Soap of the day

I’d so like to write a book. I did write one a year or two back but that’s a cookbook (called, as it happens, The Passion for Real Food, essential for your bookshelf, a great present for anybody who likes cooking or, indeed, anybody who’d like to learn to cook, and available from the restaurant or, if you can’t get there, all good book shops).

But next I’d like to write a story about the life of a restaurant and that’d be so much easier. Because a cookbook demands work and pictures and lots of recipe testing even before you get to the writing bit. And then the proof reading is so hard, believe me. It’s amazing how many mistakes you make when writing recipes and it takes the services of a professional proof reader to spot them. Well, at least, most of them.

But the story of the life of a restaurant would be easy as there’s so much material and it’s begging to be captured and turned into a Hotel Babylon-style soap opera. I always assumed that your Corrie and Eastenders dramas were daft because so many things happened to so few people. But, actually, real life’s much more interesting and so much funnier.

Of course a lot of it’s a touch too racy to include in a family-orientated article but a book allows you to use all the gory detail, sexual shenanigans and, above all, swear words. Not that we utter that many swear words while working – no, honestly – but it’s funny how the funny things so frequently seem to involve them.

But the life of a restaurant includes love affairs and relationship drama; illness and life-changing moments; young staff finding their feet on the emotional rollercoaster of life; and, of course, customers.

For instance, we invite comments from guests on cards we deliver with the bill. One a few days ago said that she’d enjoyed everything about her food and the service. Her only complaint was the miserable woman at the next table who found fault with everything. In retrospect, I guess it was a legitimate complaint. Maybe we could have dealt with the miserable woman better. Or maybe, using the original customer’s situation as justification, thrown her out.

I’ve seen punch-ups at wedding celebrations; a storming out of the restaurant by a woman soon after she’d accepted a proposal of marriage (I wouldn’t have minded but I’d bought them both a glass of Champagne to celebrate. Who knows, the extra alcohol may have contributed to their argument); a regular visit by a ménage à trois that finally exploded after the third bottle of bubbly one Valentine’s night; the posh lady who always dined with her family in the window but in the rear of the restaurant when with her lover; frequent visits by a married couple where the husband always drank too much before falling asleep, leaving his wife to repeatedly proposition me (the staff took to staying behind for my protection).

And what on earth had been happening to result in a bra, one night, being left under a table?

But while customers provide a rich vein of entertainment, the loves and lives of our staff are the real stuff of the book. I mean, how much stick do you think the kitchen gave one of our supervisors when, on behalf of a customer, she burst in and asked if the sea bass was a freshwater fish? It’s the staff; they’re my pension.

Yes, real life’s much more interesting and so much funnier. Coronation Street eat your heart out.


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