2014 didn’t seem to exist for me. For some reason I ploughed on at work despite wanting to quit for an eternity. I made plans to leave in April this year and go to Europe with my now ex-girlfriend. I guess that was one bloody reason. Hanging on for some vague promise of a future life. I felt like I was waiting for life to happen to me.
Work was horrible. All of 2014 was just long hours and constant bitching and moaning. It just seemed to get busier and busier despite the food getting worse. I know because I’m there and the new guys we’re hiring are worse than before and a few good people can only do so much. We used to have just the one culinary director but he left, presumably after an unsuccessful attempt to reinvigorate the company’s main pub. I don’t have a clue but he was ok, a decent guy with reasonably forward ideas. At one point, I even sorta wanted to jump ship and just do the AZN food thing he was trying to make happen. I tried it, it was fucking shit but you could see the effort and for fuck’s sake, it’s cheapass food.
What went wrong was the existing staff weren’t all AZN and the guys they hired just weren’t good enough. Quite frankly, if I ever have some weird penchant to open a dumpling shop, I’d hire Chinese guys. I’d even fucking sponsor them and give them a window so people can see them pleat a har gow. Din Tai Fung style. People lap that shit up.
Anyway, after that guy left, the head honcho hires 2 guys instead. 2 guys to do one job. Incidentally, after a bad review, the executive chef for the French restaurant got sacked. A dude with 2 hats on his previous restaurant sacked for one review. So the 2 dudes are busy sorting that shit out. All I hear is mofos doing 7 doubles and shit. Crazy. They even open for fucking supper at one point. Who the fuck gets French food in Sydney after 10pm?
But then it started creeping in, the inevitable touch of the new peeps in charge. It started with the soy sauce. I really don’t give a fuck about making 90% of my menu suitable for 5% of the customers. It doesn’t make a lotta sense honestly. The sorta people who come to our place just have way too much money and are just way too coked up to give a shit about the food but they’re sure as fuck not typically vegans or coeliacs or dietaries. They’re after quality Japanese and whilst I don’t think we’re worth the money, we did ok by the quality.
They had this epiphany to swop out to gluten free soy sauce, which is stupid salty and tastes like shit. We did it straight up at first and had a “tasting”. All the guys in the kitchen agreed it was shit. The two mofos though, decided it was even better and thusly, we became more gluten friendly than ever before. Well, except for the fact that we’re not really all that gluten friendly despite the swop to soy sauce. The reality is, Kikkoman’s made in Singapore gluten free soy (quite honestly, one of the worst thing’s my home country has ever put out) is just cheaper. We saved money that way. The kitchen’s retort was to adjust recipes wherever possible and “correct” the flavour after switching out. In some instances, we ended up using a higher proportion of a more expensive ingredient to try and compensate so that didn’t go so well.
That was just the beginning. Step 2 was a big leap. We were going to open a new restaurant in Sydney. We’re already fucking understaffed so how the fuck they were going to staff an entire new restaurant was beyond me. My exec made my then sous the new head chef. Except when the two bozos on top started coming into the kitchen and making us come up with specials everyday, they decided that he wasn’t up to the task. Whilst I didn’t think he was up to the task, you don’t just fucking give someone a job and then take it back like that. It leaves him in a shit sitch. So we were going to lose 4 guys total and these two guys started messing around in the kitchen. The next bright idea was to get us to contribute to the new menu creation process by making us put up 2 specials every day.
These things would mostly never sell and we’d just be left with prep that we didn’t need tomorrow. It was stupid. Worse still, the mofos would come in everyday to try shit out but there was no process of recording what was done, what was good, what was bad, it just felt pointless and empty. Ultimately, whilst we did come up some good ideas, none of them ended up on the new restaurant’s menu. So my response was to not actually make any new dishes but to use existing shit and recompose it so that way, we wouldn’t waste time and prep. So enter my grilled eel (just defrost) and grilled cod (different method) or multitude of lettuce cups and salads that were simply recompositions. Some were just pretty normal but probably delicious things anyway.
I love making new dishes but here I was getting out of doing what I liked. Why? Well I wasn’t going to give any new ideas to people who clearly wouldn’t give a shit anyway. So I kept my own shit to myself. I asked myself what the hell was I doing and I couldn’t really answer. I felt like I was betraying myself making shit up everyday that just seemed a fucking waste of time. Still, they never caught onto my methodology and came and went. My other sous chef made stuff up and tried hard at times. Didn’t fucking matter. None of it came to pass.
So eventually, the new restaurant opens. My former sous leaves to just become the new sous, except he now works 6 doubles a week. At the time of writing, I think he’s close to leaving if I’m not wrong. That leaves a spot open and finally, I get the promotion I’d been yearning for for so long. Sous chef at a one hat restaurant. Vindication that I was an important player in the team and for an instant, there was a hint of optimism seeping into me. I made dishes again. I garnered the congratulations of my former peers and the respect of the team. For a brief instant, I felt like I could contribute and make something happen.
