Roughly, 4 or 5 years ago when the company I work for was going through a rough patch and it was advisable to seek alternative opportunities, I interviewed for the Good Food & Wine Show’s Founder, for the position of her Personal Assistant. The role was very diverse and would require the successful candidate to be extremely involved in the co-ordination of all the shows country-wide. I could not contain my excitement at this opportunity!
The first interview with the boss lady herself, went exceptionally well, I could tell she was impressed and she invited me back for a second interview to meet with her ‘second in commands’. I was so nervous about this second interview, that I worked myself up into quite a state and had to take calming tablets. Which made me feel a little out of sorts, even though they were ALL NATURAL – this feeling coupled with having to wait in reception for what felt like forever, only made the anxiety worse so when it was finally ‘show time’, I was a babbling idiot who failed to impress. The boss lady at one stage even said to me “what happened to the Tracey I met the other day?” :s Oh dear!
The one question they threw at me, which has stood out to me ever since, was “Why are you passionate about food?” – To which after a pause, I answered, that I can’t explain it, I just am, that I couldn’t put a finger on it … I just loved and consumed everything to do with food. They were not happy with my answer and didn’t understand why I couldn’t summarize what it was exactly that I loved so dearly about food. That question has haunted me ever since and to this day, I still try to come up with an answer that would not only satisfy them but would satisfy myself. But all the ‘appropriate’ answers I conjure up just don’t feel right! It’s like saying “Why do you love him?” – you can list a few things sure, his personality, his smile …but it doesn’t totally capture the essence of why you love this person, does it? It’s indescribable and that’s how I feel about my relationship with food. I can’t explain it, I just do.
So fast forward a few years to 2013 – there I am, back of house in one of the make shift kitchens working at the Good Food & Wine Show in Cape Town, for the 3 consecutive days, long hours, no pay, no glory, just hard work (don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of it – it was my first taste of what a commercial kitchen could be like! and throw in the fact that some of the full time students who obviously didn’t know me, where calling me Chef (based on how much older I was than them – Hee Hee) and who should enter the kitchen and ask me for some pieces of equipment, but the boss lady herself! As she stood there, sifting through pots and pans, I almost asked her if she remembered me (there did seem to be a hint of recognition but whether she placed me or not, I can’t be sure … me in my Michelin Man uniform and all), but I lost my nerve. I should have though, perhaps seeing me there, all those years later, actively pursuing my culinary dream, would have finally legitimized my answer to that haunted question all those years ago “I can’t explain it, I just do”.
Other blogs on the Good Food and Wine Show:
Chefs in action
Meeting Stalking Gordon Ramsay
Photography by Darren Bester
(And by met, I mean stalked)
Another major perk to working at the Good Food and Wine Show in 2013 was that Mr. Gordon Ramsay was the head line chef, meaning the odds of meeting him, ‘were forever in my favour’. Especially, if like me, you made it your absolute obsession to ensure a ‘chance’ encounter with the man …
First shift – arrive and learn that I am NOT in Gordon Ramsay’s prep kitchen! Massive blow to my fantasy of Gordon discovering my talents while tasting the veal jus I had just prepared and asking me to head up his flagship restaurant …
But alas, it was not meant to be, as I had been assigned to the ‘Real Food Theatre’ Kitchen (which if you read my blog entry Chefs in Action you will know I actually really enjoyed).
Not one to give up so quickly, I head to Gordon’s kitchen to go and survey the scene …under the pretence of going to say “Good Morning” to my Chef Lecturer, who is running Gordon’s kitchen for the GFWS. Managed to get an introduction to Gordon’s actual Sous Chef, a charming chap but still no sign of Gordon. I enquire innocently as to his ETA and learn that his first show is scheduled for 3 hours time and he will probably arrive and be in the Green room shortly before that. ‘The Green room’ I say innocently, where exactly is this green room? It’s pointed out to me and hope now returns. All I have to do is be outside the green room prior to Gordon’s show and I will at least see the man up close and personal! I rush back to my kitchen with a spring in my step to tell the chosen few the plan!
20 minutes before curtain and the chosen few and I are casually hanging outside Gordon’s prep kitchen, avoiding eye contact with our Chef Lecturer, while he and the students are frantically preparing items for the demonstration due to start. We edge closer to the green room where we can see Eric Lanlard, the French Patisserie and Celebrity Chef, enjoying some refreshments, being served by a fellow student (how did she land that gig?!?). It is quite obvious that we are stalking the green room now as there is nothing between us and the room, Eric Lanlard gives us a nervous smile and we were just starting to feel really awkward and considering going back to our posts when, the side door should open and in should waltz Mr. Gordon Ramsay in the flesh. Taller than I thought, in fact he is about as tall as me, and I am pretty tall at 1.88m. He is in good shape, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and he is a hype of energy. He had no choice but to stop and greet us as we were quite literally blocking his way … he shook our hands (!!!), asked how we were doing, said his token Afrikaans word … something about boerewors, had a laugh with one of the full time male students, before joining Eric in the Green Room. Big grins on our faces, we skipped back to our kitchen – Mission Completed Houston!
