Cats love me. I don’t know why, but they like to jump up on my knees and get fur up my nose. Our most recent cat – acquired a few years ago due to the demise of the previous incumbent and after a respectful period of mourning – is, according to the rescue home from where we got her, allegedly named Roxy but usually called The Cat by us. She turned out to be a quite friendly and amusing addition to the household; especially when compared with the snarling, biting and downright grumpy fighter we had before – may she rest in peace.
However, my view of cats is that they are there and that’s it. They’re not like dogs – man’s trusted, faithful friend and all that. They’re useful for stroking and for watching when they have their mad times in the evenings. But, apart from keeping the mice down, what else are they for?
However, I am kind to The Cat. I even go so far as to talk to her sometimes, especially when dishing out her food. And do I get any thanks? Do I tiddles. She makes all kinds of a fuss when her bowl’s empty and, despite the potential damage, bangs her head against the appropriate food cupboard until I produce the dried fishy smelling lumps, rattling them in their box before tipping them into her bowl. At which point she looks at me as if to say “Is that it? No smoked salmon then?”.
It’s all my wife’s fault. Because as soon as we got The Cat, she realised that The Cat loved me. As I said, cats just do. And I’ve just discovered that, in what appears to me to be a very sneaky way, my wife has, over the years, been feeding the cat special moist meaty morsels from sachets hidden in a different part of the kitchen. And her ploy is obviously working because she never gets those withering, critical looks that seem to say “You know nothing about food. Is this the best you’re capable of?”.
But maybe, just maybe I need a little relief from this. Because, like my wife with The Cat, my staff and I spend all our time with our restaurant trying to please; attempting to get that look or comment of approval from every single customer. With The Cat it’s because my wife lives with her. With the restaurant it’s because it’s our life, our passion and our living.
Maybe you’ll have seen Gordon Ramsey’s Celebrity Hell’s Kitchen at some time. Aside from debates about Ramsey’s swearing and management technique, there is little doubt that the man’s a genius in a restaurant and deserves great respect. But oh boy do I enjoy seeing celebrities put under real pressure. These are people who get paid a king’s ransoms for acting or presenting or doing what many do as a hobby. I’ve loads of friends who choose to act – with all the pressures that go with putting on a show entirely by themselves – unpaid just for fun.
And yes, I know many people cook for a hobby. I also know that many of our chefs do as well. But, as these types of programmes show, cooking in a kitchen at home is nothing compared with the pressure and level of hard work and commitment that has to be demonstrated by anybody who works in a busy, successful kitchen. And believe me, kitchens in restaurants such as ours are staffed by people who really care what you, the customer, thinks. Otherwise they wouldn’t stick it.
So it pleases me to know that a wider audience gets to see what does go on behind those kitchen doors. It’s important that we do get criticism when we get it wrong but, please remember, when you’re out for a meal, only a few feet away is a team of people so, so keen for your approval. And I’m one of them.
But The Cat’s still only getting the dried stuff from me – unless I can slip her some of the moist meaty morsels when her other owner’s not looking. I might just then get that look of approval.