Washing lettuce

When washing any kind of lettuce, the main priority has to be that your guests are not grinding on grit or sand whilst eating your much loved salad that you have prepared for them…there is nothing worse.

When washing lettuce it is best to fill a clean sink with fresh cold water so that when all the lettuce is placed in the sink, there is at least 6 inches of water between the lettuce and the bottom of the sink.

Mix around the lettuce whilst washing each leaf individually and allowing all the sand to fall to the bottom of the sink. When this is done, whilst leaving the water in the sink, the lettuce must all be scooped out of the water and then placed to one side.

Then the water is drained off, the sink thoroughly washed and the same process completed a second time, after this is completed the lettuce is now clean.

You must not allow the water to drain first and the lettuce to touch the bottom of the sink as the lettuce will get mixed up with the sand and place you back to square one.

Make an omelet like a professional chef

Making an omelet looks harder than what it actually is and like everything else, with enough practice, along with enough trial and error you will be making professional chef like omelets in no time. Confidence and faith in being able to do something will arrive automatically, when you do it often enough. It’s like riding a bike and only negative thoughts you may have & ones that shout out “I can’t do it” will stop you.

All you need is a simple, small and shallow non stick frying pan, a wooden spoon and the ingredients and away you go.

Let’s talk about the omelet pan first shall we;

If the cooking surface is too large the eggs will be spread too thin and cook too quickly, if the surface is too small the eggs will be spread too thick and take forever to cook. The ideal size with regards to the cooking surface of the pan should be approximately 6-8 inches in width. It should be non stick, rather sturdy and easy to wipe clean with a kitchen cloth after the omelet is finished.

The wooden spoon should have a smallish head which would be about 3 inches in length, it does not really matter if it is flat or with a dimple inside, but it should be round in shape to move inside the pan easily. A square shaped wooden spoon will make it difficult to collect the eggs as you stir the eggs in a round shaped pan, leaving eggs here and there to then over cook.

Now let’s talk about the ingredients;

All you need is 2 eggs (some people like to use 3, but with the ongoing cholesterol issue 2 will suffice. Also if you make the mixture too much, then you go back to the pan and cooking surface being the incorrect size for the amount of mixture you are cooking), salt & pepper and a small touch of milk (cream if you would like to be decadent).

Now to making the actual omelet;

Place the omelet pan on your stove; add a little clarified butter or low cholesterol oil in the pan. We should not use fresh butter as the butter may burn and discolour the finished omelet surface and spoil the presentation.

When the clarified butter is hot and almost starting to smoke, you add the eggs, immediately stirring vigorously and not allowing the eggs to stand still for a second.

When the eggs are almost cooked and there is a little wet egg left, you should then stop and take the pan off the stove.

You then take this opportunity to use your spoon and move around the liquid egg that is left, thereby filling any holes left behind from the stirring wooden spoon. The entire surface of the pan should be covered now with moist eggs.

You then use the wooden spoon to roll the eggs as you would roll a swiss roll cake after baking. Whilst holding the spoon in your hand, you start from one end and slowly roll the eggs tightly moving in to the middle of the omelet and then to the far end.

When the eggs are rolled and resemble an omelet you then turn the pan upside down tipping the omelet on to a clean warm plate. You can then use a clean towel to cup the omelet in your hands and shape the omelet for presentation purposes.

Notes:

If you would like to have something a little different and special (showing your loved ones you have a couple of tricks up your sleeves) you could add another single egg white to the two egg mixture. You then need to whip the mixture vigorously to trap as much air as possible. Making the omelet in the way I have shown you, after the finished omelet is on the plate you can place it under a hot grill for a second and watch it rise like a soufflé.

The air you have trapped inside during the whipping process will now expand and rise taking the egg mixture with it. Although omelet purists will tell you that this method is not actually an omelet, the nice colour from the grill, the almost double in size omelet will definitely impress the people for whom you are cooking.

The only problem is, is that as it is kind of like a soufflé in its cooking process these kind of omelets need to be served straight away as if they are not they will sink rather quickly.

Happy Cooking!

Making a homemade non stick pan

In the hotel industry many of the old style hotels would never purchase non stick pans, one reason was in the “old days” they did not exist and another was that for heavy usage they would never last long. They would get scratched, dented, burnt, broken, smashed and even stolen, so to avoid this they would make their own non stick variety that would be hardened, sturdy and last forever.

I have done this many times personally and this is how they do it:

When I was conducting my training there was no such thing as non stick pans and they would use cast iron, very heavy and durable pans which needed to be “seasoned” for them to be able to be non stick.

On receiving a new, straight from the supplier, cast iron frying pan or sautéing pan, we used to first place it on a solid top stove, empty with absolutely nothing inside and get it so hot that it would be smoking.

We would then place enough course sea salt in the smoking hot pan to cover its entire cooking surface until it was about 2cm thick. We would leave the hot pot on the stove with the salt and slowly burn and cook the pot with the salt inside. The salt will very slowly “cook” by smoking, burning and turning the salt very slowly to a dark brown colour.

We would then discard the salt in a bin, get a piece of cloth (a towel cloth like an old bath towel or face cloth) dip it in oil and wipe or rub the pot until the hot metal would absorb the oil making the pan shiny.

When the pan is smoking hot, we would them wipe the pan clean with another piece of kitchen towel and then proceed with the whole process all over again from the beginning.

After doing this 2 or 3 times the metal will have absorbed the oil making the metal very shiny, “seasoned” and have a homemade non stick effect. When you have done this you need to try out the pan by making an omelet, if the eggs stick, you have to start all over again until the pan cooks an omelet without the eggs sticking.

The act of “seasoning” the pan may take a few days, a week on more than a week, but it is definitely a loving care process.

It is VERY important to know that this kind of pan, once seasoned can never be washed in water; they are just wiped clean with a dry kitchen cloth or paper towel. Water and this type of non stick pan are worst enemies, washing the pan with soapy water will ensure that you have to start the whole process again from the very beginning.

Once any metal which includes a barbecue grill, pots and pans or skillets absorb enough oil and become seasoned, nothing will ever stick to them again if you take care of them.

Even when you are using a barbecuing grill, you must rub the grill irons with an oily cloth enough times to ensure the metal has absorbed it. The metal will look moist and shiny and no food will stick to this metal. If the bars are hot, very dry and dull, anything you add to this grill will immediately stick and when you pull away the food half of it will still be stuck to the grill bars and then burn.

