Tag Archives: Working.

Half Baked: Lessons Learned From a Dead End Career In Hospitality – Part 1.

Pappas Kitchen

I’d go on to associate 3:00am on a Sunday morning with stumbling home drunk from town: eighty quid down, my trainers scuffed to bits and guided by streams of piss and the stench of Joop to the nearest 24 hour bakery. Before those bleary years, there was a time that I’d be ‘working’ at this god awful hour, before I would notice what laborious road I was hurtling down; and about eleven hours before your mum had the dinner on. I’d go on to work in many restaurants, cafes and bars. But it all began in my dad’s small bakery in Torry at the unsullied age of twelve. This was work experience. An introduction to the working world and a literal awakening by a tinny cheap alarm clock picked up from the cash and carry.

My dad always worked in the industry. A baker by trade and a grafter. Growing up, I have memories of him dotting about the city from A to B, looking to pick something up or sort something out. I would be given the choice of coming in or waiting in the car, as he went down some unspecified stairwell or chap on the back door. I would usually pick the latter as these visits tended to be lengthy, despite the assurance of “just popping in”. As he would talk about, (whatever the hell bakers talked about…) I’d get to try the cakes or be shown how something is done or how a machine works. For example, he worked in a little shop that specialized in wedding cakes. I remember being given a blank cake board and a piping bag with various coloured icing to play with. This was the equivalent of pencils and paper to keep me busy and kept me out of the way. I didn’t mind. I found these experiences fascinating. I fondly remember meeting some local characters and learning how an industrial kitchen functioned.

My dad would go on to buy The Pantry: a small, no thrills bakery that catered mainly for the early morning trade. Initially, he ran the place single-handedly, although help would come in later in the morning to serve the public. I think he found the experience somewhat lonely. In my opinion, the best part of any kitchen job (bar, you know, actually cooking things and completing a successful service) is the social environment created by you and your colleagues. Working side by side with the right team can keep you going throughout a long day. Without that, you may only have the radio for company and the inner workings of a tired brain.

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On Saturday night, I’d go to bed fully clothed because…that’s what grown-ups do?…dreading the inevitable 3:00am wake up from my tinny pocket alarm clock; and my dad who would absurdly wake me up a minute or two before it went off. I often ignored his attempts to wake me in hope that I would get away with not going. This had limited success. I’d lumber into the car in pitch darkness and sleep for most of the journey, awakened as we approached the bakery, by the stench of fresh fish and the sound of screeching seagulls.

Opening up was always the worst part: lighting all the stoves, cranking them up full blast to get some heat into the kitchen; waiting for hot water to boil and counting the minutes and seconds until you could take your jacket off. Front of house was basic but practical: brightly coloured price tags peppered the walls and the display cabinets lay dark and bare. Between the hours of three and six, my dad would systematically work through producing pies, cakes, pancakes, etc. I’d be tasked with putting them on display, cleaning and other odd jobs. We’d also get deliveries during this time. I’d find myself making cups of teas and bacon rolls for the tradesman either ending or beginning their shift. You could usually tell which, by the dirtiness of their overalls and the level of weariness in their voice when they ordered.

As the morning went on and darkness fell to light, the bakery would get busier and I would get chirpier, knowing that the arrival of day come with my departure. I’d either get a lift home from my grandfather who would often help out; or from some indistinguishable woman who would do the sandwich run around local offices and drop me off on the way back. Before leaving, I would shuffle up to Blockbuster Video to rent a couple of Mega Drive games – this is how I would spend the rest of my weekend.

These sporadic shifts would indicate who I would become in the working world. My dad would go on to sell The Pantry and I dodged diabetes as a result. His next acquisition would be something far more exciting.

The tinny alarm clock never did ring again. Where as I, was just beginning to chime.

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For All The Cows – An update.

Hey folks. I hope all is well? It’s been a while since my last update so I thought I’d let you in on what’s been happening.

I’m not going to lie. I’m definitely suffering from the blues and in many ways I have been for a few weeks now. But instead of letting it continue to get me down and bore you all to death with it, I think the solution is to look forward to the future don’t you think? I don’t need to put you through reading about my personal misery again (I don’t have it bad over here but in context with my own existence and mindset and how I feel from day-to-day is relative to how I live my life and a big factor to how I act around myself more so than others.)

What I will say though is that I do miss my friends and family from back home and I am looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Now then.

Onwards in some easy digestible pieces…

What exactly am I up to?

Well as most of you probably know, if only by spying  instead of talking to me,( isn’t the internet awesome? Soon we won’t even  need ‘friends’. There will be an app full of them ready to download) I live and work in Germany with my girlfriend and have been here close to a year now. It’s been fine (for lack of a better word) in that we get on great, the town is charming and I have little worries here.

