- Food & Drink
Punishment rained down on me in week 7. Hubris, complacency, not thoroughly drying plates before I put them back – all these sins and more were corrected with lashings of pain, humiliation and fear. In the end I was forced to retreat from the kitchen and spend Friday in bed, cradling my rock hard (but sadly not muscular) stomach while nausea churned its way through me.
The week had started brightly. On Monday I bounced into the kitchen because it was Burger Day. I was excited to have the chance to griddle my own perfect patties, even if I had to top them with gingered mushrooms in cream sauce. Then I was told I’d have to cook them the whole way through. No pink allowed.
The final pickle on this burger abomination was the mince: there was a lot of lean and the burgers didn’t drip lovely, meaty juices down your chin and arms when you bit into them, although griddling them into uniform brownness could also have made them run dry.
The topping was classic Ballymaloe mushrooms à la crème with grated fresh ginger and toasted flaked almonds stirred into the sauce. A nice combination, but not something I’d ever really want it find inside a bun with a burger.
So I treated the burgers like a fancy bistro that really didn’t want to do burgers but was forced into serving them by the depraved tastes of the public. I plated them without buns, piled the mushrooms on top with plenty of ostentatious parsley and stuck a squidgy roast onion and lightly dressed mixed salad on the side. It was nice, but it wasn’t a real burger.
Tuesday is where kitchen karma began to catch me up. For a start, I was on salad duty, which meant that at 8am I was in the larder picking slugs off mustard greens rather than in the kitchen tending to the needs of a newly rejuvenated Mr Bubbles.
After 45 minutes of washing, drying, shredding and tossing, I was free and raced to the side of my frothy charge. He was raring to go, so I added the flour and was miserly with the water. By the end of the shift I’d have dough.
My recipes for the day were cucumber pickle, orange butter crêpes and pâté de compagne. The pickle and crêpes were easy, which was lucky as the pâté took over an hour to assemble. It was an inexplicably vast of amount of time to spend lining a casserole dish with bacon and smushing minced pork and chicken together. My efforts were made more urgent because I knew the 1 hour 15 minutes cooking time was a massive underestimate.
The pâté in demo the day before had taken 3 hours to cook. Unsurprisingly, this is how long my pâté took, which meant it wasn’t ready until 1.15pm. Desperate to go to lunch, I eye-balled the casserole of fancy meatloaf in its bain marie. I thought: “If I try to get that out of the oven, I’ll burn my hand.” And I did: an inch long blister of well cooked flesh bubbled up on top of my hand as I heaved the damn pâté from its furnace.
Standing at the sink with my hand under the cold tap, students and teachers came up to offer me either aloe vera leaves or a look at their own scars and a description of how long it’s taken them to heal. From the sound of it, my future as a hand model is in serious doubt.
Wednesday was a day-long course on how to run a food business without going so spectacularly broke you have to fake your own suicide and kayak your way to Panama. Interesting to attend, not so fascinating to read about. So we skip on.
Thursday was the big day. The school trip. A tour around the hottest artisan food spots in South East Ireland, with plenty of opportunity for gorging on free nibbles. I woke up with a stomach ache and a slightly yellow complexion.
Determined not to miss out, I boarded the coach. Our first stop was Frank Hederman’s, where I sat on the floor just outside the smoke house because I couldn’t manage to stand up for his whole 10 minute speech. At the Mahon Point Farmer’s Market everyone tucked into a free chana masala or steak sandwich and went shopping. I sat in a chair and had a cup of tea.
At the Fermony Natural Cheese Company I dozed, waking up every time a fresh wave of nausea ran down my body, while the school enjoyed plates of cheese, bread, cake and wine. At Martins Bakery in Castlelyons I was sent back to the coach for looking like I was going to faint. Finally, cruelly, at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore I couldn’t stomach the Pimm’s or the canapés specially prepared for us by their Michelin starred chef.
I went to bed at 5.30pm. I got up on Saturday. I plan to never be ill ever again.