Metal which is used for cooking needs to be seasoned with oil and this takes patience, time, tender loving care and lots of effort, but once you get the pan the way you want it, protect it with your life as you will be the envy of the chef community.

Happy Pan Seasoning!!

Easy steps to cutting a mango

Cutting a mango correctly could not be easier if you have the right tools and the basic knowledge to do so.

The first step is to cut a mango as you would normally cut it, if you make a mess of it please do not worry, all you want is the stone from inside as this is the secret to cutting a perfect mango.

After you have eaten the broken mango wash all the left over bits and pieces of fruit off the stone until it’s clean and lay it on your cutting board.

Then you get need to get another whole mango and lay that next to the cleaned stone.

Both the stone and the mango will lay on the board in a similar fashion, the stone will look like a elongated, funny kind of flying saucer shape.

Then you must peel the skin off the whole mango with a small pairing knife, we use smaller knives as they are easier to control whilst holding them and much better for any intricate work that needs to be done.

Lay the peeled mango next to the mango stone and take a good look at them both.

You now know what the stone inside the whole peeled mango looks like and which way the stone will be laying inside the whole fruit.

The stone will be lying inside the fruit exactly as it is lying on the cutting board, flat on its side.

Here is the secret, by using a thin bladed and sharp knife, by holding the fruit with your left hand ever so gently, you insert the edge of the knife into the right had side of the mango.

You feel around for the stone with your knife and when you feel the stone, you turn your hand to ensure the knife is laying down flat on the stone and cut across the top of the stone cutting the top half of the mango off.

You then turn around the mango and do exactly the same to cut off the top half of the fruit.

In other words you are using the knife to follow the exact shape of the stone thereby cutting around the stone.

You will then end up with two rather large pieces that you can slice and serve, however there will still be more bits and pieces left on the stone that you need to cut off any way you can.

The smaller pieces you have would normally be cut for fruit salad and the larger ones sliced and served with ice cream or another accompaniment of your choice.

Notes:

When holding a peeled mango, if you squeeze it too hard, the fruit will crush or at least end up with large indents or finger prints all over it. Mango is a very delicate fruit that needs to be handled with lightly touched care. You need to ensure that the cutting board you are using is very clean and fresh without onion, garlic or fish smells (for example) as Mango is also a very delicately tasting fruit as well and will absorb left over smells on the board. There is nothing worse than biting into a wonderful piece of fresh fruit only to find out that it tastes like garlic.

Happy Cutting!

Simple points to cooking vegetables

When cooking vegetables most people would believe it to be the most simple of tasks, but if done correctly, you can retain all the vitamins, minerals and the wonderful natural colours. Let’s take a simple vegetable such as long beans and go through the steps taking into consideration that most vegetables can be cooked the same way.

Start off by placing a large pot on the stove, ¾ full of water and seasoned with rock salt.

Bring the pot to a steady boil before adding the vegetables, the vegetables should roll over in the water as the water boils.

Get a bowl ready filled with ice, do not add the water until the last minute as the water will melt the ice rather quickly.

After cooking for 5 minutes, every 1 minute or so after that, fish a single bean out of the pot and bite into it, when they are almost cooked and there is a slight “bite” left they are ready.

Fill the bowl of ice with cold water on top and plunge the “fished” out and almost cooked green beans right into the ice cold water.

When they are plunged into the ice cold water the green colour will jump out at you.

The ice cold water instantly stops the cooking process and they can be left there for hours and will be safe, thereby not cooking any further.

You leave the cooking water still in the pot and simmering gently on the stove.

You then get a sauté pan, add some whole butter, shallots, garlic or whatever herbs, spices and so on that you wish to add.

When all the ingredients are sautéed nicely together, you plunge the beans back into the simmering water for just long enough to heat them up.

You then fish them out again and add them right into the sautéed garlic and herbs, toss them around for a second and they are done!

Notes:

We should never put a lid on green vegetables when you are cooking them as the entire natural colour will disappear and they will turn brown.

We should never over cook vegetables as if we do that all the vitamins and minerals are transferred into the cooking water, to get the natural benefits from the vegetables we have to drink all the cooking water.

If we are cooking lots of vegetables we should cook them in batches, if there are too many vegetables put into the boiling water it will take too long for the water to come back to a boil and the vegetables with loose their colour. The quicker the vegetables come back to a boil the better. It should actually only take a few seconds after adding the vegetables for the water to come back to a boil, if this is not the case you have added too many.

Every different type of vegetable takes a different amount of time to cook so they have to be cooked separately. If we cook them together, you have to wait for the vegetables that take longer to cook to cook properly and this will ensure that the vegetables that take less time to cook are over cooked.

Happy Cooking!

The joys of being a chef

This musing was first published in Flavours Magazine and is not in Chef’s Tales the book.

The profession of a chef is a challenging one but offers opportunities that are beyond your wildest dreams. Recently, over lunch with a friend who’s in the hospitality training line, we were lamenting the difficulties of getting young people to commit themselves to the hospitality industry. With Malaysia hoping to welcome 16 million tourists this year, (which should generate at least RM26 billion in revenue), securing a good reputation for service, safety, food quality and tourist appreciation has to be our top priority. Towards this end, I am thinking that the hotel industry should do more to make itself attractive to prospective employees. It is only by attracting young, energetic and intelligent people who are dedicated to the hospitality business that we can hope to improve the overall tourism industry. Today, there are many other careers which appear to offer more perks – like an easier life and stable hours. The worst pressure one in the hospitality line has to deal with is that of peer pressure, when others try to convince you that the life you have chosen is a difficult one.

Well, I always wanted to be a chef. Just the thought of having the opportunity to make people happy with a great dining experience – one that they would remember forever – made it the easiest career choice for me to make. A few hoteliers have taught me that this business chooses you and when you embrace it, you will banish the thought of considering the other professions you had initially tried. To remain in this demanding industry, the passion for it has to be in your blood but the hospitality line is a challenging one which offers immensely rewarding careers.