Am I ready to leave? Yes. A long time ago.

It’s nothing personal. I actually really like it here. The problem lies in my agenda.

Once again I am doing the same shit but in a different country and I feel – no I know – I could do so much more. I’m slightly disappointed with myself this time around. I get up, I piss around, I smoke too many cigarettes and drink coffee and then I go to work. Rinse and repeat everyday. Now I must state, this is entirely my fault. I haven’t made the effort even in getting close to new friends. From day one I knew I’d be leaving again. I didn’t have that knowledge on my last trip, so I guess I never really got off the ground here. I’m happy with my relationship with Petra but I’m not happy with my relationship with Germany. Once again – it’s nothing personal, it’s just not the right time for me to be here. If I have to work in a kitchen or a restaurant floor for one more year of my life, I’m going to crack up. And as grateful as I am to be in a job that treats me well, I’m going through groundhog day and a continuous loop of misery and boredom. I feel like im in a prison. And for anyone that knows me well – I need to be pacing a much bigger cell.

Would I come back to Germany to live? Yes. In a heart beat.

Can I be here any longer at the time being? No. Sadly not.

See how easy it is to rant? Moving on…

So –  what’s the plans?

Well over the past few months whilst Petra has been studying, I’ve been planning and booking a round the world trip for us both. That’s been keeping me fairly busy as there is more to in than you might imagine. Surprisingly – I sparked  into life doing this and I actually really enjoyed it. I got a travel agent to book all of my first trip as If I was left to my own devices, I would have ended up that famous creek with not only a missing paddle, but probably a whole new asshole handed to me in every major city. I was clueless and chose to adopt other people who knew what the hell they were doing. However this time round, I have a bit of knowledge and experience and without wanting to jinx the whole thing, I think I did a fairly good job of organising everything. Here’s the trip in a bit of detail if you want to stalk me or smuggle a package of narcotics in my backpack:

  • Sep 23rd – Edinburgh.
  • Sep 24th – Oct 3rd – Aberdeen.
  • 2 weeks – New York/Philadelphia/Boston.
  • 10 days – LA/San Francisco.
  • 1 month – Australia.
  • 2 weeks – Thailand.
  • 6 weeks – Borneo.
  • Singapore to London.
  • Arrive home February 3rd and shortly after move to Edinburgh.

On my return?

We (both Petra and I) are moving to Edinburgh. She want’s to gain work experience abroad and I want to officially get my shit together, so where better to do it than the Capital?  We did think about London but Edinburgh seems less daunting for a couple getting their own place, looking for new work and putting their feet on the ground for a year or two. For different reasons – Aberdeen is out of the question.

The plan? I want to study and only work part-time for a while. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to do some travel and working full-time has gotten me there, after 8 years of it I’m officially done. I want to look towards the future and it’s not easy to see whilst flipping burgers and washing dishes. What I want to do is a different question all together. I’m really not sure. But I enjoy writing and although I am naive and relatively in the dark with what I could possibly do as a career with it, I want to at least get an education first. So one step at a time. Reading more books would be a start…

And with the writing?

I’m happy to say that I’m getting there and more importantly – interested and enjoying it. As a board poster on gapyear.com, I decided that potentially I had more to give to the site than just being a poster. I sent in a couple of my entries from here as example pieces, in hope that my style could have a place for the site. The editor praised my writing  and asked me to produce an article on my time in Germany (Which is done and dusted by the way and I will put it up at a later date). It was unpaid however in return I got my work edited by a professional and critiqued. And of course – it’s all experience that I will need to get going in the right direction. I’m happy to say that since then I have produced a further article and have written a complete country guide to Germany, to which you can read here.

So onwards and upwards. Watch this space. There will be more pieces coming in the future. And as much as I seem to love writing about myself, I’m looking to step away from that and get serious about producing real work. Besides. What else is there really to know about me? And apart from being entertained by my ramblings once in a while, does anyone really care? Writing these has always been for my own benefit. However now it’s came round full circle and I’m looking to benefit in a whole different way.

A career.

Any advice?

So folks this is my 99th entry, which if you think about it – isn’t really that many. But in saying that I’m pleased I’m still writing and even more so that I plan on continuing. I love doing this and for as passionate as I am about certain things, nothing really ever sticks with me. I’m glad I do this and enjoy doing it. I will continue. And I sincerely hope that 5 years from now – I’m stuck good and well.

I’m thinking about what I might do for my 100th entry. Perhaps I’ll have a  go at impressing you with something a bit different. We shall see.

Also expect some sort of travel blog to come out of my next trip. I don’t see why not. That’s a no brainer.

That’ll do it for now.

I will see some of you in a few weeks.

Untill then – take it easy and all the best.

Darren.