Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Rock

I've given up the day job. Three years as a Charcutier and it's time for a new challenge. I'm a businessman now!

I’ve decided to launch myself as a cuisinier à domicile – a private chef. My plan is to cook for other people like I cook for myself. On a classy day. I’ve been doing it for a while, actually. My monthly soirées in the local wine shop have introduced me to a section of the foodist community of Pau, a small, posh town in South-West France. I have been gently developing a reputation; it’s now my actual job to dive in and tap it. Gulp...

I know that my blogging, from the start, has been dilatory at best, but recently my rigid schedule has gone a little mushy. Sorry folks. I’ve just had too much work. Plans to open a new business have coincided with The Wedding Season. We did a big one last week. 250 guests in a fancy chateau for four courses preceded by a two-hour apéritif (all sent from an unfurnished kitchen) equals a nineteen-hour day. Woohoo!... Uurgh... I enjoy these functions though, we’re good at them and it makes a pleasant change from the daily drudge. I stuck around just long enough to experience my boss’ latest toy: an old-school, hand-cranked, artisanally-made, insanely expensive, bugger-to-clean Berkel ham slicer. This thing is a work of art. I’d seen one once before in a restaurant in Paris, but to put this spanking-new machine through its paces was a pretty good leaving present. The novelty only slightly waned after two hours of spinning the back-bending wheel and politely placing jamón ibérico on guests’ plates whilst wearing a silly hat. It just works so well. The mechanic who perfected the design at the turn of last century may have justifiably died a very smug man. The blade is like a razor, of course, and it turns just fast enough to slice a bit of bellota to within an inch of its life. Crucially though, it doesn’t impart any heat on the slivers of champion meat, as would an electric slicer. I’ve always thought that Spanish ham should be cut with a knife, like the nice manfrom Toulouse market, but maybe not... Carving an entire ham by hand is no joke. For a served party like a wedding, there is always a queue a mile long for the delicious ham, cut (almost) expertly by the divvy English chef in the daft hat. While it’s absorbing work to gradually see how the various muscles in a ham look, taste and cut differently, it’s impossible to keep up with demand. A serving platter is redundant – the punters literally snaffle/snatch/pluck pieces off your knife.

The beast of Berkel*
It might be a little while before my business can afford such a beautiful behemoth, but then Rolls Royce isn’t really my style... The knife is an even more ancient elegant machine... Old-school is the New School!

*Berkel stopped production in the 60's, they're now exclusively made by a small producer in Italy, it seems Berkel then add a fancy insignia and price tag.