Cooking is in my blood & soul
chef mike darracott
I first got interested in cooking like I wrote in an earlier posting when helping my mother baking when around 7 years old. I loved to help my mum when she baked our Cornish Pasties, and her saffron buns were the best. Back in my day at school, even the boys had to go and cook alongside the girls, in what was called Domestic science that was in the early sixties. By the time I left school, I was already in my mind wishing to become a chef, I took a job in a top Hotel, as a trainee chef, that place was the World renowned Lobster Pot Hotel in the little fishing port of Mousehole, near Penzance in Cornwall England.
It was such a wonderful time in my life, the very early seventies, my first job ever was to peel a whole sack of potatoes ( a 56 pound bagful ) with a little potato peeler, once I had done this chore, the head chef, gave me another sack of carrots and onions, and I peeled and washed those as well. At the end of my day, I had done around 400 pounds in weight of hand peeled vegetables, my hands were so sore I can tell you, the chef said well done, see you tomorrow, I asked what I was doing tomorrow, and he said the same as you did today.
I went home so despondent about my lot, but bright and early the next day I was rearing to go, when I arrived the chef gave me a big smile, and then showed me an electric peeler he had hidden from me, I laughed, and he said what you did yesterday, was the best way to introduce a new trainee to vegetable preparation. Every day I was always interested in what the other chefs in the kitchen were doing, and asked if they would show me how to make stuff, when they had a spare moment, and they did. I learnt very quickly, and the head chef picked up on the fact.
I was making fresh sauce’s, preparing and making Lobster Thermidor , the French classic, and the main dish that this Hotel was known for in many ways. Also preparing fish, and making soups, all at the tender age of just 17. This hotel was a hive for celebs, so I was actually cooking food for people like Dame Judy Dench, Richard Briers, David bowie to name but a few. My eyes popped out of my head to see these celebs sitting and laughing just a few yards away in the restaurant.
One day the head chef came up to me, and said he wanted me to take over the breakfast chefs duties, as the chef in charge of the lobster pot hotels breakfast shift, and that after the breakfast service was over, I would be in charge of making all the bread products for the hotel each day.
I was taught by the head chef, all of the menu for breakfast, and taught how to make bread, the head chef was very happy with my interest in everything I was taught. One day he came up to me and said that he could see my passion and commitment to cooking, and that he and the boss, thought it would be a good idea, that I would attend a full time catering course at the local college, and that they would do this on block release for me. The owner and the head chef said that I could leave the breakfast duties, and come in after college and work on the evening service.
Wow, I was now going to college 5 days a week 9am to 5pm, and then riding my moped the 12 miles straight from college to Mousehole, to put in a shift cooking from around 6pm to 11pm each night. By the time I got home each day it was gone midnight, I took a bath and then the so needed sleep for around 6 hours, then up and college.
Eventually I qualified on my course, and went back to the lobsterpot working full time on days, and then when finishing work, would take an hour off, and then still in Mousehole, went to my other position, which was in charge of a fish and chip shop, with two staff under me to look after. All of this happened in a round just 2 years of my life.
I love cooking; it’s my one never ending passion, a passion above cooking, is reserved for my wife of 35 years, and my three wonderful children. I will write more about my life in the catering industry later. When I have time I will put up a Lobster Thermidor recipe.
Thanks for taking the time to read this
Chef Mike Darracott