The lack of good reliable chefs, the shortage of solid available skills and constant staff shortages has received a lot of coverage in the past few months. We are no different as we suffer the same as any other kitchen. Filling spaces on the line has had its challenges. Soon we will have to relook the way we cook and design menu’s. We still continue the search for that sparkle in the eye.
But this story is not about finding the right person, this is about a group of individuals going beyond the call of duty, beyond the barrier of pain. We never mention the pain and the suffering we put our families through for a cause that we sometimes struggle to fully understand. It is hard when you never spend holidays with loved ones, but instead, you apron up next to fellow chefs for another service.
Last Christmas was no different to any other before, we were fully booked in every corner of the hotel, we know what is coming, we prepare, we are prepped to the ceiling and ready cook hard, really hard. But Christmas and the week that followed in 2015 was a new character test for me and my staff.
As we settled to start service in the main kitchen, the lights went out! We counted the seconds expecting the micros to start its spluttering again. Just echoes of silence. No one panicked as we have regular power failures, this was going to routine. Instead, scribblings on paper indicating orders for the night started appearing. With minimal light, we started scrambling for torches, candles it was going to be long night. News arrived that the main breaker blew up!
By 01:00 the sounds of silence echoed through our kitchen, the humour had left our systems, nothing was funny anymore, we could not see the end. Instead we saw darkness, seeing the faces of our fellow chefs might have discouraged us even more. By 2:00 all the refrigerated trucks were loaded. The critical foods were saved. Remember this was food for a week that we had to find cold storage for as all the suppliers were closed.
We went home way after our usual late night bed time, with the adrenaline still rushing through my system, bed had to wait. With a beer in hand I still had to process.
By five most of us were back to try and salvage what was left. After all it was Christmas day.
With every shift hand over we were all hoping for power, reality had not set in, as we realise that if the power had to come back on, it will still take two days to get to fifth gear and be able to do service in all areas.
Two days after Christmas we still had nothing but candle light and gas. Food still had to be served. It was while I sat in darkness after service, I realised how special my staff were. They were all at work, they all made Festive holidays a success. Our expectations remained high, they just continue to deliver.
I do not have the words to thank my staff for the effort and dedication working by candle light, with no ovens, moving produce back and forth, no extractors or light.
Not a single person complained, they all just simply pulled together with every plate and very buffet leaving the kitchen without visible effort. Our staff hid their pain in silence, silently wishing for an end to the madness.
Thank you to my chefs, commis and scullers. You gave more than what was reasonability expected. Thank you for being part of a great team and a great family. No one disappointed! Not only was this a low point, but a high point in my life as chef.
We were only to be back to full five days later. This is the second time in my life that I have experienced a powerless Christmas, but it feels
* Special Thanks to
Wynand at Extreem Kwizeen for bring through refrigerated trucks at 12:00 at night
Kerston Foods for additional refrigerated trucks
Schmidhauser for getting the power going
Woodstock bakery for sorting us with good bread