Sunday, 12 October 2008

The One Hundredth Post: Going Pro

Well fellow bloggers, what is the longest amount of time you've spent composing a post? For me this article, the hundredth post of This Edible Life, has taken about three weeks to write. I guess such a milestone certainly deserves a bit more care and attention but the fact is I haven't been scratching my head and wondering what to write, nor have I been writing, editing and re-editing to craft the perfect post. I've just been really, really busy.

Given that the very first post of this blog set out my ambition to become a professional chef, it seems fitting that my hundredth post should be about turning pro just over a year later. I now get paid to cook, and if I needed any further confirmation I only have to look at my daughter's birth certificate where it is there in black and white; Occupation of Father: Chef. On another official piece of paper, my marriage certificate, my occupation is listed as Advertising Executive and in a few hundred years time my descendants may come across both documents in the archives and wonder how and why this guy actually ended up as a cook. They'll probably learn about the great "credit crunch" of 2008 and surmise that he must have lost his job and been forced into service during hard times. Hopefully though, they'll find a record of this blog and learn what really happened.

Deciding what to do after training has been tricky. I know that if I was in my early twenties, I would have gone into a michelin-starred fine dining restaurant and worked my way up through the ranks, preferably indulging my interest in modernist "molecular" cookery along the way. Realistically though, at 35 and with a new baby, the punishing hours required to make it to the top in fine dining just aren't an option. I have to say goodbye to that dream.

So if fine dining wasn't an option then what else could I do. Well I came to the conclusion that at my age I needed to be more than a commis chef. I needed to work with people who wouldn't pigeonhole me as green college graduate but would see the benefit of my maturity and be prepared to give me more responsibility from day one. Fortunately I was introduced to a fantastic bunch of people who were in the process of opening an Antipodean cafe in central London, an idea I had once toyed with myself after returning from Sydney a few years ago. I loved their concept, I loved the idea of being part of another start-up, and I loved the fact that I could be involved in everything from menu design to pricing,and even ordering all the utensils needed for a fully functioning kitchen. Most importantly though, I wanted to be part of a small kitchen team working on everything from pastry and baking to grills and salads. With a view to running my own place in a few years time, I wanted to be in a position where I could learn the role of a head chef, deal with suppliers and ordering, and essentially learn everything there is to know about running an efficient kitchen. They offered me the role of Sous Chef at Lantana and I've been working there, six days a week for the past month. I am exhausted, but the learning experience has been fantastic.

It's hard to describe Australian cafe culture to people to haven't had the good fortune to experience it down under. The food is unpretentious but beautifully presented, the service is informal and friendly. Breakfast and brunch are celebrated and given the true status they deserve. In fact I don't think I'll bother trying to describe it any further, I'll let the menu speak for itself.

Breakfast 8-12 (All day Saturday)

Toasted muesli w banana, yoghurt and honey 4.5

Bircher muesli w apple and berries 4.5

Poached fruit w greek yoghurt + pistachios 4

Fresh fruit salad w mint and sweet ginger dressing 4.5

Toasted banana bread w date and pecan butter 4

Sourdough toast w vegemite or jam 2.5

Lantana baked beans w crumbled feta, sautéed spinach and sausages on sourdough toast 8.5

Field mushrooms sauteed w parsley and garlic served with
grated parmesan on sour dough toast 7.6

Pancakes w greek yoghurt and baked fruit 7

Poached eggs on toast 5

Scrambled eggs w smoked salmon on brioche w
fresh tomato salad 8

Corn fritters w crispy bacon, rocket, oven roasted tomatoes and
lime aioli 8

Baked eggs w buttered baby spinach and mushrooms served w tomato and red pepper chutney toasted sourdough 8

Bacon 2.4
Lantana baked beans 2
Slow roast tomatoes 2
HG Walter’s sausages 3
Sautéed spinach 2
Mushrooms 2

Lunch from 12pm

Open sandwich w bacon, rocket, sliced tomato, & fried egg w aioli 6.5

Corn fritters w layers of crisp bacon, rocket, oven roasted tomatoes, drizzled w roast garlic & lime aioli 8.5