And the cherry on the top? As a Thank you to all the students who volunteered their services at the Good Food & Wine Show, Gordon agreed to signing our recipe books – so I got to meet the man again, whilst he signed one of my favourite Gordon Ramsay recipe Books “Chef” (I have not yet attempted any of the recipes as they are all 3 star recipes and each recipe is about 10 pages long, but I love looking at the pictures and will get around to testing them out soon, especially now that I have a chefs qualification and all … 🙂
During the 3 day show, there had been a lot of buzz about Gordon taking a photograph with all the students on the last day, and I, of course suffering, with the most severe case of foodie fomo wanted to be front and centre for this photo op! But as the days wore on and my feet grew more and more tired, and the calls from Hubby got louder and louder (he was packing up the entire downstairs section of our house alone, due to the renovations set to commence momentarily), I just didn’t have the power and forewent this opportunity to have a moment in time captured with Gordon. I’ve been tempted to photo-shop myself in, anyone any good with that program?
Gordon with some of the students at the Good Food & Wine Show, 2013
It’s all good … Gordon and I will always have the Green Room !
While working at the Good Food & Wine Show I had the opportunity to prep for some celebrity chefs – names which included; Australian Chef, Bill Granger, renowned South African Chef, Franck Dangereux, Drizzle and Dip’s Sam Linsell and Jane – Anne Hobbs aka Scrumptious, to name but a few. Not only did I assist with all the preparation of ingredients required for their food demonstrations but I got to assist the guests by cooking with them, whilst the demo was underway. How it worked was, the public could purchase tickets to cook with Bill Granger or Franck Dangereuxr or whomever. Limited tickets were available as there were only 8 work stations per demo, 2 people sharing one work station which equated to 16 people cooking with their celebrity chef or favourite cook. Each of these groups of 2, were assigned a student (enter yours truly), to assist them and ensure that they keep up with the Chef demonstrating up front on the stage. It was a lot of fun to be able to partake and of course to meet these well known chefs and foodies alike.
Amongst all the Chef’s and cooks I encountered over that 3 day period, I found myself most drawn to and most inspired by Jane-Anne Hobbs. Who, until that day I had not heard of. The immediate like to this renowned foodie started before even meeting her, whilst reading her instructions and prep notes that accompanied her recipe, while in the kitchen preparing for her demonstration. She was so thorough in describing exactly which ingredients each of her guests would require in order to successfully follow and carry out her recipe, she was also so thorough in outlining the equipment each guest would require, and upon arrival, had even brought some of her own personal equipment just in case our kitchen was not properly stocked. Her notes left no grey areas and I thought to myself, if I was in her position, this is exactly how I would have documented my needs too – not leaving anything to chance. Then on reading the ingredients to the recipe – chicken, bacon, cream, mushroom, beer …. It was love at first sight, as this was my kinda cooking!
During the actual demonstration, Jane–Anne commanded the room, spoke clearly, did not rush through the recipe, ensuring all her guests where up to speed before moving on to the next step. Whilst demonstrating she shared some valuable tips with guests, which I really value, as I really do believe that good cooking all comes down to knowing the tricks of the trade. One such example, which she shared, and which I have used since – Green Beans – we all know how boring and time consuming it can be to top and tail green beans right? Well, Jane-Anne showed us how if you take a packet of Woolies (*mothership) green beans – label side facing up – push all the beans to one end of the bag, holding tight with your opposite hand onto the body of the bag and using a sharp knife in the other hand, cut through the bag and the beans and take off the top ends of all your beans in one easy swoop. Then simply push all your beans down to the other side of the uncut bag and repeat the process and VOILA – trimmed beans in 1 minute instead of 10! She shared a number of other handy tips but the 2 guests I was assisting were keeping me so busy I couldn’t listen as intently as I wanted to (Note to self: buy tickets for the Chef’s in Action Theatre at the GF&WS this year).
I’ve been following Jane –Anne’s blog ever since and received a copy of her latest recipe book “Scrumptious” Food for Family & Friends, in my Christmas stocking from hubby. I’ve drooled over all the recipes and tested a few out already, all of which did not disappoint. Included in the book is the recipe she demonstrated at the GFWS – “Chicken with Cider, Bacon and Mushroom”. This recipe is also available on Jane-Anne’s blog.