Back when I decided to get out of the hospitality industry for good, no honestly mister, I really mean it this time; I'll confess that I was somewhat intimidated by the prospect of adjustment to life outside the trade. I was under the impression that learning entirely new sets of skills and procedures would be the most difficult aspect of any new job. Different expectations, different skills, different rules. The accumulated knowledge and experience of eleven years in the trade, from dishwasher to chef, from waiter to restaurant manager, would all suddenly become of little use in a new career.
How wrong I was. Working for this baker-cum-retailer is essentially retail for hospitality refugees (retail therapy, if you like). Pretty much every skill I've learnt in the trade has been used over the past week. For example: instead of spending the requisite two weeks of training on the company food safety course, I pointed out that as a chef I already held a CIEH-approved level 3 food safety qualification and proceeded to move straight to the final assessments. I've also taken to the financial side of things like a cynical and world-weary duck to water: a legacy of having spent three years running one of Moriconium's busiest restaurants.
In fact, the most difficult adjustment has been getting used to the working hours. The length of the shifts isn't a problem: I'm used to ten-hour straight shifts in busy kitchens with no sit-down breaks: eight hours shuffling sausage rolls with an hour gap to wander the streets of Vetus Moriconium (including a pleasant picnic on the quay feeding seagulls and chucking fag-butts at tourists) is a veritable holiday in comparison. No, what's most difficult to get used to is working from 0700 to 1600 most days. After eleven years, my body-clock has reprogrammed itself to consider ten o'clock at night an appropriate time to start thinking about cleaning down, not going to bed. Half past five in the morning isn't the early morning to me, but a late night. In the past five or so years, I've only ever been out of the house at that time when I'm walking home after a night out on the lash. So getting up at half five every morning to go to work has been a struggle. I've risen, washed, cut myself shaving and got dressed in what is essentially a state of somnambulance. Yesterday I tried to get away without shaving, but the days when I could do that and not look like a tramp are alas long since gone.
It should come as no surprise then that I've been utterly knackered over the past ten days, sleeping for only four hours a night for a few days and then crashing into a twelve-hour exhaustion-induced coma afterwards. On Sunday, I slept for almost twenty hours in total. I've been too tired to write, read, cook or eat. The last is probably ultimately a good thing, as I swear to god that just walking through the shop provides me with some 70% of my recommended daily intake of calories. I've eaten more pastry over the past few days than I had in the previous year, and pastry was something of a speciality of mine. This excessive consumption is purely in the spirit of academic enquiry, you understand. As a manager, it behooves me to know what the entire product range tastes like (although perhaps this knowledge does not need to be gained in the course of one lunchtime, I admit.)
In fact, were I not to enjoy work, this severe sleep deprivation combined with junk-food temptation would probably qualify as a Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Nevertheless, enjoy it I do, and I'm sure that I'll adjust to a new circadian rhythm soon enough. There are a few things which irritate me, of course: as a chef I am hugely annoyed by the company's insistence on sanitising the whole prep area between making different types of sandwich (to prevent cross-contamination). Between making a prawn baguette and a cheese and tomato on brown, I can see the point; but given that most of the sandwiches are variations on tuna mayo, chicken mayo and various cheese concoctions, I find it a little paranoid to sanitise everything between (say) a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich and a chicken and mango sandwich. On the other hand, not all of their employees are former chefs, so it's probably better to be safe than sorry.
Food poisoning would cut into my sleep schedule, after all.