Occupational Hazards

13.8.10 § 4 commentarii

My apologies for the recent radio silence. As it happens, Pretty Chef has gone back home to Brazil for eight weeks, so we're a man down in the kitchen during our busiest period of the year. In order to cover him, I've been working a sixty-five hour week for the past three weeks, which is somewhat punishing. Also, as Pretty Chef is also our nominal "head chef", it's fallen to me to do all the administrative stuff in the kitchen. This, surprisingly, is quite a massive amount. Aside from obvious things like ordering and stocktaking, I'm also filling in and signing off on our due diligence records, weekly sales, wastage and complaints/meals ratio. Furthermore, due to our parlous financial situation I've also taken on the maintenance of the beer garden: it essentially means extra money for planting hanging baskets, tubs etc, repairing garden furniture (which is more my métier than actually dealing with plants: I'm happy enough with a powertool in my hand but become somewhat lost with a bunch of alyssum) and tugging the weeds/incipient trees out of the brickwork. For tax purposes, it's done through a gardening company called Gortos Gardening: an in-joke about five people in the UK are likely to get.

All of which means I haven't had the time to scratch my arse, let alone blog. Furthermore, my thoughts have been filled with work and little else. While this is excellent for my bank balance it rather puts a cramp in the old creative activities. And religious, for that matter: I'll confess that my observances have been perfunctory at best. I was also intending on working on essays for my MA application over this month (Mark, I may be cheeky and ask you to look over them), but that's also rather fallen by the wayside. He Whom I Call Beloved is also whining, as the last time we had sex was sometime in June (I can't be buggered with buggery.)

Nevertheless, my dear readers, I do feel a sense of duty and obligation to you faithful less-than-a-dozen, and so feel it needful to actually post something. Given that I've nothing interesting from a religious or linguistic point of view to talk about, I shall instead talk about something work-related. I've posted before about the occupational hazards of being a chef: knife wounds are worryingly common, and I've mentioned before how burns and hot temperatures in general have deadened the nerves in both of my hands. Additionally, I've heard that varicose veins can be a problem, although I suspect that's primarily a female complaint.

What they don't warn you about at catering college though is the dire condition of Chef's Arse. Nine or ten hours, in a very hot environment, while moving about like a crack-addled raver all adds up to a certain amount of sweating and thence chafing in the inter-buttock region. This can get quite raw: I have seen (and spoken to my therapist about) middle-aged chefs after service dropping their checks and rubbing emollients between their cheeks in order to combat this. It's one reason why chefs are so pleased if the staff changing room has a shower.

Back when I was in college and on day-release, I worked at a nice little pub with four other chefs. I was the lowest of the low: a commis, which is one step up from the guy who does the dishes. The chef de partie rather took me under his wing: Marcello taught me more about cooking than any of my tutors at Coleg Llandrillo. He was great: a fifty-something Portuguese dude who'd cooked and fucked on pretty much every continent except Antarctica. One day, when we were both getting changed, he told me: "the most important thing I can tell you is this: don't wear boxer shorts on service. You'll regret it." Like pretty much every man of my age, that was all I wore under my trousers: and I asked why the hell would I change my underwear preference? "They ride up. It just makes things worse." After a few shifts, I understood what he meant. I got the piss taken at rugby, but soldiered on: boxers do make the whole chafing issue so much worse. What one really needs is a bit of elastic to keep the cloth away from the danger zone.

About three weeks ago we took on a new chef, a commis on day-release from the college. After having watched him scratch his backside as if he were attempting to excavate the lost ark for a few weeks, I found myself passing on Marcello's advice. Of course, he ignored me: men don't tell other men what pants to wear.

This evening when we were getting changed, he bashfully told me that his girlfriend had bought him these Calvin Klein briefs, and he was stuck with them. Whatever gets you through the night... think I.

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§ 4 Response to “Occupational Hazards”

  • Potia says:

    Your posts on life as a chef have given me an insight into my father that I had never anticipated. After all these years I begin to have a better understanding of possible reasons why he behaved as he did (he was a chef in the army when I was growiing up). He's dead now and I'd not had any contact with him for about 15 years before that so I don't really mourn his passing but in spite of everything he was my father.


  • Curtis says:

    Gortos Gardening is like the River Avon.

  • Bo says:

    That is priceless. Yes, do send me the essays---my email's on my blog.

  • Bo says:

    And buggery IS such a faff.

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