"People confuse me. Food doesn't."
Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
When I was at university, each and every essay began with a quote. The quote would help to establish the theme and direction of my essay; it provided a way for me to introduce my response to a question without having to use my own words, because if you do not know what to say, it is far easier to repeat other people's words or ideas than come up with something new yourself.
With that in mind, people confuse me. Food does not. These are simple words. I do not understand people. I can read a book, but I cannot read people. Emotions and expressions are confusing. But like a book, I have learned to read what is needed.
Right now, you are probably wondering why this is important. Well, this is where Sweet Sea Food was born. I spent several years working in restaurant kitchens, trying as hard as I could to remain behind the scenes where I could not be seen. That was my idea of success - to do the hard work required without being seen, and receiving little to no credit. So I worked as a kitchen porter, which is just a fancy word for dishwasher. Here I learned the ins- and outs of the kitchen: where things went, how everything was cleaned, stocked, shelved, fixed, checked, evaluated, ignored, and whatever else the head chef shouted. I watched and waited, asking questions and listening to advice and complaints about my asking questions, all in the hopes of one day being moved to a different back office within the kitchen.
I wanted to work in food prep. Not cooking per se, but preparing the mise en place. The work that goes unseen in every kitchen. The man or woman who arrives early to rotate deliveries, cut produce and stock foods ready for the day(s) ahead. I wanted to work with knives and a cutting board; to stand behind a steel workstation that I can call my own, and be left alone. I wanted to leave my job at the end of a shift knowing that everything was done and in its place; that the cooks could open a drawer and find what is needed, cooking their perfect meals for customers seeking community.
Expectations and reality are rarely the same thing, however. Whilst opportunities for advancement were available, a dishwasher was always needed and I was sadly too good at my job. So I moved elsewhere, purchasing a few cookbooks along the way. These books were filled with history, stories, experiences, advice, thoughts, notes, mistakes. Everything I needed to learn so that I could better understand people as well as food.
I moved to a three month stint as a cold prep cook with Totem, a Cirque du Soleil production. Here I would do the mise en place for athletes, artists and crew meals, with a particular focus on salads and starters. Every day I would stand behind a steel workstation with my knives and a cutting board or two, and be left alone. I was allowed to be creative, but everything I needed to know had to be learned quickly, and it was hard. In the end, these skills translated back into the restaurant industry, and I was able to fully take advantage of the opportunities presented.
That was five months ago. My last cafe/restaurant job was to prepare the starters and the desserts. The starters whet your appetite for what is to come, offering a small glimpse of how good or bad your experience will be. The dessert on the other hand, is the most important meal of the entire restaurant experience. It is what we talk about when we leave; it is the taste that melts in our mouths and lingers on our tongues. It is what makes or breaks your culinary experience. It is our final conclusion, the end to the story being written.
This is Sweet Sea Food. A change of mentality from working in kitchens churning out good food but marginally passable desserts. We want to linger on your tongue and melt in your mouth. We want to beg you take another bite, even when you know you should not. We want you to experience that magical last bite, sealing your experience and ending on a high note.