Friday, 7 August 2009

1st week @ Nahm / as a chef!

Ok so a quick post on my first week at my new job...

Started at Nahm on Monday. While I've done a lot of cooking, dinner parties, Masterchef shenanigans and part time / temp experience in pro kitchens this is my first full time, full on chef's job. Feels good.

The more i think about it the more I'm sure the restaurant is the right place for me - David Thompson is an all time food hero of mine, it's really interesting & authentic Thai food and it's full of great chef's who i can learn loads from.

In general it also feels good to be settling down, focusing on one restaurant, one cuisine and on becoming a valued member of a brigade. I feel like what i put in i will get out sort o thing, which is a new and refreshing concept.

But what's it like? Well it's hard work: the hours are long, the breaks are short or non-existent and the level of professionalism expected is v.high. But that's what i want.

I'm working on Larder at the moment, and v.likely for the next few months at least. Larder at Nahm is a great section, it does almost half the dishes on the menu...Thai hors d'œuvres, salads, relishes, lons (mild coconut cream based relishes) some of the soups, and some of the street food stir-fries like the infamous Pad Thai. Plus i work right next to the pastry (dessert) section so get to help out there a bit / learn stuff / scoff stuff. There's often 4 chefs on this section alone.

At the moment I'm taking charge of about 3 dishes:
  • Mar Hor - hors d'œuvres made up of fruit pieces topped with a salty - sour -sweet paste
  • Miang - crazy concoctions of fresh ingredients with a complex sauce placed on betel leaves (see previous recipe / posts)
  • Mee Grob - crispy noodle dish with among other things: prawns, pickled garlic, beansprouts, garlic chives and a v.complex sauce soured using a rare citrus fruit called Som Sa.
I'm responsible for all the prep for and for delivering them as ordered during service, and they're you gotta work quick, precise and clean. I'll be doing more dishes (i.e having more rope to hang myself with) before long!

The chefs there are an eclectic mix of Aussies, Italians, french, Americans, English and Thais. Most of them have worked at top restaurants in London or around the world before. E.g Frederico - who's on my section at the mo - came from Locatelli's top Italian restaurant Locanda Locatelli and did all the bread for Giorgio's 'Made in Italy' book (his mug is on full page spread in the back).

Everyone there is re all uber professional and will send plates back unless they're perfect / tell you to speed up even though your chopping at 100mph and are generally good people to work around and learn from. Despite the super professional vibe you'll be reassured to hear there's also plenty of the humor, banter and smut that you'd expect in any kitchen worth it's salt too.

The experienced chefs will 'break your balls' a bit, give you some stick now and then etc but there's none of the macho chef nasty bullsh#t you'd get in some places. Basically if you can take a bit of stick, learn quick, work hard... and be a bit of a degenerate, then you'll fit in just fine! Think I'm getting there ;-).

Oh and everyone who works there (and some who dont!) gets 'scudded' at least once....

'scuds' being super hot bird's eye chillies - and sneaking them into someone's sandwich/cake/ rubbing round rim of drink and watching victim's eyes bulging, their sweats and vain attempts to cool mouth down is a Nahm institution.

Not got me yet, though i fully expect to be unexpectedly chomping on some scuds before week 2 is out.

After service there's a late night clean-like-an-animal fest, often followed by a v.welcome ice cold beer (new guy has to get the beer on ice by 8pm - forget at your peril!) before dumping your whites and doing the final sweaty cycle ride home, bowl of cereal, shower and bed part of the routine.

Will tell more as it unfolds. But so-far-so-good.



Debs said...

Glad you're enjoying your new job. Hope your chilli experience won't be too painful LOL. Keep up the hard work.

Matt Harrington said...

Rather you than me but you're young so you can keep up!

Helen said...

Have just seen the final because it's just shown in NZ and was so gutted for you thought I'd go online and see what I could find out about life after Masterchef - and found your blog! So pleased to read you are at Nahm - what an amazing opportunity to develop your skills in the cuisine you love - my husband and I ate at Darley Thai in Sydney and it was a revelation. I've really enjoyed getting some of the back story and wish you all the very best - you write with heart and generosity and I think your food exhibits these qualities - plus style, of course! Good luck