"The Worst Job I Ever 'ad?"
In England in the mid-seventies, the late Peter Cook and the late Dudley Moore released a comedy album called Derek and Clive Live . Derek and Clive were fictional public restroom attendants distinguished by their total lack of manners and by their filthy mouths. The album was little more than a collection of deranged conversations on improbable subjects peppered with the most obscene words and phrases you can imagine. Peter had this plummy, aristocratic voice with a rich Cockney accent and Dudley was an out-of-control leprechaun drunk.
The album had a limited cult status mostly among the snickering, dope-smoking, long-haired teenagers, but it gained more public recognition one Christmas season when some unfortunate mail order company shipped by mistake, thousands of cassettes with Derek and Clive affectionately calling each other “You shtupit, shtupit cunt" packaged as Uncle Bulgaria and the Wombles: Live from Wimledon Common; kids' cartoon characters wildly popular at the time. Just picture that scene under many a Christmas tree: "Here's your present, Timmy, oooohhhh, it's the Wombles, luvly, go n' put it oan...".
Among the dozen or so sketches, titled Reading Farts, One Leg Too Few, Valerie's Hymen, and so on, was a little gem called The Worst Job I Ever 'Ad. The unlikely job description, given by Peter in gross anatomical detail, involved retrieval of lobsters from Jayne Mansfield's bum.
Culinary London in the early seventies was in the midst of a dramatic makeover. The stuffy and formal French restaurants that doubled as high-end English cuisine would continue to prosper, but it was at the low end that London was witnessing dramatic changes. The dominant fast food chain at the time was, and I kid you not, The Wimpy Bar. It featured leathery, paper thin, overcooked hamburgers and assorted griddle-cooked mystery meats. Then along came The Great American Success. It was an informal eatery serving American-style food; big hamburgers, pastrami, fried chicken, all served with generous portions. The Great American Success lived up it's name and many duplicates and variants quickly followed. In a small way, I was part of that revolution because I worked as a chef in some of the new wave restaurants.
My career in the food and beverage industry almost ended early when Pablo the Crazy Spaniard, chased me through the kitchen with a meat cleaver, lisping murderous threats in sibilant-rich Castilian Spanish. Pablo was the Pastry Cook in a small restaurant in Earl's Court, inexplicably called The Hungry Years and technically I was his superior, the Head Chef. More like Head Cheese - I was 21 and knew next to nothing. I came to The Hungry Years after flipping burgers at the original Hard Rock Café on Piccadilly - a highly desirable position because it involved a microphone that one could use to breathlessly broadcast “Patsy-y-y-, Your Order is Ready-y-y-” in the deepest of voices and repeating twice. Yes, the right job benefits as I saw it.
But Maureen was disillusioned with modeling.. Something to do with horny photographers and greedy agents, she said. We had no real ties in London and we wanted to go somewhere warm, but because of my adventure in France the year before (see: Lost in the Pyrenees - on the Way to Jerusalem) going abroad was out of the question, but we ended up on the Riviera anyway. The Cornish Riviera - in Penzance, Cornwall.
We arrived in May, just before the start of the busy summer season. In Penzance, we stumbled on a brand new restaurant that overlooked the harbor, and asked for jobs. Maureen became a waitress and I got hired as a Commis Chef. The restaurant had a fancy name, something like Maison L'Auberge Provençal, and was owned by two partners, Klaus and Bill. Klaus von Wall, who's real name turned out to be Kevin Biggles, was the chef and a passionate Nazi. Klaus did not bother to hide his declassée affiliations and proudly wore baggy jodhpurs tucked into polished jackboots, and on his upper lip he sported a tiny cookie-duster dyed jet black. His proudest possession was a signed photograph of Enoch Powell, the maverick British politician who advocated wholesale deportation of the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Jamaicans and other non-whites to a desert island. Nevertheless, Klaus was a Swiss-trained chef and I looked forward to learning something from him while ignoring his world domination aspirations and his absurd Hitler-esque moustache.
The whole process took a long time and often the customers got fed up waiting and headed to Admiral Benbow Restaurant up the street to get a mediocre chicken-in-a-basket instead. Maureen and were always happy when that happened...we got a lobster to take home to our tent.
|I welcome feedback of all kinds. Messages of appreciation, encouragement and constructive criticism are always accepted with thanks and responded to as time allows.
Flame-throwers, insult-merchants, saber-rattling trolls and lonely grammar/syntax/spelling maniacs are encouraged to get a life and will be generally ignored.
© 2007 Karel Kriz and Bouncing Czech Productions