When I was 18 years old and fresh out of hotel school, I was really happy and excited to land my first apprentice chef’s job. During the interview, the executive chef was like a used car salesman trying to sell me the job. “If you are lucky to get the job, you will be in good hands as our hotel has the best reputation and has the best trained chefs. They will be imparting to you, skills which have taken many years to acquire and for that, you should be paying us! “However, we are willing to pay you a nominal salary so that you can use this money to give your mum a little and the rest, you can use to buy some knives of your own – one each month.” A very small one, I thought. “We will also give you a locker, a pair of safety shoes, a clean white uniform and a tall, funny-looking hat that will make all your friends laugh at you and eventually, because of the lack of ventilation to your scalp, will make you go bald.” These were, as he led me to believe, the other list of “benefits.” Of course, for these fantastic value-added benefits, there came a price: 12-hour shifts and six-day weeks. I’m sure that’s written in microscopic print somewhere although I have yet to find it. “By the way,” he continued with his sales pitch, “you will never go hungry again, or be cold and lonely. Most importantly, you will never be unemployed because people will always have to eat.” I looked at him for a second and reflected on the one thing he said that actually made sense. The revelation that “people will always have to eat” was a major epiphany for me as a budding chef. That is so true and is something that will never change.

After the interview, I went home and waited for the phone call that would change my life. A week later, immediately after I had accepted the position, my best friend rang. “Mike, we are going out tomorrow night to paint the town red – are you in?” asked Bill. “I cant – I start my new job tomorrow,” I proudly announced. “That’s during the day, twit. I m talking about after 9 o’clock,” he said. “William, I am now a chef in the most prestigious hotel in town and that puts an end to all the nights out, wild life and crazy days. Tomorrow night, I shall be in the kitchen creating some gorgeous delicacies while you are playing darts and talking about the Saturday afternoon football schedule. Football is no longer my main interest and hitting a score of 180 with three darts is no longer my life’s ambition…” Before I could continue, William broke in: “What the heck are you talking about? Are you telling me you are going to be a cook?” “A chef, my dear boy, a chef.” “Yes, whatever. It is still cooking and cooking is a woman’s job. Men work on oil rigs – that’s what men do; they don’t cook,” came the sexist argument that I would encounter for many years to come. “Whatever,” I countered. “This job is going to take me far and teach me more about life more than any other job could ever do,” I said unconvincingly. “Anyway, I have to go now,” said Bill despondently. “By the way, Mike, don’t splash sauce on your pinny (apron), aye!”

As a guy, it is really off-putting, upon graduation from culinary school, to be told that cooking is a woman’s job. However, the reality is that there are actually very few women chefs. Female chefs are extremely underestimated and despite their superb work ethics and refined approach, they usually give up due to being teased mercilessly by their male counterparts. On the other hand, there are many who thrive in professional kitchens.

When I was working in the Bahamas, I was asked to go to another hotel to borrow some equipment from the executive chef. I entered the hotel’s kitchen through the back door and saw one of the biggest women I have ever seen. She looked totally annoyed with my untimely arrival and stood there with her hands on her hips. She stared at me and thundered: “And what can I do for you, young man?” “Actually madam, I just wanted to speak to the executive chef. Is he around?” I asked. “Are you trying to be funny, my little friend? If you are, I would strongly advise you to be careful. Otherwise, I may have to introduce your face to the kitchen floor,” she responded. Feeling a little exasperated, I replied somewhat gruffly: “Listen here, I’m very busy. Is the chef here or not? Can you call him for me? I need to borrow some equipment.” The ebony hulk raised her arms in the air and roared like a lioness at the top of her voice: “I am the executive chef! What the heck do you want?!” The sheer force of her voice stunned me momentarily. I stood there bolted to the ground and after my pathetic attempts to apologize for my thoughtless assumptions, I explained what kind of equipment I needed. Once I got hold of what I needed, I prepared to scram. “By the way, have you ever been given the Bahamian welcome hug?” asked the hefty executive chef. “Welcome hug?” I repeated puzzledly. I looked around at her giggling staff and before I knew what was happening, it was too late. She grabbed me and gave me a suffocating, bone-crushing squeeze which seemed to last forever. When she finally let go of me, I gasped for air like a dying fish out of water.

That episode sure taught me never to underestimate female chefs again! It also goes to show that women are equally capable in professional kitchens – many female chefs can hold their own in a male-dominated domain and can rise to the peak of the profession. Male or female, chefs today are highly educated, articulate people who offer a lot to the community.

The job of a chef is full of surprises – you never know who you’ll be serving. During my career as a chef, I have cooked for and have had conversations with Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Steven Seagal, Glenda Jackson, Mr T, John McEnroe, Suharto, Goh Chok Tong, the Agha Khan, Prince Philip of England, Margaret Thatcher, Charles Bronson, Stevie Wonder and Duran Duran, just to name a few.

What other profession gives you this kind of opportunity to meet so many luminaries? Chefs, as all hoteliers are, what I term as “world people” – a very small percentage of the world’s population who are able to live anywhere, mix with anyone and appreciate every culture and religion.

These are people who have much better interpersonal and problem-solving skills because of their exposure to people from different backgrounds, from around the world. The hotel industry will give you a sense of being that no other profession could; it will help you travel the world, mature in every way humanly possible and send your self-confidence soaring to rare heights. The hotel business will offer you opportunities that are beyond even your wildest dreams. When your chance to join it comes, grab it by the horns and never look back as you will be on the path to fulfillment. Very few professions will ever afford you the sense of fulfillment that you will get from the hotel business.

Once Upon a Durian Date

This musing was first published in Flavours Magazine and is not in Chef’s Tales the book:

Did I ever tell you about the time when I had my first encounter with “The King of Fruits”? It was one I shall never forget as it was my very first romantic date with my dear wife Beatrice. I had only been in Malaysia for a short while and had not yet tasted any of the local fruit, as they were not yet in season.

After negotiating a date over a period of months, the big day finally came where I hoped to steal my first kiss. I closed my eyes and tried to think how great it was going to be; the many times I had dreamt of it had built up the expectation to dizzying heights. We walked along a beach in Penang, had a drink in a small restaurant along the way and then decided to go and have some fresh “fruit”. The journey around the winding hills in Teluk Bahang, looking for the elusive fruit while sitting in the back seat of a taxi was to say the least, harrowing. The driver – let’s call him Schumacher for the sake of an argument – was a very friendly chap who just had to have what he considered a most interesting conversation with his customers, while driving at speeds any of his fellow Formula One drivers would have been proud of.

“You know”, he started out, “the last time I came up here, I turned the car turtle,” he proudly boasted. Turning around to face us and at the same time pushing his foot down with lead shoes to reach breakneck speed while maneuvering 100 feet drop corners, he calmly announced, “with a little bit of luck, we can avoid the same occurrence this time around”.

With little confidence, I broke a meek smile to try and cover up the feeling that I was going to die or at least vomit at any time, totally humiliating myself in front of my dream date, who was looking a little peeked herself. “Why don’t you try to slow down a little there, big guy, the apples and pears won’t go rotten, you know.”

