The Good, The Bad and The Worry: Chef’s Diary

Running a successful food business isn’t all scrumptious loaves of bread, and glorious coffees. With the good, comes the bad, and the worry as we learn from Dervla James‘ third diary entry.

Having your own business is great. Having your own food business is really, really great. It’s like hosting your own dinner party or picnic every day. Preparation is, however, key. If you forget something or there’s some sort of oversight, your day is potentially ruined; you’ll lose your mojo or you’ll feel like a fraud. At least that’s how I respond to it!

Today wasn’t ruined through lack of prep, care or consideration. The clean path of concentration was planned to precision. But then boom, we hit a bump, a personal roadblock. I take things to heart, as you’ll soon see over the lifetime of this diary.

Someone didn’t like the pulled pork. Strange… what did I do wrong? Everyone loves the pork in all its free range, saucy deliciousness. I obsessed for a little while, and eventually thought I’d gotten past it but I’m thinking about it again, so clearly, I’m not past it. It deeply affects me, when people tell me they haven’t liked something I’ve made. I find it so deflating, and have much more time for words like, “lovely, divine or delicious”. Divine is my favourite though. I personally reserve divine for something truly special, so when it’s said I can totally relate to it. This customer was so lovely and assured me this was simply down to their personal taste and I believe them but my job, my life, is to refine food to suit most people’s hungry hearts. I adore bringing them comfort food for their soul and a feast for their eyes. I find it so hard to accept you cannot please everyone.

The Good, The Bad, The Worry
Detail is everything (source)

5am: The mornings are ever so slightly darker these days and I kind of like that. Summer is stunning, I love it, but there’s a massive part of me that longs for darker mornings, to witness the sun waking up and to watch it stretch out with the most wonderful gleams of pinks and purples before settling on baby blue or ‘West of Ireland’ grey.

6am: I look around at all the breads that are weighed out for me to bake today. It always takes a minute to work out a strategy. I regroup and start weighing out my liquids. Summer means double and sometimes triple the breads we make throughout winter. Nothing a bit of focus and a few spare hands can’t fix.

10am: I get distracted quite easily to say the least. I take phone calls, update my Instagram and chat with suppliers. Organic milk, fresh and frizzy locally-grown lettuces and the prettiest posies arrive at the door. I chat a few moments too long with everyone and I’m racing to have everything cooled and iced before 11. Sometimes opening time comes around too quickly and I panic a little.

11am: Johny, my husband, pops in with Matilda. We chat a little while. I feed her and have a moan at how tired we both are. It’s usually a competition to see who is more exhausted. We’re complete opposites. I’m the early bird and he’s the night owl, we’re like ships in the night but it’s what we need to do right now. We’re determined to win at this lark and we make a perfect parenting and business tag team. Having family close by helps; who doesn’t want to have ice cream and a movie at Granny and Grandad’s.

The Good, The Bad, The Worry
Fresh breads at Pudding Row (source)

2:30pm: Lauren comes into the kitchen, she’s got that face where she has something she doesn’t want to tell me. She knows what it’s going to do to me! She reluctantly tells me, “table 2 didn’t like their sandwich… it’s just too spiced for them”. I switch to ‘fix it’ mode and ask Lauren to ask the customer what else we can prepare for them. Lauren is a great one to have out on the floor, swooping in as soon as some needs something and she’s an expert at damage control. She’s a character and people love her.

I check the seasoning on the pork about 20 times but I’m happy with it. I forget about it and move on.

4pm: It keeps coming back to me and I know myself, this one is going to take a while. I like to think of Edith at times like these, her little face just makes things better. Counting down the last hour, I get my last few bits done, calling in orders to suppliers, filling in tomorrow’s specials into our big black diary and then I’m away.

5pm: I get butterflies in my stomach. All the energy from today surges through my system and sometimes I feel like bursting into tears. I really love what I do! Edith is out in the garden so she’s the first person I see and there are no words to describe our excitement, but I’ll find the words for the Chef’s Diary!

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