This the word I say more than any other. Its followed by ‘sorry’ and ‘say again’ because I’m overly apologetic and deaf, but ‘behind’ would take it out by a large margin. This is because for 9 plus hours a day, 5 days a week I work in a kitchen for a living. I’m a chef.
A pastry chef to be exact. This is where everyone asks if I can make them something, what my favourite cake to make is and what I think of ‘Great British Bake-off’. The answers to which are:
- probably not, unless you pay me, it’s your birthday, or we are trading job skills i.e. legal advice for apple pie. It’s a good deal, I make good apple pie.
- I don’t have one thing I make every time as my signature cake like your Aunty Irene’s famous chocolate cake, I’m much more likely to try and be creative, more for me than anyone else, and create something custom and unique. Show of my mad skillz when all you wanted was a plain chocolate cake just like your Aunty Irene used to make.
- I don’t watch it, not because I’m looking down on it or think I won’t like it, I’m 100% confident I would love it, but there is too much TV to watch and there are things I will like more. No lie, the customs officer checking my visa asked me if I watched the show, no questions about my extensive criminal background just that I really should start watching it.
Why I work in this industry is something I’m currently not as sure of as I once was. A year ago it would have been because I love it, the energy of the kitchen, the way it leaves you exhausted and shattered in the most satisfying way. The fact that you get to make things and see exactly what you did with your time at the end of the day. I love the process of baking, the specific way things have to be done, the precision and patience and the understanding of why things happen the way they do.
These things are all still true, but recently the downsides of kitchen life are becoming less appealing. Namely the hours.
I’m a bit of a looser, not much social life, so the working weekends, and early starts have never really bothered me before. In fact is has been an excuse for never doing anything exciting. “What did you do this weekend?”, “I was working”. But now it’s starting to wear me down. There is no escaping it, weekends are the busy days, everyone is there, and if you manage to somehow always get weekends off you lose a bit of respect from everyone else, like you are not working hard enough.
But now I’m in London, I’m happier, I’m more social, I’m dating. But really who wants to date someone who they can never spend an entire weekend with. Can’t stay out all night, sleep all morning and emerge for brunch with. It’s the brunching that is getting to me recently. Everyone I talk to seems to be brunching. I have never brunched. I want to brunch. The gays I see brunching at work seem to be having a great time. I want to have a great time. But I can’t.
This is not to say that I never ever have a weekend off. If I ask for one I will get it off not problem, no questions. But I only do that if I have something important to do. You do occasionally just get random weekends rostered off. This is gold, a gift from the gods, you must make every minute count not just because you don’t know when you will get another one, but because the entire kitchen, nay the entire restaurant industry is living vicariously through you. I have not had any of those unrequested weekends off in about 9 months. The other members of my pastry team have. This is because I’m the head of the team. And people keep leaving. Just as you are close to having a fully trained team and be able to get some weekends off, another one leaves and you are back to square one. So I’m long overdue for a weekend off and live in hope it will happen every time we get a new rota, I’m always disappointed.
Partly because of these hours I’m considering finding something outside of the kitchen. Something Monday to Friday 9 to 5ish. Where I can spend weekends with the rest of London, or with a special someone, maybe the Grindr guy I was trading elaborate essays with who I’ve now seen twice, he seems swell and nifty. But I don’t really know what else I’m skilled at. I’ve never worked in an office and when I read normal job ads I don’t know what it is they do. I know how to cook. And the truth is I do still love it. It frustrates me and angers me and annoys me, but I love it. Plus, I get sweet job perks like the trip I’m going on today to see how salt is made. #livingthedream. So for now I’m in my job feeling all these mixed emotions about giving it my hours, still loving it slightly more than not and still saying ‘behind’ 30 thousand times a day so that if I hit you with a hot tray it’s your fault not mine, because I said behind.