“What apples and pears? What are you talking about?” he announced, puzzled by my comment about the upcoming fruit expedition. “This ain’t London you know ..,”he finished off with a strange word I had not yet heard, which sounded something like “boh dough”.

“What does that mean?” I asked Beatrice. “I did not hear what he said as the air-conditioning is too loud,” she said in a politically correct manner. As I was sweating like an overweight Sumo wrestler sitting in a hotter-than-hell sauna, I enquired, “What air-conditioning?” and slowly received the message as she rolled her eyes at me. What with going around in circles combined with the feeling of sheer fright, I was almost going to loose my breakfast when I heard those golden words, “We are here.” As we stopped and pulled over at the roadside, I was totally oblivious to where “here” actually was. There was a small wooden hut constructed at the side of the road and a chap was sleeping on a wooden rickety table made from tree branches and surrounded by four chairs. “Wow, business must be great here, and the fruit so superb and fresh, everybody is lining up to grab some of it,” I quipped with a smile. “Shush,” said Beatrice giving me a nudge, “Don’t be so rude.”

The proud owner of the orchard woke up as Schumi gave him a shock by blowing his horn. “Hey, Datuk, I have a couple of customers for you,” he proudly announced. “That will be 20 ringgit,” my friendly chauffeur said calmly. “Twenty ringgit?” I said in a high-pitched voice. “You must be nuts!” I said in a shocked manner. “Anyway, where do you think you are going?” I asked rather sheepishly, “Do you see any taxi stands around here, how the heck are we going to get back?” Mr Schumacher happily negotiated to wait without extra charge, which I thought, was very polite and kind of him, until he announced that he was hungry and the sharing of our fruit might just clinch the deal.

“Datuk” had already gone walking through the jungle with his hands behind his back, looking down in the long grass while kicking, trying to find something. Surely the apples or pears or whatever would be rotten if they were lying on the moist ground, I thought. Not wanting to offend, I kept quiet and amused myself by looking at Beatrice and her lovely full lips and wondered what it was going to be like when I kissed them. “Got one,” shouted the orchard owner. He sounded so happy with himself and with his big find of goodness-knows-how-long-ago-rotten fruit. As he emerged from the jungle and was making the short trek up to the hut, I saw in his hands the strangest looking – what I supposed was fruit – that I have ever seen. What the heck was that? A large green funky-looking thing with spikes! My first reaction was to ask how we were going to peel this sucker. “What do u have there Datuk?” I asked, bemused. “The last time I saw something like that was in the Alien movie.” I hesitated for a second, “no, sorry, I think it was Predator.” Schumi gave me a look that said “Don’t be funny, you might find yourself walking home.” Well, that would be safer…and cheaper, I muttered to myself.

The fruit was placed on the table with a thud. This was the first time I witness a fruit that, if dropped, would damage the table before it received even a single blemish. I crossed my arms and looked at this thing with a puzzled look on my face that alarmed Beatrice. “Have you never tried this before?” she asked. “Tried it? I have never even seen anything like it before, never mind tried it. What the heck is it?” My new sweetheart explained to me that this strange looking fruit was in fact a durian and it was a delicacy of Malaysia and somewhat of an acquired taste.

Datuk bent down, reached under the table emerged with a large, menacing knife. “I’m sorry,” I announced quickly. “I did not mean anything if I offended you.” “Bodoh!” Schumi muttered under his breadth, as they started to pry open the skin with the tip of the blade.

All of a sudden, there was an offensive odour surrounding the table. I smelt under my armpits to see if the smell was coming from me and then looked underneath my shoes to see if I had stepped in something. After deducing that the wonderful smell of fresh picked roses was in fact not my fault at all, I realized that the offending odour was in fact coming from the fruit. A thin, blue-like haze was rising from the split skin. “It’s rotten!” I shouted, “We will have to find another one, maybe one that is still on the tree and in better condition.” Beatrice went to explain that, in fact, that was how the fruit was supposed to smell and that the best ones would be those that had fallen from the tree by themselves, ensuring that they were totally ripe. “You mean durian actually smells like that”? I asked in shock. “Yes,” was the one word answer Beatrice offered me. “And it’s not rotten?” “No,” she countered. “And we are going to pay good money for it and then eat it?” “Yes, that’s right. Will you please be quiet?” She pleaded.

As the durian was laid on the table, everyone was unfortunately polite to offer the guest, yours truly, the first piece. So I took the smallest piece available and placed it in my mouth. My stomach, which by now was in a state of shock, dropped a subtle hint that is was less than impressed with the nourishment that I was offering, by churning and tying in a solid gut-wrenching knot. I had never in my entire life tasted anything that smelt so bad and tasted so terrible with an unimaginable sickly and slimy texture. As it slithered down my throat leaving a horrendous after-taste, I managed to bear a thin-tooth smile, and throw out a single word: “Yummy.”

In a matter of minutes, the durian was finished, and I was offered another. “Oh, no thank you, I could not eat a single delectable piece more,” I announced. “I am totally full; stuffed, actually,” and then I held my breath and prayed that they would not purchase a second nightmare. “Fruit”. I will give them both fruit,” I complained to myself.

As we settled back in the car, I was dreading contending with Schumi, the winding road and the added disadvantage of having this lump of smelly, heavy and burp-promoting substance that was simmering around in my tummy like a volcano. “Schumi,” I declared, “take us to a chemist as soon as you can. By the way,” I pleaded, “do you have a plastic bag by any chance?” On reaching town, I bought some Listerine to gargle with, which made me feel much more comfortable. With the smell and the bad taste in my mouth diminished, I diverted my attention back to concentrating on getting my first sneaky kiss.

As we sat on the now moon-lit beach where the date had first started, I edged closed and put my arm around her shoulders. I looked into her eyes and they had “kiss me” written all over them, so I did. As our lips locked together, she still had the durian smell on her breath that was rather off putting. As I was about to drop a hint by offering her my new bottle of Listerine, I burped, sending my own version of deep-down-in-the-stomach, after-dinner aroma into my date’s face.

Well, there you have it, my first kiss had been and gone, not very memorable, I am afraid, and that was that. Luckily, Beatrice forgave me, we are still living happily ever after and have both become durian connoisseurs. I have fallen in love with durian over the years and constantly get looks of amazement as people see a Mat Salleh sitting down and digging into a good durian where and whenever I can. There are many species of durian and they are supposed to be an aphrodisiac. The only problem is after eating it and getting the necessary effect, nobody wants to come near you anyway, so the whole idea is rather redundant. Bombaceae Durio Zibethinus, commonly known as durian, has unfortunately, quite a few calories. However, it has lots of protein, minerals, beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2 & C, calcium and iron and better still, has no cholesterol. Thai durians have larger flesh, but with little taste and the Malaysian version has less flesh, but a much better taste. Congratulations, Malaysia, on producing a great version of thus funky looking thorny and stinky fruit!

