My first full-time job was in a pub kitchen. They did bar food and had a ‘posh’ restaurant upstairs for the evenings. I washed dishes, prepped ingredients, made sandwiches. I also became a shoulder to cry on for my bosses’ wife.
I was nineteen and wore a skimpy beard. The chef advised me to “shave it off and grow un again.” One of the visiting salesmen told me, “rub it in yer wife’s doo-dah.”
When I’d been there a few weeks, the chef left. He’d been mis-managing the accounts and all I remember is the boss saying “I’ll break his fucking legs!” I got shuffled into cooking the bar snacks, which I enjoyed—I didn’t have to do so many dishes.
When the new chef arrived, he taught me how to make white sauce and paté. He was a large man and liked to bang on the bench with a broad-heeled knife. He’d served on the QEII and cooked for the Queen. When the old marge tubs on the bench were full of waste, he’d ask me to “take out the gash.” He found a hunk of venison in the bottom of the freezer, which the previous chef hadn’t known what to do with, and made the most wonderful pies.
But somehow the job didn’t seem useful enough to me and I got work in a psychiatric hospital. When I left the pub, they gave me a St. Christopher’s medallion. I didn’t know what to do with it; I sold it as soon as I could.
I was her confidante
but when I left her employ
there’s a lot of things
I could say
by Owen Bullock
Waihi, New Zealand