The Mad Hatter’s tea party

I have got some way in collating the material for chef but not as far as I should have. Life and the afternoon tea have got in the way since last I wrote.

On Saturday, a couple of my fellow students, Jo and I went to Watergate Bay to have lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. Not particularly eventful, but a good day out and a nice way to unwind. Having enjoyed a day out, we decided to have a second day out on the Sunday. The original plan was to go to the Almond Thief in Dartington for breakfast or lunch and walk to Avon Dam and back, but I then discovered that there was a food festival in Plymouth and decided to go there instead. Having recently attended the Exeter Food Festival, I had expected the Plymouth festival to be similar in nature, but it was a much smaller affair. The latter, coupled with the torrential rain left us all underwhelmed. With our mood somewhat dampened I decided that a couple of days of doing very little were in order before the start of our afternoon tea preparations and event, which were to run from Wednesday to Sunday.

A couple of non-days with grotty weather later, we were back in the kitchen to prepare for our afternoon tea. I can’t say too much about these two days as the mood in the kitchen was very flat and there was a general feeling of not knowing whether we were coming or going. I am not sure what created the mood i.e. post exam blues, exhaustion, internal politics but it was not a pleasant environment in which to be creative and not the best end to a six month course. Although chef may not possibly agree with me, I felt that I produced the most consistent eclairs and macarons I have produced during my course (especially size wise), albeit that my ganache for my macarons was too firm to pipe properly and my first batch of eclairs were a little on the wide size.

After a late night on Thursday despite the eminent arrival of my mother and her partner, Norman (which I had to change dinner arrangements as a result of) we were required to start fresh on the Friday morning. It was my turn to be a chef for the afternoon tea on Friday, which seven of my family members and my landlord and companion were attending. The day started off poorly again because of the atmosphere in the kitchen. By lunchtime things had improved – a good thing as our 16 guests were arriving at 3pm. The afternoon tea went well, except for a comment about the sandwiches being a little bit on the dry side. The patisserie went down a treat.

On Saturday I was supposed to be front of house but as there was no kitchen porter for the day, I volunteered to take on the role to support the chefs. This was not a completely altruistic action on my part as I wasn’t looking forward to being front of house, so the thought of hiding in the kitchen, behind the scenes, filled me with great joy. To be honest, I quite enjoyed the challenge of staying on top of the washing up and ensuring the my fellow classmates had everything they needed to fulfill their chefs’ roles. At lunchtime I was presented with a bottle of wine (which I shared with family that night, thank you very much) from my classmates (well, really from chef) which had a note written on it saying ‘Bridget, the best KP ever’. I am not sure if I really deserved the accolade as mid-morning I had dropped a chopping board down the back of the washer and it had dislodged the waste pipe. This accident resulted in a mini-flood, which had four surges of water before Tom, the Operations Manager, discovered the source of the problem. No major harm done other than I went through more drying up cloths than I should have and increased the laundry bill for the day.

On Sunday, I had to bite the bullet and be front of house. Preparing for the guests to arrive was pleasant enough as I had a great group of classmates to work with, but I did find the ‘hovering’ around guests whilst they were eating a little uncomfortable. Unlike some of my classmates, who found the interacting with guests a pleasurable experience, I always feel that I am an imposition if I chat with people, so tend not to engage too much. This of course, is at the risk of appearing a little rude or antisocial. Anyway, I managed to pour and serve Prosecco without spilling it; place the afternoon tea stands and tea pots in the right position on the table and attend to the guests’ needs, so all in all it wasn’t too bad considering that I was front of house for the afternoon.

Exhausted from the previous week’s exams; preparing and catering for the afternoon teas and sleeping in Bluebell, our camper van for three nights (two because my Mum and Norman were sleeping in our bed and one because we spent the night at my brother and sister-in-law’s house), I collapsed in a heap early on Sunday night, aided and abetted by a glass or two of wine. Although knackered, my sleep was restless, given that Monday was to be exam results day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *