We’re constantly hearing about how the culture of the kitchen is changing, finally and for the better, but it’s rare to hear a chef speaking frankly about kitchen treatment they have suffered in their career.
This is exactly what the Irish chef Robin Gill has done in an article for the Irish Times. In the piece Gill says that working in an ‘unnecessarily brutal kitchen’ scarred him for life.
The chef talks about his early days working in the kitchen, “Keen as mustard and with a brand new set of knives, I set foot into the kitchen full of energy and excitement. The hustle and bustle of cooks from different lands running around frantically trying to get ready for the lunch service instantly drew me to this new world – this was the place for me. To say I was fresh is an understatement.”
He speaks of the excitement felt by many people when they finally find their place and realise that it’s inside the kitchen. But Gill’s experience quickly turned sour as he talks in the article about how the senior kitchen team went from playing small pranks on him to entirely alienating him from the kitchen.
It eventually came to actual abuse. “I had hot soup thrown at me, then forced to clean the mess. For no apparent reason, they all seemed to suddenly dislike me.”
It all culminated in a terrible scenario and one that should no longer exist in today’s kitchens.
“It is a Friday lunchtime with 250 covers on the book and there is a backlog of checks that we cannot keep up with. One of the cooks screams at me and throws me four duck breasts and asks me to get them on cooking. I am nervous as I do not know how, so I throw a couple of pans on full blast and add two huge ladles of oil. The oil instantly starts to smoke.
“I suddenly recall having seen the duck breast going into a warm pan with no oil, skin-side down, and go back to question the chef. He screams at me to “just cook the f***ing thing” so I panic and throw one breast in first, a flame spurts up and I throw in the second one. The oil splashes up to my neck, chin and face and hot oil covers one-third of my face. I’m rushed to hospital.
“I’m out of the kitchen for two weeks and paid for one. The doctor tells me I should take two months. Upon my return to the kitchen, the men are standing around my section reading my recipe book and making jokes. I grab my book back and one of them barks: ‘Have you got the recipe for the duck?’ To which they all crack up laughing.”
Gill eventually built up the courage to leave the kitchen but says that those times will stay with him forever. Anyone working in the kitchen should read the whole letter in full.