This time of year brings a slight and welcome respite in the intensity of kitchen life.For a rural pub it's definitely the quietest time of year.
For the successful chef there is never a quiet time.Keeping one step ahead of the game is the key to running a viable business and more importantly,making a profit.Once Autumn comes there's a plethora of alternative tasks which readily fill the void.
(Some of this weeks produce:Crab apple jelly-costs next to nothing.Ideal with chicken livers,gamey dishes and sausages.)
Jam and chutney making,pickling and bottling begins in earnest because believe me when you hit the busy time again you will be so glad you have some prep and standby accompaniments to fall back on.
Similarly,suppliers too are trying to maximize their profit,keeping waste to a minimum, hence you are more likely to be palmed off with sub standard stock at this time of year than at any other time.
Keeping your suppliers on their toes is a sport which Chef enjoys and sees as a challenge.
Fortunately,we happen to be our butchers biggest account so we always get the the pick of the stock.No problems there.Similarly,its also in the interests of our vegetable supplier to keep us sweet.Hence we are regularly the recipients of 'freebies' which Chef inventively converts into cash.He loves a bargain or more to the point something which has cost him nothing other than a bit of effort that he can then knock out for a fiver.It gives him a warm glow.
The baker provides more of a contest.Initially, we baked all our own bread,but before long this became unmanageable.We couldn't keep up with demand as the business grew.Something had to give,we had to source a decent bread supplier to provide for the sandwich menu.
In keeping with using local suppliers we identified a master baker from a nearby village who agreed to deliver fresh bread to us daily.
Lately though,we've been having a few problems.
Obviously the bakery hasn't been as busy.I've suspected on a few occasions that we've been given yesterdays bread.
Chef was not best pleased.He's told Rodney(the baker) in no uncertain terms 'I don't care where you take the old bread but don't bring any of it here-BECAUSE I DON'T BLOODY WANT IT. GEDDIT?'
He leaves a similarly worded reminder on the answer phone order to this effect each night.
The saga has been ongoing for a couple of weeks.
Rodney is living on borrowed time.
Chef hates Friday mornings.Not least because of the inevitable increased workload necessary to get through the required amount of prep for the weekend menu.
In addition Friday is usual bread delivery drivers day off.
Friday's Baker-boy loves Chef.
Unfortunately the feeling isn't reciprocated.
This morning as we met outside, Baker-boy knocked me aside(barely giving me a second glance) and almost trampled me underfoot in his desperation to push past and get to Chef,whom he affectionately refers to as 'Boss Man'.
He'd spied him through the steam at the kitchen window:
'There he is.. there's Boss Man..look at him, working away..'
He could barely contain his delight,rushing to the kitchen door with the ungainly plastic trays held aloft and becoming tangled in the black plastic fly screen blind in his haste.
Disappointingly it wasn't Chef whom he'd glimpsed,it was The Apprentice.
Baker boy had yet to encounter The Apprentice.
Determination being one of his finer attributes,Baker boy loitered with intent on the off chance of exchanging a few well chosen pleasantries with Boss Man.It makes his day.
Apprentice endeavoured to take the tray but Baker-boy's vice like grip retained possession of the prize,he wasn't giving up that easily.
'I need to see Boss Man.Where is he?I want to show him I've brought him fresh bread.See..(pointing out the condensation visible on the cellophane packs)..Its still warm..'
Apprentice glanced furtively as Baker-boy followed behind me through the prep area and around to the stoves where Chef had been working.
Self:'Oh he's not here.That's weird,I wonder where he's gone'
Deflated,Baker-boy wandered off empty handed,his chance of glory and finding favour with Boss Man wasted.His despondent look left me feeling a bit sorry for him.
I wondered where Chef had gone.
Walking over to the cooked meats fridge(having separate fridges for raw and cooked meats will earn you Brownie points with Environmental Health)I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye under the adjacent stainless steel bench.
Chef had impressively compressed his not insignificant frame Houdini style,into a large brown cardboard box (formerly containing our new Potato Rumbler),stacked neatly on the shelf below.
Apprentice was in on the plan.They were creased up.
I pretended not to be amused...
PS:Sorry about the stray piece of carrot on the floor.