The months since summer seem to have just gone before our eyes and the second spring of shoots and flowers seem to have erupted for one last time for 2016.
Wild mushrooms, succulents, nuts and spices are easy pickings for the next couple of months before all the chefs buckle up tight, strap their hard hats on and get ready for a tough month over December.
Only recently have I really appreciated, took it on my shoulders and understood what a team sacrifices in this industry, I always knew I think but I never embraced it. The demands of a new style of life people have that grows further away from a chef’s existence is happening today and it is getting tougher for cooks to find a work- life balance even more.
Christmas….24 early starts, 24 after service job lists running up to the big day, 24 days of a stacked walk in fridge, 100’s of pounds of bronze turkey to carve and 24 days of heavyweight cooking. It’s always a time of year that really does show the measure of a good team, it is gruelling, not pretty but the waves you ride are infectious, addictive and nothing normal. I have always loved cooking over Christmas and invited the pressure in but for most chefs it is a real test of character for which is already a tough industry to grow and adapt in under enormous pressures. Some fold, some go into lockdown and push through. The rise and falls really reveal their identities. The adrenalins and rawness of the feelings are like nothing on earth and at the end of the day it is just food… but boy has it got me hooked, everything I see, absorb and taste all matters. It is life!
I have challenged myself to make the environment more fun, more personal, more free and allow the chefs to enjoy their craft. It is so important we allow ourselves to enjoy what we do in our careers. Of course we are striving, of course the standard is not negotiable, I can be Mr Tough in the kitchen and I can be Mr Nice but it is down to me and the senior team we ensure people are smiling, cooking to their incredible potentials and most of all growing as people… this is what a head chef is all about and ensuring whatever goes over the passé is worth every penny and more. Christmas is coming and we will be ready physically and mentally.
Until then I will enjoy the riches of autumn and reflect a great summer here at the Mill and begin to re-build a new dawn and focus.
-- Lee Bye is head chef at Tuddenham Mill. Follow him on Twitter: @leebyechef