30 Mar How Not to Cook an Omelette
My first foray into a professional cooking environment arose one summer holiday from university. I realised I could no longer afford to evade seeking some form of employment so, while enjoying lunchtime pints with friends one week before the opening of their new pub on Fulham road, I heard one of them mention that they still needed a chef.
‘Oh, I like to cook.’ I piped up.
‘Right, you’re in.’
‘Are you sure? I mean, I’ve never cooked in a pub before…’
‘You’ll be fine. Just keep it simple, you know, pub food – omelettes, burgers, that kinda thing.’
‘Oh. OK. Sounds simple enough.’
So, Monday morning, I turned up at the Black Bull, ready for action. I changed into chef’s whites and checks, grabbed an apron and marched about my kitchen, feeling very important, opening gleaming new fridge doors, sparking brand new stove hobs, picking up the array of pots, pans, knives and ladles. This looked like fun.
At no stage however, did it occur to me that there was no food in any of the fridges. Suddenly, the barman leans through the pass into the kitchen and slams a check down on the counter.
‘Cheese omelette chef!’ he shouts.
‘OK’, I reply confidently.
Now, it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that I had never cooked an omelette before in my life. I did at least know it contained eggs and that a cheese omelette also must contain cheese. I reopened the fridges. No cheese, no eggs. I hastily asked for some petty cash from the barman and tore off down Fulham Road to buy what I assumed I needed, returning five minutes later with six eggs and a slab of cheddar. Back in the kitchen, I considered my options. ‘Omelette. Break eggs, cook, add cheese. That seemed to make sense. But how to cook? With what? Ah yes, butter.’ Soon I was belting back down the road to buy some butter. Eventually, with all the requisite ingredients assembled before me, I decided to call my mother for instructions, only to be greeted by her answer phone. Things were now getting desperate. The order had been in for a good twenty minutes. There was no alternative. I walked through to the bar and asked Charlie who had ordered the omelette.
‘That chap, at the end of the bar.’
I walked down the bar to a dejected and impatient looking man.
‘Excuse me sir.’
‘Yes?’ he replied, looking up from his paper, irritated.
‘Did you order the omelette?’
‘About half an hour ago, yes!’ He wasn’t too happy.
‘Well, I was wondering. How do you cook that?’
It may be one thing to ask a customer how he would like his omelette cooked, but quite another to ask him how to cook it. Most obligingly however, he followed me into the kitchen and taught me how to cook an omelette. No sooner had we conquered this hurdle than another check came slamming down on the pass.
‘One burger chef, medium rare!’
In some pathetic state of delusion, I opened up the fridges again, expecting somehow to see a burger materialise before me. Seconds later, I was racing back down the Fulham Road to buy minced beef.