KP, is when they are working with a bad one.
I worked with Nick tonight.
Tirelessly, he washes and stacks wave after wave of burnt-out pans, grime-caked trays, glued-out plates. Throwing out the dregs of unwashed tub after tub while throwing plates through the washer like a blink.
Emptying bins, scrubbing floors, unblocking sinks, the list goes on and on, yet he finishes what I couldn't if I took four more hours to attempt it.
But Nick is strong, fast and has stamina. He also has better things ahead of him, and perhaps too much energy for one person sometimes. His eye is sharp enough to betray a mad streak sometimes.
He and Flapper make me welcome in the kitchen and I hope I have the same effect on them.
In any case, I wish them both all the best that life has to offer, not just for the fact that they are both honest, hardworking men.
All hail the KP unless you can do the job better than him.
So what is a philosophical metaphor?
Well, the KP is, of course.
The KP represents the bottom layer of the kitchen pyramid. The foundation upon which the construction can be assembled.
Undervalued, taken for granted, underpaid.
All hail the KP unless you can do the job better than him.
I give you two hours.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What do I forget on this dish?

"What do you think I always forget on this dish?" asked Danny tonight.
"The bacon?" I said.
"That's right," he said. "I think you're very observant. Are you observant?"
"No, not really," I said.
I walked into an old folk's home the other day. Just walked straight in to see the old people.
"Hello," I said, "My name's Craig."
I looked at them all sat there, helpless, and smiled at them.
Then I slowly and loudly, continued.
"I've never really wanted to smash someone's face in," I said, solemnly.
"But I have felt like punching someone in the face.
"My ideal punch is a right hook, not intended to kill its recipient, but definitely to render him unconscious, and if not, to hurt him sufficiently so as to render him devoid of the option of retaliation."
I then continued to ramble on about "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" to the elderly in front of me and occasionally stumbled against one of the chairs, quite drunk.
One of the elderly ladies stood up to protest my presence so I punched her in the face.
No, of course I didn't, but I did sing her a few lines of, "Do You Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart.


Today was a bank holiday.
We did about 240 for lunch.
I remembered the temporal paradox which was ripped in the bottom right hand side of the walk-in fridge.
I remember the light that shone through and the world beyond which was opened and let in.
The sunshine:

For this short essay I was given an relatively infantile rubrik something akin to, "Discuss wandering in The Odyssey" and told to read the Shewring prose translation.
Instead of taking the easy option, I read Lattimore, Pope and Shewring's translation and honed down to eight examples of comparitive text to exemplify how, indeed, the different translations wandered and strayed from each other, but always managed to convey a common message.

"Appendix 1a presents eight examples of three different translations of the text which illustrate that each remains true to the core theme of the narrative, all addressing the same vital subject matter in hand, while the mood, imagery and emotional response that they evoke drift radically in different directions from the point of embarkation. Specific word choices, prosody, syntax and phonology are but a few of the components which assist in producing the diversity between texts. This makes the comparative study of them a rich and rewarding process. It is also the case that exposure to multiple translations may also, perhaps accidentally, give us a flavour of the traditional oral poetry in which it is rooted, as the textual deviations mirror the alterations which muses were compelled to make when reciting such lengthy epics." - Layers of Wandering in The Odyssey - Craig Guthrie.

Yes, indeed, to follow, are those examples.
And yes, indeed, the university was put to sleep through a lack of funding and forced to employ frightened post-grads to take classes and mark papers.
And yes, indeed, I feel like punching someone in the face.
Lets just hope it's not you.
It is probably you.
On this bank holiday weekend.


"What do you think I forget on this dish, every time?" I asked Danny.
"The irony," he replied, "the fucking irony."
"Oh yes, Danny, you're observant too, I do indeed, tend to forget the irony of my whole existence, not to mention the absurdity of it all."