Wednesday, 6 January 2010

My Cooking Experiences - Part 1 - Pot Washing and Poker.

So today was the first day at Tante Marie, well it would have been if it hadn't been for all this damn snow that has fallen in Woking! Anyway, rather than ranting about how the country grinds to halt when a little snow falls, something I'm sure you don't want to hear, I thought I would run through a couple of jobs I have had in between non-cooking jobs over the years.

Having done a few weeks pot washing at a local Italian restaurant, whilst in Sixth Form studying for my A-Levels, a friend of mine Chris (aka Gringo) called me one Thursday and asked if I could cover his shift pot washing at a local cafe bar/restaurant the next day. I asked him why he couldn't do it, “I am going on a date with this really hot bird” he said, begrudgingly but being a team player I agreed to cover his shift and my 18months at the Foyer Cafe Bar & Landing Restaurant began.   Incidentally Chris recently married his “hot date” and I didn't even get a mention in his speech... how rude!

The Gringo and his beautiful wife

To cut a long story short, I spent a short while on the pots before being moved on to the heady heights of cold starters, vegetables and bread after showing an interest in how the dishes were made. I was also put in charge of teaching Chris the correct way to slice hot bread so as not to crush it and create a stodgy “dough ball” in the middle, a task he never succeeded in mastering to this very day. Sad sad times. It was fun to work there, but looking back I think we would have been a real contender for Gordon Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares show, especially with the mishmash menu consisting of Tapas, pasta dishes, wraps, steaks, pheasant... and pretty much anything else you can think of! I had just completed my first year at university when I left, and my next job involving cooking was to come on the other side of the world some 4yrs later.

My cooking experience down under on an Australian island came by after winning a couple of grand playing drunken online poker for the first time... to clarify, I was drunk and it was the first time I had played poker online, its not a niche market where one has to be drunk to play! I started with a mere £50 deposit, kept drinking beers from my fridge, and 8-9hrs later crawled to bed thinking I had won £2000. Waking up mid-afternoon with a serious hangover I proceeded to log into my poker account and see just £1200 in my account. Assuming I must have made some bad plays and been a little silly to lose £800 and not remember, I popped out to Tesco for some hangover cures and nourishment. Eventually I got around to checking my email and was, to say the least, very surprised to see an email from Emirates confirming my flight to Perth, Australia departing in 3 weeks time! After some research it appeared that a drunken me had decided to go to Australia for 6 months. Having recently returned home from working on a yacht as a deckhand for the previous year, in the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas, I was unemployed and looking for something to do. Turns out I had paid for the flight on my credit card and then then wired the £800 from my poker winnings to my card to clear it... amazing the feats one can achieve when they can barely see 2 feet in front of themselves at sill o'colock in the morning!

Cottesloe Beach.  My favourite beach in Perth

So, I spent the first month enjoying the beaches by day and the bars and clubs of Perth by night. Pretty soon I found my funds were running low and in desperation not to return home to a British winter, I ended up falling into a job selling satellite TV door to door... a whole other story and one that doesn't fit the remit of this blog. After 3 months of selling subscriptions in suburbs of Perth, enough was enough. I went to a local “backpacker job shop” and asked to see what was about job wise... nothing as it turned out. I reverted back to my pre-door-to-door selling days and partied by night and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the beach by day. Wonderful.

Unfortunately my funding soon became critically low and I was forced to return to the job shop and see what was available or go home... success. “I have a job but I don't think you will be interested, Its on a massive 80km long Island miles from anywhere, there are no shops, no bars, not even a letter box! Just a family of four, their homestead, the 12-14 guests they have stay with them, and a maid”.... Mmmmmm maids (in the style of Homer Simpson if you will).

Dylan the Explorer on DHI

Never being one to turn down an 'experience' I gleefully accepted the job on Dirk Hartog Island and two days later embarked on the 10 hour drive north to Denham, where I met Kieran and his eldest son on their boat 'The Eendracht', named after Captain Dirk Hartogs ship that discovered the island in 1616.  We cruised the one hour or so it took to get to the island, and my time on DHI began.

The view that greeted me one morning while preparing to cook bacon and eggs on the BBQ... no photoshop, no filters, no nothing.  To this day I am yet to see a more spectacular sunrise

My job on the island was to cook breakfast for the guests, make pack lunches for their fishing trips on the 'Eendract' and finally cook whatever they had caught.   Of course we would have some meat in reserve just in case the fish weren't biting that day.

Me with hair cooking up steaks on the 'barbie' in my Foxtel sales uniform!

The main catch was the tasty Pink Snapper, with massive Spanish Mackerel also on the menu along with the occasional Tuna.

Me with hair, and a my first medium sized Pink Snapper

I spent 8 weeks on the island enjoying learning to fish, kayaking, the occasional 4x4 ride to explore the deserted island, staring at the stars when I switched the generator off each night, and seeing Tiger Sharks close up... like 20 meters from shore close, while being 18 meters from shore! Good times indeed!

Guests filleting their catch at sunset.

In part two... doing a ski season as a chalet host and cooking aboard a 60meter SuperYacht,  you know you want to hear what that is about!  So click here for the second part of this post



  1. Love it Dilly, keep it up xxx

  2. Another good article mate and some good pictures too!

    Shame that the snow cancelled your first day, we've got a foot or so up here too and the whole place had ground to a halt!


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