Tart of the day served w choice of two salads from the counter 8

Salad plate of your choice of three from the counter 7.8

Steak sandwich w rocket, fresh tomato, caramelised onion relish and horseradish crème friache 8.5

Moroccan lamb skewers w flat bread and mint yoghurt served w bulgur, walnut, celery and pomegranate salad 8.7

Lemon & coriander infused chicken skewers served w served with salad from the salad bar and tomato and red pepper chutney 8.7

Sharing plate w bruschetta, olives, dips and prosciutto (for 2) 10

To Drink


Fresh orange juice
Virgin mary
Belu Still (750ml)
Belu Sparkling (750ml)
San Peligrino Limonato, Orangina
Bundaberg ginger beer

Bloody Mary
Di Valdo bbiadene Proseco

St Roch grenache blanc
Bird in Hand sauvignon blanc
Camplazens rose
St Roch merlot
Bird in Hand shiraz

Coopers pale ale
Coopers sparkling ale

Coffee (extra shot 30p, Soy milk 50p)
Long black
Hot Chocolate
Pot of Tea: English breakfast/Earl grey/Rooibos/Chai/Peppermint/Green

You can read more about our progress at Lantana on Shelagh's blog and if you're in the Oxford Street/Tottenham Court Road area than please come by and pay us a visit. We're at 13 Charlotte Place which is a little pedestrian street between Goodge St and Rathbone Place.


Krista said...

Congrats! I was wondering where the mysterious restaurant waas going to be! Funnily, when I went to a Qype meeting in South Ken a few weeks ago, I met Shelagh!

Kai said...

You have no idea how excited I was to come across your post. As a New Zealander, I have been missing the cafe culture I am so used to for about 2 and a half years now! My week used to be based around cafes and coffee (Mon - Thur meant meetings at cafes or dropping in for the regular flat white on the way to work, Fridays meant breakfast with my friends, Saturdays brunch with my husband and Sundays coffee and cake after a visit to the market).

I have sent your blog around to all my kiwi and Australian friends and can't wait to drop in!

Pete said...

Thanks Krista, small world eh? Hopefully a Lantana brunch will become part of everyone's perfect Saturday!

Pete said...

Thanks for your comment Kai, hope to see you at Lantana soon. And don't just tell your antipodean friends about us - we need to enlighten some British brunchers too!

Trig said...

Pete - I'm really, really pleased for you.

I know we share very similar tastes in food - a glance at your lists of restaurants where you've eaten and ones you'd like to visit confirms that.

I also know how much you enjoyed working with Nuno - a pleasure I have yet to experience but one I'm sure will happen one day. So fine dining is clearly something you both understand and appreciate.

But I guess you are right. I'm 15 years younger and without family commitments, which is what makes it possible for me when it's not really possible for you.

To be offered a sous chef position is absolutely fantastic and you must be really thrilled. I know a bit about antipodean cooking, having studied Australian cuisine for my college project and worked with the amazing Peter Gordon for two weeks. So next time I'm in London I will come and eat with you. I expect a VIP table, of course! At least a gratis plate of lemon myrtle crusted barramundi.

Btw, Charlotte Place has a long history of excellent little eateries dating back 30 years or more. My dad used to eat there in the 1980s.

All the very best and well done.

Anthony Silverbrow said...

Well done Pete. Seems very well deserved - and thanks for the introduction to Shelagh's blog!

Charles said...

Congrats - definitely going to have to pop by and grabs some eggs - I have some friends that work round there so will let them know too

Lizzie said...

Congratulations! I work right round the corner, so hopefully will be popping in for lunch one day. Sadly, work gets in the way of brunching times, such a shame as it's my favourite meal.

Pete said...


Thanks for your kind words. I am in many ways envious of the future you have in front of you, the travels you will take, and the people you will learn from. If I could do it all again and all that...Still, the most important thing for me is that I have achieved what I set out to do. On Monday I took charge of the kitchen for the first time and managed service without any mishaps, injuries or customer complaints. It's a position I didn't think I'd be in so early but one I feel fully comfortable to hold. Let me know when you are in town again, although I fear your critique having seen your review of Mugaritz!

All the best


Pete said...

Anthony, Charles, and Lizzie,

Thanks for your congratulations and I hope to see you in the cafe soon.