by Oliver Benet
… Starting the first week as the school chef was frankly harsh. The kitchen, as I said in previous chapters, was a protected area, and a very strange paramilitary feeling began to reign among the three cooks cloistered there. Chefs like my sous-chef and me, were new to this type of kitchen. It’s not the same to leave a customer of a restaurant without his meal as it is to leave 500 children without food. Therefore, for the first few days, a sense of seemingly controlled panic was in the air of our space.
Huge orders of meat, fish, pasta, fruit and vegetables often overfilled our storage space. Our distributors immediately realized that there was a new situation in the kitchen. If the deliveries were late one day, threats, shouts and insults were the reaction although not permitted by the protocols of a Catholic School. Absolutely everything had to be perfect. We, two experienced chefs, couldn’t allow to loose, even in a different way of cooking in relation to the ones we had worked before.
Hours and hours of work at home, organising everyone’s tasks for the next day, sure that my horror machine would soon begin to work correctly. Little by little, I slowed down to achieve a real and healthy harmony in our workplace, both in the kitchen and the “communion” which takes place in the dining room with the frightening monitors .
And these, my friends, were my first days as a chef in a community kitchen. With all the good and bad things. Learning day by day, with the most demanding customers, the children who always speak frankly and let you know what they don’t like, using a visceral way. That’s more than enough information to write a book.
*Oliver Benet is a Catalan cook and writer of the book “Per què odiava en Ferran Adrià?”