Don’t Call Me Sir – Chef!! 1980
I was involved in the catering industry for the start of my career path from between the years of 15 – 22, not long really, but whilst at school, l was working part time in a hotel called the Cotteridge and saved up my wages and tips to attend Guildford Technical College in Surrey. Qualified as a chef, although l only studied to be a chef so l could qualify as a manager which was my chosen path.
As a chef, l am pretty good when l want to cook that is, and l do more cooking now than in previous years. But l have fond memories of my time in college between the years of 1980 – 1983 when l was part of class known as HC1C/HC2C. During my second year l was recruited as an Assistant Catering/Banquet Manager for Woking Civic Hall and commenced working there full time over my part time hours once l finished full time study in the summer of 1982.
But most of these tales and there are only a few to the series are from the period of 1978 – 1982/3
Don’t Call Me Sir – Chef!! 1980
Despite working in a hotel as a young teenager during school terms and holidays, it didn’t prepare me for the trials and tribulations of college and it certainly didn’t prepare me for the schedules of some of the lecturers. There were many classes in the time tables, but most of ‘them’ were fun, but not all.
The periods of time when l was to cook, or chef were sometimes the hardest of all, l wasn’t a real natural you could say. Some chefs whilst not born a chef are inclined to lean to that side of life, l leaned the other way, l think it’s safe to say! Like a duck takes to water, l was more of hippo wallowing in mud!
The first thing l had to overcome was my Kitchen lecturer Mr Swalloe, who was only a Mr Anything when he wasn’t in the kicthen, whilst in the kitchen he was a Chef, whilst l was not a Chef, l was a cook, and he was not a sir!
But l couldn’t grasp this concept at all, l had been raised by my parents to be polite and courteous all the time and respect my elders, but the lecturer was ex-military and so that added a different level to things, as my dad had always said call them sir!
So, see if you can see this conversation one day during our first class, on the first week of the first year!
“My name is Mr Swalloe, when in kitchen, you will only refer to me as Chef, got it?”
The whole class gave a mixture of responses ranging from ‘Yes chef, yes sir, yes Mr Swalloe to simply yes”.So he repeated himself ““My name is Mr Swalloe, when in kitchen, you will only refer to me as Chef, got it?” he continued with this for a full five minutes until all he got back was “Yes Chef!”
“Why sir?” I piped in, “Why Chef and not by your first name sir?”
“Because l am your bloody Chef and you will call me Chef, not Swalloe and not bloody sir, sonny, l am no bloody sir, got it?”
“Well how about when you are outside the kicten, what do we call you then?”
“You mean “”Well how about when you are outside the kicten, what do we call you then?” Chef?”
“So you are saying that both inside the kitchen and outside the kitchen, you are still only known as Chef?”
“Mr Matier, will you stop asking silly questions?”
“But why are they silly questions sir?”
“Don’t call me sir, call me Chef!”
“So what l am just trying to figure out is why l call you Chef and not sir or not Mr?”
“Will you address me as Chef every time you speak to me?”
“As in now, you only want me to call you Chef, Chef, but how about when you are not in this kitchen Chef?”
“You call me Chef.” He answered, “Unless l am in civvies then you call me Mr Swalloe, but not sir!”
“So, when in civvies as in not kitchen get up, l am…”
“They are called whites son!”
“Who is White? I am to call you White, not Swalloe or Chef and not sir?”
“Are you being funny with me cook?”
“No Matier sir, Mr Swalloe, l mean Chef or is it White, l am a little confused, how many names do you actually have?”
“Don’t call me Swalloe, White or Sir, call me Chef cook!”
“Sorry sir, but l am struggling a bit here, am l to call “you” Chef or Chef Cook?”
The class was trying not to laugh, and l was getting myself into a right lather trying to figure out the answer to the original question.
“You are the cook, training to become a Chef, l am the Chef who is to train you from cooks to Chefs. You call me Chef, cook!”
“Why do l call you Chef Cook?”
“No, l am a Chef, you are the Cook!!”
“So we are not Chefs then, we are Cooks? But isn’t cooks like a verb, a doing word? If you are a Chef, then that makes me a Cook?”
“No, you are a, wait a minute, yes you are a cook, just acting like a cock!”
“Ok Chef, is it Chef Swalloe, because that sounds kind of funny for starters don’t you think?”
“Listen Matier, l am the Chef, only Chef, not Sir Chef, not Mr Chef, not Chef Cook, not Chef Swalloe, just CHEF!!!! Have you got that now??”
“Yes sir loud and clear!!”
That was really and truly a conversation l had on my first day with Mr Swalloe White Chef Cook Sir!”
I feel pretty sure you can see or perhaps imagine, just how the rest of my time there went eh?