It’s 8am Sunday morning and your mobile goes, something’s wrong? No it’s Chef Thomas Leatherbarrow and he is in a bit of a dilemma. Thomas is part of the Sunday brigade on duty at Daniel Clifford’s The Flitch of Bacon and the dilemma is they have a full restaurant for lunch and no KP.
So the conversation goes something like this, ‘Denis, Any chance you could get Keith who was KP at your party recently to shoot over?’ ‘No Thomas I haven’t any way of getting hold of him short notice.’ Pause, moment for thought Denis…you’ve never worked in a kitchen and here’s your chance. ‘Thomas, I’ll do it, what time do you need me?’
So after a quick shower and an 80 mile drive around the M25 from Ascot, Berkshire to Little Dunmow a small rural village in Essex I arrived at midday.
Head Chef Luke Finegan meets me, Luke is friendly and the brigade are a friendly bunch too but somewhat distracted by service looming so their focus was rightly elsewhere. Preparation for a full house and a very busy service was well underway and the sinks were full so my introduction to KP’ing was immediate. It’s a simple task, head down and just keep washing the pots and pans that are arriving at an ever increasing pace.
I was there for two reasons, firstly Chef Thomas Leatherbarrow had done me a massive favour recently being chef at a charity party I hosted, and secondly I really wanted an insider’s view of a busy restaurant kitchen.
It was much calmer than I envisaged, maybe I watch too much kitchen TV as I was expecting a meltdown at some stage a la Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White, not even a glimmer all day. Luke had everything under control and the rest of the brigade knew what they were doing and did it relentlessly.
I also wrongly expected to be treated as some sort of underling but not a bit of it this KP was treated with respect and I really did feel like part of the team.
When the main lunch period subsided and as the last few diners wandered off to do whatever they had planned for the rest of the afternoon I was offered the opportunity to finish up and leave. Not a chance, I was now part of this team and going nowhere until the whole job was done. So I stayed until all the cleaning and getting ready for the next service was done.
The comradery was quite special and although seven hours earlier I knew nobody at The Flitch of Bacon apart from Thomas, I did for one afternoon feel like a part of an elite team. An efficient team that operated with military precision.
So I collected my wages for the day (that have been donated to the same charity benefiting from the party I referred to earlier) and went outside to have a team pic taken. Then back around the M25 with a feeling that it had been a good day, I slept soundly that night.
KP’ing would not be everybody’s cup of tea for sure and if you own a restaurant please don’t call me any Sunday morning unless I owe you a very massive favour. But I must say that I enjoyed my temporary stint as a KP and as for The Flitch of Bacon…watch this space, the team that I had the privilege to work with will deliver industry accolades.
From the more than contented look on the diners leaving that afternoon and a word with one or two, a Michelin star could be on the cards, just remember the KP that told you so first.
Thanks and best wishes to Luke and everyone at The Flitch of Bacon, I’ll be back soon but without my apron.