For people who care about their food

I paid to become a slave

[I first posted this on an article site where I hang out sometimes. It’s good for marketing and letting people know of the existence of Not Delia. It attracted a little bit of interest so I thought it would be worth reproducing it here.]

I had a blip in my career a few years ago when, for some bizarre reason, I decided to become a chef. (Never again; although I love cooking, it’s a job for sadists or masochists.) I enrolled on a full-time college course for a year to get the basic training – NVQ 706/1 and 2. Everything was going well, and all that was required to complete the course was a three week work-placement at an establishment with recognised high standards.

I was “lucky” enough to be accepted by Shell, the international oil company. Their HQ is on the Strand in central London. All very prestigious, and I was looking forward to the experience and to learning some new things. They had a large staff canteen and a directors’ dining room that was at least five-star quality.

I knew they wouldn’t pay me for my placement, but I did think that they might refund my fares. (Travel in London is very expensive, and travelling at peak rates costs substantially more than after the rush hour.) Nope, they didn’t want to do that. Maybe I wouldn’t turn up. I suggested that if I didn’t turn up, then they needn’t refund the fares. But no, I had to turn up at 7am every morning at my own expense, which was a big drain on our then very limited budget.



Still, I thought it would be worth it as I would learn a lot from the experience.

Yes, I did learn a lot.

I learned how to behave like a whipped dog with all the bullying that went on. To be fair, the more senior chefs were nice guys and were above that sort of behaviour. But the lower ranking ones, those with even one little rank above a trainee, mostly behaved like megalomaniacs. (There were exceptions, of course – two of them were really nice guys.)

I also learned how to cook 1,600 sausages in an hour every day.

And finally, I learned that no matter how well I did on my work placement they would never employ me because they always hired staff via an agency.

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