Moonshine on a moonless night

This musing was first published in Flavours magazine and is not in Chef’s Tales the book:

Did I ever tell you about the time when I was working in Kuala Lumpur and went for my very first visit to Sabah to introduce myself to my in-laws? On announcing the master plan to visit the wife’s family’s village, Beatrice jumped out of her chair. “We can organise a Christmas party for all the people in my village.” “Hang on a minute – How many people are there in your village?” I was almost scared to hear the answer. I mean to say, feeding two or three thousand people had to cost a bundle and on my salary at that time, I will tell you, it was a most daunting thought. “Oh, there are lots” – was not the answer that I was looking for, believe me. “How many is ‘lots’?” I whispered out to her. “About 52,” she replied enthusiastically. “How many?!?” I asked in a shocked manner, expecting 5,200. “52,” repeated Beatrice. Well, I thought this was going to be the cheapest Christmas party I could ever have hoped for. “Although we are short of money at this moment in time, I do believe that we can we can offer to hold a party for the entire population of your village. I will even throw in a couple of cases of Carlsberg for good measure,” I announced, trying to conceal my relief.

Beatrice booked and organised the trip as she always does and off we went. Arriving in Papar, we were greeted with the biggest and heaviest tropical downpour that you could ever imagine, which stirred all the toads back to life and unfortunately, all the mosquitoes too. Being eaten alive is not the most pleasant of experiences and not being able to sleep due to the loud croaking coming from the paddy fields did not help either.

The day of the party was a monumental affair to say the least. People came from miles around carrying potluck food items to place on the table for everyone to enjoy. We worked all day to get everything ready and the time had come to enjoy ourselves. On discovering we had no ice, I offered to get it, so off we drove. The first thought I had was how dark it was getting.

It was a moonless night, there was no lights to illuminate the road and the only way to go was to drive slowly down the narrow path so we did not end up in the hitch. Suddenly, we saw something in the middle of the road and slowed down. I thought it was a water buffalo having a nap before continuing on its journey.

As we approached, we found that it was not a buffalo. Instead, it was one of the villagers lying down motionless. He was not moving an inch and I was worried for the poor guy. “Is he dead?” I asked, petrified. “No,” was her monosyllabic reply. “Then what’s wrong with him?” “Tuak,” Beatrice answered. “Tuak? What is that – a tropical disease or something?” I wondered out loud. “No. It’s tropical liquor made from palm or coconut and he has had too much of it.” “Too much of it? He looks like he has had all of it. It’s a wonder that there is any coconut left, by the looks of him!”

I later nicknamed tuak “Gut Rot” once I had tasted this delicate beverage. I will give you another red-hot tip. You do not want to drink this stuff while smoking – you may end up being blown up to kingdom come! As I stared at the drunken villager, out of the blue came the cavalry in the form of two of his mates. They picked him up and carried him off, having a good laugh as they went. “How strong is that stuff?” I asked Beatrice. “It’s quite strong, but alright if you are used to it. Old man Bob is used to it – he’s been drinking it all his life.” If old man Bob was used to it, what would happen if someone was not used to it and drank it for the first time? We would be rushing him to the intensive care unit to have his stomach pumped… Or maybe even replaced! “What is this stuff made from?” I asked Beatrice. “Tuak can be made from the sap of palm trees or coconut trees but it’s usually made from coconut tree sap. There are others as well, you know.” “Oh yes, well, why don’t you give me a heads up so that I can make sure I avoid the stuff at all costs?” “Well,”

Beatrice started out, there is bahar which is also made from the sap of the palm tree, but is made with a different recipe. And then there is tapai which is made from rice.” Different recipe? Maybe there is a recipe book I could buy and place it on the drinks list in the Farquhar Bar menu in our hotel lobby. I could not help but to ask her the golden question: “Do you like a tipple of this refined alcoholic beverage once in a while?” Beatrice pulled her glasses down to the end of her nose and stared at me over the top of them.

Her impression simply implied the articulate response she was expressing. “Idiot” – would have been the best way to explain her thoughts, but as usual, her manners were way too polite to voice it. When we got back from the shop, it was time to get the party started. I decided to take a quick shower before going down to the dinner table.

I emerged about fifteen minutes later and everyone was sitting around chit chatting and looking at me with looks of anticipation on their faces. “What is going on?” I asked Beatrice. “They are waiting for you to eat first before they start.” I could not believe how polite they were and announced that they should all eat and enjoy themselves.

I dipped my hand into a large bucket of ice and grabbed a bottle of beer. As I turned around to speak to Beatrice, I could not believe the sight before me. There in front of me, was old man Bob! Instead of being hung over for four days like I would have been after having my stomach pumped, he looked as if he had never touched a drop. “Here in Sabah,” he started out, “we like to consume this local beverage called tuak. Have you ever tried it?” “Before I answer that question, let me ask you one – do you have an identical twin?” Beatrice came from nowhere and retorted: “Don’t listen to him Bob – he’s a twit!” I tried to defend myself while looking around for help. “To answer your question Bob, not lately, no,” I mustered. “Well, let’s have a shot together. Come, let’s share a glass.” He poured two glasses, walked towards me and handed me the one that was the most full.

Very polite people, I thought… too polite. “Why don’t you have the full glass and I will have the short glass?” We swapped the glasses and I took my first sip. Now I have to tell you something that I shouldn’t but I can’t help it. I have never tasted anything so vile in my entire life. As it passed down my throat and into my stomach, it dissolved every body part in its path like an ice cube in a microwave. “That’s not so bad,” I declared, while wincing badly. As Bob turned around to smile at Beatrice, I quickly poured the balanced of the tuak into the paddy field next to me and pretended as if I had finished it.

I could have sworn that I saw the paddy wilt the instant the tuak touched the water surrounding it. I probably contaminated the whole eco-system of Sabah with that one thoughtless and selfish act. “Wow, look at you,” said Bob. “You have finished it all, but don’t worry, there is plenty more where that came from, I will go and get you a top-up”, “he better not or I will throw up,” I whispered to Beatrice. “Just another drop to make them happy and then you can return to your beer,” she pleaded. “After another drop, I am going to return to my bed. Hopefully, not to a hospital bed!” “Don’t be such a baby!” Beatrice snapped.

