Three hours sleep a night. Working 100 hours a week. 50 degrees C for up to 20 hours a day. No daylight. Alas this is not a Third World smelting plant nor a concentration camp. This is working at one of the most famous restaurants in the world. Up yours, Gregg Wallace – cooking actually doesn’t get tougher than THIS.
After one year of this – with the erosion of my social life and my health, I realised that it was taking all the fun out of cooking. Everyday repeating the same routine. Making the same food. This is not why I started chefing. My friendships, relationships and passion were near expiry.
I had been speaking with my good friend and mentor Michael, in Ibiza. He has been living there for five years with his fiance. A private chef to the worlds elite on boats, villas and islands, they were deliriously happy and living a beautiful life in the sun. Importantly, he had the chance to educate his clients so they could live healthier lives and make greater informed decisions regarding their eating habits and diet.
I wanted in.
After 10 years of working in restaurants I was fit to burst. I took a deep breath and handed in my notice.
Surprisingly, there are quite a few agencies in London who just deal with private chefs. I joined them all. Things were a little slow to start squeezing in interviews and trials on my few hours off. One day I decided to check a classified ads website. 17,345 chef jobs. I changed my search criteria. ‘Private chef’. One job.
‘Private Household Chef, Chelsea, South West London.
Candidate willing to travel to clients homes worldwide. Must have experience cooking for children. Salary negotiable depending on experience. To start immediately.’
I apply. I hear back the next day and go through a rigorous round of interviews and reference checks. It’s like applying for a job with MI5. Four interviews occur before I even get to find the identity of the client. I’m called into an interview at their management office in Chelsea. The anticipation is overwhelming, as I’m buzzed up and shown into a beautiful period office to wait for my client’s manager. It was now apparent that my elusive new employer was one of my idols and quite possibly the most famous rock star of all time. Awards galore and platinum disks adorned the walls. I sit down and contained my excitement awaiting the next round of cross-examination. The manager is all charm and not wielding a baseball bat and congratulates me on getting this far. I am then presented with a confidentiality / non disclosure agreement. I‘m not permitted to divulge the name, location or any confidential information about my client for the duration of my employment. Yeah, sure. Got a pen?
Next day – final interview with the client and their partner in his house. A gorgeous Georgian seven story town-pile steeped in history. 9am meeting. Again I arrive 10 mins early. I’m shown into the foyer to await my trial. A very tastefully designed room with a fireplace you could stand in. Contemporary art on wall, contrasting with the period features. The condemned man awaits his fate. After 35 mins (quite reasonable, I thought) the next level is revealed. A grand dining room. Seated half way down a 20 ft mahogany table, I face a panel consisting of the client, his partner and her assistant. All greeting me with warm smiles and firm handshakes. I answer all questions with professionalism, courtesy and a little poetic licence. I even make them laugh. Can I cook vegetarian? Yes. Could I go and spend £50 now and make lunch from scratch. I do and even I was impressed. However I don’t hear anything for two days and I fear the worst. Maybe I shouldn’t have made them laugh. Maybe really famous rock stars don’t like to laugh. Well, you can’t always get what you want.
I get the job. Exciting, to say the least – everyday, people are asking how my new job is going and who I am working for. I felt as though I was working for the secret service. But overall the job satisfaction was good.
And then, after four months it’s over. Much of my hot stuff (and cold) has passed their lips, but it becomes apparent that our once cocksure rock rooster wasn’t banking on having a suave young buck who can cook like a bastard living amongst his household of beautiful partner and leggy daughters. I am released after the Christmas holidays and informed that His Majesty was looking for more of an ageing butler than a young chef / sex god. I suggest if he’s looking for an old retainer who looks good in a grey suit, he look no further than his drummer. I move onto the next job. With mixed emotions.