27 Mar River Cafe – A Chilli Introduction
I only really learned to cook when I joined the River Café as a waiter in the early 90s. Once again, I was broke, trying to make a film in India that was finally supposed to launch my career as a documentary maker. For the first time, I was surrounded by real ‘foodies’. These people really knew about food, fine fresh ingredients, cooking simply and with real flair. As a waiter, I was responsible for helping the kitchen with prep work, slicing garlic into ‘waafer thin’ slithers, picking over salads and herbs, preparing artichokes. Early on in my time there, I was asked to chop fresh red chillies for the sauce that goes with the restaurant’s signature squid dish. I had watched the mostly gay staff don plastic marigold gloves for the job, but decided I was way too manly for that and launched in with my bare hands. Ten minutes after finishing the job, five minutes before service began, I went for a pee. Seconds later, I understood the need for marigolds. My genitals were now covered in burning hot chilli and I was hoping from one foot to another while taking orders from tables, trying desperately not to grab my crotch. For the rest of the evening, I made a series of stealthy detours to the washrooms, clutching a small pot of creme fraiche.