Monday, April 08, 2013

A taste of reality in L'Autre Pied

They say you never forget your first...kitchen. 

At 7.55am last Friday morning I entered the Michelin Star L'Autre Pied in Marylebone, London.

All photos are courtesy of L'Autre Pied

Honestly? I was excited and a little bit extremely terrified. The night before I counted pots and pans as I lay awake thinking about my first kitchen stage/work experience. This was finally it.

Andy McFadden is the talented 27 year old Head Chef. And he's Irish. Now doesn't that tick all the right boxes?  His passion and energy jumps out straight away when you meet him. Andy worked in some of the top restaurants in Ireland and trained in L'Autre Pied's sister restaurant, Pied à Terre. Then in 2011 he took over as Head Chef in L'Autre Pied. 

For the first hour I kept my head down and focused on dicing fennel. A whole lot of fennel. It would be best if I don't see fennel again for a long time. Eventually I started to sneak glances at what was happening around me. This is a serious kitchen. 

With music pumping in the background everyone was at their stations prepping at a rapid pace and setting up mise en place for lunch service.

The menu combines bitter and sour flavours and wraps them up in combinations which explode in your mouth in sensational bursts. I was about to taste for myself. I didn't realise just how much I was going to get to taste.

As the music is switched off, a shout of 'First bread' signals the start of service. I felt tingles as I heard Andy call out the orders and the kitchen immediately increased its already quick pace. It's like watching a carefully orchestrated, if crazy, routine where everyone knows their steps. 

One of the Chefs, Phily (Another Irish man. Could this restaurant get any better?) brought me over a dish...then another one...and another...and another. I couldn't believe it. Ceviche of scallops, squid linguine, mackerel tartare, venison, pork...The first tasting menu I've eaten standing up. While chopping. One I'll never forget.



After lunch service there was a full clean down and then straight into mise en place for dinner service.    'First bread'  'YES!' and it was service again. Andy called out orders and scrutinised every dish going out. Shouts of 'One scallop, two veni', one cod, four tasting menus' followed by numerous yeses echoed through the kitchen. And of course for the team to 'Push on!'. There's relentless pushing in that kitchen.

Andy asked me how I was doing. I smiled - 'Can I come back tomorrow?'. He looked at me and laughed. Next morning I came back. 

On Friday night when I got home at 1am my head was racing, I replayed the day over and over. A few hours later, wishing I'd managed to sleep, I got up for day 2.

Watching Andy plating up dishes at the pass was the best part, to see how each dish is executed and finished. Perfection is required for each beautifully presented one. While I was scrubbing a bucket of spuds of course. You do not stand around doing nothing in that kitchen. He came over to me after and said 'You're loving it aren't you?'. It must have been written all over my face. I smiled and tried to look cool and collected. Ahem.

                                                                           
 

Sitting on the Tube home on the second night my feet were soaked through, my own fault for being unable to mop without drenching myself. My calves ached, my feet groaned, but my head was happy.

Andy said I'm welcome to come back. I will be. I think this is the meaning of being bitten by the bug. It's got its teeth into me now and I hope it never lets go. I'm sitting here typing this thinking they're in the middle of service right now - I wish I was there.

Many thanks to L'Autre Pied for kindly allowing me to use the photos on their website by Photographer Simon Harvey.
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Liked this? You may also enjoy reading about why I'm going to cookery school here. Brave or mad? The jury's still out on that one. 

4 comments:

  1. It was pretty crazy alright! And opened my eyes to the real world of kitchens..loved it!

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  2. Sounds like you had an amazing experience in the kitchen, you definitely lucked out with the tasting menu even if you had to chop at the same time. I just watched Andy prepare the scallop ceviche dish on Neven's show last night and it looked amazing!

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  3. Thanks Adrienne! The tasting menu was absolutely brilliant! I've been wanting to watch Neven's show over here but we can't get it over here! Asked my mum to record it for me :-) Read your post about working in Neven's restaurant a while ago too, sounds like a brilliant experience Xx

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