This was going to be a long night, I thought to myself. And a much longer day tomorrow, if I kept on drinking this drain cleaner. “Maybe we can place a few bottles in the boot of our car, just in case,” I suggested. “Whatever for?” asked Beatrice. “Just in case we run out of petrol, we can pour it in the tank and keep the car running for a few kilometres until we reach another gas station. “Of course, we would have to keep it in a non-corrosive metal container. You know – the one that does not corrode if it comes in contact with metal-eating acid.” I pointed out that the foul-tasting stuff had indeed been delivered to the village in a screw-top petrol can, which I thought was only appropriate since tuak was also a highly-flammable liquid.

Beatrice rolled her eyes at my latest observation. Bob returned with another couple of glasses and I gingerly sipped on the cloudy substance until it was all but finished, trying to cause as little damage to my insides as possible along the way.

 As I was talking to old man Bob, his eyes glazed over and he started to fall backwards. I had downed two glasses of this rocket fuel myself which resulted in me not being as alert as I should have been and thus, was not able to catch him. Bob just fell backwards right into the paddy field thereby squashing the toads. That was the end of my first, and hopefully my last encounter, with East Malaysia’s version of toddy. Although I am sure that these home-grown Malaysian beverages create an enjoyable pastime, I have to say that they are little bit out of my league in strength and I will stick to the conventional beer or red wine.

Service Shenanigans

I Arrived in Hong Kong to work in my first five-star hotel in Asia in 1988, and was totally blown away, not only by the quality of the staff and services offered. Nonetheless, I thought that the quality of service could only improve as the industry developed and competition for supremacy in service quality standards intensified.

            However, in spite of the huge, ever-growing demand for well-trained, experienced professionals to fuel the light speed development of hotels worldwide, I could not have been more wrong.

            A lasting solution to the dwindling standards of service is needed; unless we do something now, we risk losing forever the valuable “old” standards. Hospitality is at the core of our industry, and that is what we should keep in mind when we open our doors to weary international travelers who trust their welfare to us during their stay, A clean, safe, friendly, professionally-run home-away-from-home environment – those are the minimum requirements for any international hotel, and what sets one business apart.

            I would like to share an experience that I encountered when visiting a five-star hotel; I don’t mean to criticize – goodness knows, we all have problems – but I do think that it is time we addressed this important issue. It’s a funny story about a serious problem.

            After calling the hotel ahead of time to organize my stay, I walked into the lobby after 10pm; I was tired and just wanted to shower and rest. On arriving at the desk, I offered my name and was surprised with the response – “Welcome home, Mr Saxon, we have been expecting you! What a pleasure it is to see you returning – your usual room is ready and your favourite fruits are awaiting your arrival. We have taken the liberty of placing some imported beer in the mini bar for you,” said the guy at the front desk, whose name tag proclaimed him as “Raymond”.

            Now, this was the first time I would be staying in this hotel, so I thought this was rather peculiar – but then, I thought that maybe as I was a hotelier myself, they were taking special care of me.

            “Let me escort you upstairs right away,” said Raymond, and as he marched on ahead, he signalled the bellboy to carry my large and rather heavy suitcase. I tried to convince them that I was able to carry my own case, but Raymond said, “Carry your own bag?! Absolutely not, we insist on transporting your luggage to your suite for you!”

            The rather petite bellboy came running over; he wasn’t much bigger than my suitcase and I hoped that he wouldn’t get a double hernia trying to help me.

            Something else occurred to me at this point and I enquired, “Excuse me, did you say ‘suite’?”

            “It would be criminal to place a gentleman like your self anywhere other than in one of our finest suites,” he replied. At this point, I was very impressed with what was happening and a glimmer of hope was beginning to illuminate my slightly bleak outlook for the short-term industry service standards – this was to be very short-lived, however.

            As we entered the elevator, Raymond whispered rather bashfully, “Your usual masseuse will be here in half an hour, Mr Saxon. We had problems locating Ms Fifi this time, as she changed establishments and failed to inform us,”

            At that moment, I knew for sure that there was something seriously amiss.

            “I think that you have me confused with somebody else – I never organised a massage from Fifi, or anyone else for that matter, and I have never stayed in your hotel before. And to be honest, I only booked a standard room,” I said.

            I was becoming slightly irritated that he was not listening to me at all. As we exited the elevator on the top floor and sat down at the executive lounge express check-in, I thought I would give revealing my true identity another go.

            “I believe that I am being confused with one of your regular and more important guests. This lounge is exquisite, but any second now, you’re going to realise I don’t actually belong here! I specifically booked a room on the lower floor, as I am scared of heights, you see,” I said.

            The executive lounge manager looked at his reservation screen and said, “Your PA booked the top floor, sir, with a double bed, for your entire two-week stay”. I was only staying for three days, and as my factual input we being ignored yet again. I silently leaned back on the soft leather sofa and wondered what was going to happen next.

            I was whisked away to a very large two-bedroom suite with a king-sized bed. There was Champagne in an ice bucket with two gleaming crystal flutes, a large tower of imported fresh fruits and a very large plasma television.

            “Will there be anything else you require, Mr Saxon?” offered the very polite chap on his way out.

            “Yes, just one thing – I noticed that there is a welcome letter by the huge pile of fruits,” I said.

            “Yes sir, we always make our VIP guests as welcome as possible – guest recognition is our forte,” he replied

            “Yes, one thing though …” I rejoined, “Who is Mr Jones?”

            “Excuse me, sir?”

            “Mr Jones – the name on the card is Mr Jones.”

            The poor chap glanced at the card and swallowed deeply, saying, “Let me check on that, sir, and I will get back to you in a second.”

            Being a hotelier myself, I sat down in an armchair, careful not to mess up the room setting, and watched the news.

            Five minutes later, the duty manager arrived in the room to apologise on bended knees for checking me into the wrong room; my name had somehow been listed in the booking system as the managing director of a huge public listed trading company.

            “Let me escort you to your room, Mr Saxon,” said the manager. As we were leaving, my luggage arrived. The bell staff placed it on the suite floor at my feet and then left.

            “Will you require some assistance with your luggage, sir?”

             I was astounded, and could not help saying, “You mean that you are not going to insist that you carry it for me?”

            The manager went outside and squealed down the corridor to get the bell staff to come back. I was escorted to my “standard” room; however, I was very nicely upgraded to the executive floor, to a room which nonetheless had no fruit, not to mention a lack of Champagne on ice, and just a normal “old-fashioned” box television set.

