After some cheffy soul searching out at noma, the worlds best restaurant, I came back, did a couple of trials in restaurants in London and against the odds (it wasn't my type of restaurant, on paper), I took a job at Dinner by Heston. Fera at Claridges had been the restaurant calling to me, but my trial didn't leave me feeling enamoured. Don't get me wrong, the food looked pretty, the chefs all seemed genuinely nice, but something didn't sit. Dinner had asked me to start on the 1st September, leaving me a couple of months biding my time freelancing for an events company and doing some private work here and there. Even though Dinner by Heston is considered by 'the world's 50 best' to be the 5th best restaurant in the world, for some reason I also wasn't feeling totally at one with the idea - as in, I was honoured and privileged to be offered a position there, but looking back on this, I felt how could I possibly turn down such a great opportunity? I started to get excited about what i would learn and lo and behold before long I had started at Dinner in the mighty Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge.
The job wasn't all i had cracked it up to be, almost in line with my underlying suspicions, and understand - i wanted this to work. You don't wait two months for a job, that you feel honoured to have been offered, to then expect it to fail. But it wasn't for me. Dinner by Heston was a restaurant manned by a huge brigade of chefs; i don't know, maybe 30 - 40 at one time, to meet the demands of the restaurant. Serving 120 covers for lunch and 170 for dinner was a huge feat that the restaurant met daily very smoothly and with very little fuss. It's a calm pass, and when you see Ashley there, leading the pass, it's genuinely inspiring, you don't need a manically pressured and loud service, it's when it runs smoothly and calmly that continuity and standards are met. Serving 2 michelin star food at that volume is a great coup that they are rightly proud of and during a pep talk where the team was congratulated on working so well and seamlessly together, they hoped to be able to improve on this and up the number of covers next year to 175 perhaps. The goal of the restaurant, it is safe to say, is a long way from any aspiration I ever had or indeed want. It's a different kind of animal. The menu changes rarely - items move around perhaps once a year, if that, as far as I could see, and was informed. Firm favourites stay - the meat fruit certainly is an iconic dish and is what contributes to the incredible reputation of the restaurant. According to another team talk, apparently it is one of the most instagrammed food images of recent years. So i was at least pleased to be working on that section making meat fruits for my very short lived time at that restaurant. It didn't take away from the fact though, that my personal passion for food revolves around the seasons and change. Spontaneity and the ability to adapt to new ingredients and learn about these, at the same time. A constant evolution of the seasons and ingredients. Understanding better the soils around us and what these give to us. There sadly was going to be none of that in the restaurant. Certainly I would have learned the Heston way to perfection, because when you are doing something 300 times a day, to factory like precision, you can eventually do that work in your sleep. How boring, if you're like me. After resigning and explaining my reasons, I couldn't quite muster up telling the incredibly nice chefs at Dinner that I didn't feel quite inspired there, as they honestly are so passionate about what they do. It was a learning experience none the less, these days I certainly don't believe in mistakes.
I went back to freelancing and continued my search for the perfect restaurant job, feeling a touch disheartened that the right restaurant wasn't out there for me. A ludicrous notion, I know, in the capital city of England, but I couldn't quite find where I thought would be a perfect fit. Maybe it didn't exist, and as one of my freelance colleagues suggested to me; perhaps restaurants weren't the right move. I didn't buy that though.
So now, I proudly work at Hedone and each and every day I learn something new and exciting. It fuels the very reason I chose to do this, and makes me believe I will learn so much here and really be a part of something special before I choose to one day venture out in the big wide culinary world on my own.
My fingers are crossed!