Then I fucking woke up is what. We went to eat at the new restaurant. 6 people including my head chef, all guys from the kitchen and we had to pay full price, which included being raped on some prawn skewers that cost $21 for a pair of fucking prawns served with some shichimi coated wedge of lime. You could also have the pleasure of picking from 3 different cuts of beef that ranged in price based on quality/marbling/etc. That shit came to us on these stupid hot stones that only worked for the first slices and even then, poorly. It was $100 for 200 grams of beef and cooked by you and poorly. We then got some shit called a frosty fried rice that was a really bad bibimbap that had frozen beef mixed into warm rice. Because? We didn’t even get spoons to eat that shit with. Pretty much everything we had was pretty fucking bad but the beef shortrib skewer took the crown. Slow cooked and then dried out over charcoal, it was slathered over with a weird tasting miso glaze that completely overpowered the now tasteless and dry beef and apparently had truffle microplaned onto it as well. I wondered what the hell I’d gotten into and who the fuck were these people running the show?
Then the full force of the nightmare came to pass when they decided to stick it to my exec and head chefs and put their fucking skewer program onto our menu. So from making decent, simple but tasty skewers of beef, pork and chicken where you could pick from two sauces, we had stupid complicated skewers that involved different cooking methods prior to grilling and each had their own sauce. We also had to install a charcoal grill into the kitchen in a really poorly organised fashion that involved first smoking out the restaurant and then stopping the skewers for 2 weeks whilst they reinstalled a new extractor. The new head bozo also declared the new grill was shit and “colder than his mother”. You can just tell he’s a lovable person.
But the beef skewers. Cubed, then braised with a mirepoix and truffle, they would then be dried out over charcoal. The braising liquid came with a ridiculous recipe that involved heating together with some miso for 20 minutes, enough time for the miso to maybe diffuse throughout perhaps. When my head chef presented the miso soup esque sauce, he got yelled at that it wasn’t thick enough. It should be thick. It took 2 hours to reduce. You’d then slather 50ml of a thickass miso glaze that was according to the recipe, a miso soup consistency, onto each skewer. Then you’d microplane truffle over it. So I get that this is the head honcho’s thing. It’s his dish that’s followed him since that time he got a Michelin star 5 years ago doing another cuisine. Still, I don’t get why you cook it well one time and then fuck it all up after that. Just throwing miso doesn’t make it remotely Japanese. I felt like I was sampling American BBQ by way of someone who has no fucking clue about Japanese or American food or cooking in general. Why the fuck you’d put $2 worth of garnish everytime you sent a plate of shit like that out was beyond me. The only selling point for that crap was the fact that the word truffle was on the menu. You think beef shortrib and you think karubi/galbi and yea that’s fucking good chargrilled but not if it’s been braised and shit first and then slathered in more shit. Then dessert came and for some inexplicable reason, we got a massive chocolate ostrich egg with a thickass shell that you smashed after they poured “liquid nitrogen” at the table. Health hazards notwithstanding, the theatre seemed really gimmicky and completely stupid. I guess if you’ve never seen dry ice or liquid nitrogen before, it’s ok or maybe if you use it in context, like to keep something chilled etc. This just made no sense at all and seem like a really stupid and mildly dangerous stunt. It also looked like a freshly shat turd with fart fumes still lingering.
It was clear. The fuckers in charge had no clue and didn’t give a shit. They did their part coming up with the new menu and recipes that had no instructions and multiple different measurements like ounces and grams and liters and pounds all in one scrappy little page and it was our shit to deal with.They also came uncosted and tasted like shit for the most part. They were also mad impractical. Corn was cut into three pieces but each plate had 4! The plating style made them roll around as the waitstaff brought em out. The asparagus had a glaze that used chicken bones. The eggplant had a miso glaze that was overly sweet and undercooked and chicken mince running through it. Stuffed got topped with “dancing bonito” even though we used itogaki, shaved tuna. Travesty doesn’t begin to describe the way they mangled the menu. Customers weren’t particularly happy either. We got frequent “the shortrib’s really dry” or “the eggplant’s really small”. Oh yeah. You got 50 grams of eggplant with a chicken stupidly sweet miso glaze for $10. 5 skinny asparagus sold as “jumbo” on the menu for $12.
My distaste was also exemplified in my speech with the waitstaff when I told them I hated this shit as I plated up in front of them or when customers complained and my response was, “well, they’re right.”. I also grimaced every single time I had to serve thess stupid ass lamb cutlets that came on a mini hibachi that was useless. It came with a piece of charcoal per serve. I had to drizzle this horribly minty sauce they called a wasabi chimichurri where you’d never be able to pick out the wasabi. This made it smoke and my eyes water. 4-20 times a night. Lamb cutlets will sell because they’re lamb cutlets but a shitty emulsified mint sauce that we had to make every 2 days seemed stupid impractical. Then the waitstaff had to struggle to carry them to tables and when the tables got cleared, the KPs had to deal with still warm and sometimes glowing charcoal.
I got fed up with complaining and moaning and being unhappy and promptly handed in that white envelope. With 2 weeks to go, I’d only been promoted for 5 months. I questioned if I was being weak and taking the easy way out but that’s probably just that dogged AZN work hard mentality that’s been fucking my life over. Screw this shit. I’m out.