            “I guess that Fifi will not be coming then?” I enquired with a grin.

            During the couple of days I stayed there, when entering the executive floor, the security asked me every question possible, CIA-style, to confirm my identity; on a different occasion, I walked past a staff member busy texting on their mobile phone, who didn’t even glance up once.

            Overall, the hotel was fine and I enjoyed my stay, but I must say that I noticed a disconcerting slow trend in the industry. The days when you used to see the general manager hanging around the lobby for a couple of hours a day, talking to guests and enquiring about their comfort, is slowly disappearing as the industry becomes more focused on the bottom line. It is my belief that as we eventually come full circle, we will remember why we all entered the industry in the first place, and that without our valued customers, there would be no bottom line at all.

The Great Junk Food Conspiracy

I have been on holiday for a while, so I must aplogize for the lack of postings,  to make amends I would like to offer you one of my Musings which was first published in Flavours magazine. This musing is also not in Chef’s Tales the book….hope you enjoy.

Junk food is the stuff of a marketing exec’s dreams and a true foodie’s nightmare. Junk food is one subject that fascinates me, and the amount of attention it receives is quite astounding. The term “junk food” is usually used to refer to food with little or no nutritional value – which may be a waste of time to eat from a nutritionist’s point of view, but my goodness, doesn’t (most) of it taste great!

Parenting groups lobby for junk food commercials to be banned from prime-time television, to be aired late at night, as if the subject matter is as scary as a restricted movie showing violence, drug use or worse. Then, the large fast food chains fight back by spending millions trying to prove that their food is actually great for consumption and that their meal sets are balanced meals!

And there is just so much money involved here. Would you believe, after all the negative media about canned Spam being the worst, possibly most unhealthy food on earth – the company just celebrated selling its sixth billionth can of the processed meat. There are potato chip companies today boasting of sales upwards of one billion bags of chips a year! Can you imagine how many people are crunching these salty deep-fried snacks every second of every day?

In the hotel business, we spend hours trying to come up with great marketing ideas, slogans, sales concepts and other ways to increase sales. Junk food companies have an easier time of it due to the fact that their products are cheap, tasty (everything that is bad for us tastes great, we all know that), quick to purchase and are loved by…well, basically everyone on the planet. Junk food usually has too much fat, too much salt, too much sugar – in some instances, all of the above. I have always wondered how we are persuaded to eat so much of it, so bear with me while I imagine the scenario in a junk food marketing meeting.

Imagine a brainstorming meeting where the MD is trying to get the creative juices going with his people.

“Come on everybody, we have thrown ideas around for days and we cannot come up with a single idea worth its weight in coarse sea salt on how to increase sales for our MSG! Somebody say something worth listening to!” says the MD. As he finishes his grand speech, the meeting room door creaks open, and in walks the semi-retired tea lady. “Madam, please offer these clowns some advice – how would you increase the sales of our MSG shaker? Our million-dollar-earners here all seem to be brain-dead today,” he says, rounding on her. Placing the cups and saucers down on the table with her old, shaking hands, she raises her head ever so slowly and whispers, “Why don’t you make the holes in the shaker slightly larger?” The whole office is swallowed by an unpleasant silence as the executives look down at the floor in shame and the MD looks astounded. “Brilliant! Shrieks the boss excitedly, “That’s it!” As the tea lady is leaving the room, the boss asks her, “What is your current salary, madam?” “Five dollars an hour, sir,” she replied with pride. As she whisks herself away to continue her daily tasks, the boss is less than amused, to say the least. “You lot had better wake up, let’s get cracking,” he says, “Our sales of Twinkies are slipping every day and people are saying they are not healthy, so what can we do?” “Let’s change the name to Grandma Mabel’s Homemade Twinkies instead,” is the first offering. The boss looks at the speaker with an open mouth and an expression of despair. “We are not changing the recipe, image or packaging, how the heck will that help sales, you twit?! The cakes are made from flour, eggs, sugar and a fake cream that lasts – unrefrigerated – for then years!” “Well,” begins the upstart, “This will give the impression that if it is good enough for grandma, it must be all right – I mean, good ol’ grandma would never hurt us by serving us food that was no good, right?” “Ok, brilliant!” announced the boss, “Now what about our burgers, what are we going to do about their floundering sales?” “Let’s announce that they are ‘All Natural’,” offers a different staff member. “No, that’s not a good idea,” sighs the boss, “I don’t want to lie and I think that is stretching it a bit too much.” “How about we offer dental floss to go with the burger – that way, even if the burger is made with a stale bun, goodness-knows-what meat, terrible sauce and processed cheese, we can at least look like we care about their teeth!” “Brilliant!” announces the boss again, “Now we are on a roll!” “How about starting a new line of deep-fried chips not derived from potatoes but made out of vegetables? We can call them “organically-grown veggie chips’,” says another voice. “Brilliant!” shouts the boss with glee. “Wait a minute,” announces the secretary taking notes, “they are still deep-fried in the same oil and full of cholesterol, salt and other stuff – in fact, they are exactly the same as potato chips!” “Yes, but when people hear the name ‘Veggie Chips’ they will believe that they are healthy,” says the boss. “This is great stuff,” announces another senior executive, “Here is another idea – how about ‘Cherry Chocolate Diet Soda’?” By this time, everyone in the whole office is on their feet, clapping and cheering as the meeting progresses to dizzying heights. “Guys, I can top all of your ideas – why don’t we make an ice cream float with the sweetest dollop of ice cream available plonked into a large glass of sugary, fizzy cream soda so that after drinking it, all the kids run around like nutcases all day, get addicted and then demand to have it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” The boss looks at him, gobsmacked, and announces at the top of his voice, ‘This man is immediately promoted!”

The meeting then proceeds to come up with the concept of chocolate milk – where they turn even the healthiest drink into a fattening alternative – cocoa crunch, making the only possibility of getting children to eat a healthy breakfast nigh impossible, a chocolate-filled croissant, chocolates coated in hundreds of different colours (which all taste exactly the same regardless of the colours), caramel-coated sugar doughnuts, and the best idea of all, “diet ice cream”.

Of course, there is expensive, “exclusive” fast food that may make us feel proud about slowly killing ourselves by clogging our arteries; it my even raise our social status a bit, as not just anybody can afford such highly sought after delicacies as a double truffle burger which costs US$120 per burger just because it is topped with freshly-snorted-up, hard-to-find wild French truffles. Or an ice cream sundae that costs thousands because there is a four-carat diamond ring hidden among the cherries at the bottom to surprise and unsuspecting sweetheart – who hopefully does not swallow it by mistake and then has to wait a few days (after eating half a pound of prunes) to wear it.

Eating fast food a couple of times a week if all right I guess; I do it myself with my seven-year-old, but when you get sick of the long lines, the trouble finding a seat and less-than-glamorous surroundings, why don’t we all make a pledge to give our nearest good-quality hotel a call and make a reservation, thereby locking in a clean chair and enjoying some slow food for a nice change.

Just another day in paradise

Wacky and Wondrous fun at the poolside

 

Depending on which hotel you work at, the pool can be either an incredibly boring place or the centre of all the action. Usually, the poolside scene at city hotels is not that exciting, but a poolside at a beach resort fronting the sea normally keeps the staff busy-especially if the hotel has a sunken bar for people to get intoxicated at while ogling sun worshippers, as mine did.

            I was walking past our sunken bar to the pool kitchen area to check on things when I saw my idle chef leaning on the counter, checking out the poolside talent, unaware of my presence.

            “Busy, are we?!” I asked.

            “Just making sure all our valued customers are well taken care of, chef,” smirked the startled chef. I stood on the edge of the pool area, shaking my head in disappointment and glanced out at the clear turquoise sea, the powdery white sands and the tourists running around, burning to a lobster-like shade. I wondered how many were going to ruin their holidays with third-degree burns.

            “You know, you have the best job in the hotel,” I said, “Here you are, cooking a few burgers and hotdogs, while watching all the action and working on your tan at the same time!”

            I was about to continue when a rather large chap sitting in the water at the sunken bar chipped in first.

            “Hey there chef, great dinner last night! What with the braised cabbage and all. Breakfast was great too, although I ate too many baked beans,” he said rather unsteadily. He seemed to have consumed a few drinks too many as well.

            “I topped all that off with six ice-cold beers and now my friends and I are having a wind breaking competition,” he continued loudly.

            Before I could continue my conversation with the chef, the wannabe entertainer lifted his bottom and broke wind, sending noxious bubbles floating to the top of the water.

              “There goes the ozone layer!” he announced, eliciting howls of laughter from his equally obtuse friends.

            I could not help myself. “I am so glad to see we have finally managed to attract the exclusive market segment we have been working so hard over the years to reach! It is about time we upgraded our client base, and we now have wonderful customers like yourselves enjoying the million-dollar facilities,” I said, as sarcastically as I could manage.

            The guy stared at me, trying to fathom what the heck I was talking about, at the same time announcing the arrival of another torpedo with “Here comes another, chef!”

            Wonderful start to my day. In addition to the bubble-blower, there were screaming kids running around, couples throwing each other in the water, two fat men competing to see who could make the biggest belly flop jumping into the pool screaming “Yeeha!” and an elderly man pushing the oldest, most rusty-looking bicycle I have ever seen, hung with coconuts.

“Now that is what I call an old bike,” I said to the coconut vendor. 

            This antique bike has been with my family for generations, and it is one of our most prized heirlooms,” he replied proudly. Announcing that he would sing a beautiful song to advertise his wares, he coughed slightly to clear his throat and closed his eyes for a second, as if to pluck up courage.         

Everyone crowded around, eager for some entertainment. “Coconut water, good for your daughter, coconut … baby coconut. Coconut water good for your daughter, coconut, I am selling coconut,” went his song.

            “Well then,” I said, clapping and attempting to give him some support, “If that does not help you sell your stuff nothing will …”

            The guests who had gathered just wandered off shaking their heads and giggling among themselves.

            As I was getting ready to depart the scene, a rather burnt-looking fellow came towards me looking disturbed. “Hi chef, my red flag has been flying in the garden for ten minutes-what is the point of having a red flag system if nobody offers me service when I raise it?!” he said irritably.

            “How can I help you, sir?” I answered wearily.

            “Gin and tonic, young man … and please be quick,” he replied.

            As I turned around to look for a waiter, another obviously happy chappy came over. “Chef, this pool is a circus! There are kids running every where, drunken bums blowing large smelly bubbles into the water in which I submerge my face, a fella selling coconuts and a guy complaining about his red flag, when the only red flag I see is that I cannot seem to get any peace around here!” he raged.

            I was about to try and show some obviously much-needed compassion when I heard a “cling cling” sound. As I turned around, wondering what else could possibly happen, I saw one of our service staff on the new ice-cream delivery bicycle, frantically ringing the small bell on the handlebars.

            This bicycle was designed to help distribute ice-cream to sweltering guests on the hotel grounds. As he came towards me, I realized that he was looking a tad unsteady on his new mode of transportation. He was veering to the left, looking like he was going to fall off, and the front wheel was wobbling back and forth. The area surrounding the pool was concrete and this guy was well in his way to engaging in a nice bruising affair.

            Luckily for him, he held it together long enough to stay on well past the concrete, far enough in fact to make it right to the edge of the pool and… right into the pool itself.

            As he and the soon-to-be-soaking-wet ice-cream went headfirst into the busy pool, he flapped his arms frantically, shouting “I can’t swim!”

            Looking at him, I calmly said, “Stand up.”

            He immediately calmed down and stood up, realizing that he had fallen into the shallow end. I looked at the red flag chap, who was looking on in horror. “He has not taken his test yet,” was the only comment I could muster.

            A huge monitor lizard chose that moment to come running through the garden and grab some leftover food off a plate. It plunged into the pool to cool off, climbed out the other side and disappeared into some bushes.

            “Now that is not something you see every day, chef!” shouted the impatient drinker, adding “Gin and tonic, please!” to any waiter within earshot.

            Unwilling to be outdone, Mr. I Want Some Peace and Quiet chipped in with, “It’s not just a circus, it’s a zoo as well!” 

            I steadied myself, glanced at my chef and whispered, “I have changed my mind, this job is not easy-and it’s all yours!”

            As I turned around for a speedy retreat, I saw five people in full scuba gear coming to attend beginner scuba diving classes….you guessed it, in the swimming pool!

            As I was leaving, I heard someone shout, “You have got to be kidding!” as he spotted the pending arrival of the team, who were going to give the bubble-blowers a run for their money. “Chef!” screamed another, “You better make that gin and tonic a double!”

            Another day in paradise, I mumbled under my breath.

Note:

This is new material that is not in “Chef’s Tales” the book and was first published in Flavours Magazine.