And the title of this book when it came out in the U. Since reading about hard work rarely sells books, the photo of the author with a cleaver on the cover, and the sensational title is meant to attract readers with the expectation of the sensational. He did this early in life, and then quit to do other things. I was feeling grouchy anyway. He was the knight embracing his lance, and he was heading toward me.
Was he going to dispose of me with a long-handled, copper kitchen implement? Was I about to be ladled? Albert stopped his charge when he was a foot in front of me and raised the upended ladle into the air, moving it in a pecking motion in front of my face. The spoon part of the ladle came toward the bridge of my nose, then, before it could touch me, it was swiftly retracted.
I grabbed the spoon. I marched out of the kitchen, changed out of my whites and buggered off. I found work at a small restaurant on the other side of the river, in Battersea Park Road.
The kitchen was run by a man called Alan Bennett—no, not the playwright. We got on well and I would later work for him at the restaurant he owned, Lampwicks, in nearby Queenstown Road. What had previously seemed grand, exquisite and stylish no longer had the same effect upon me. At some point early in I left Gavroche once again, this time on the most amicable terms. Being a butcher—or rather, a Roux butcher—has to be one of the toughest jobs I have ever done.
The working day started at five thirty in the morning. My first duty was to prepare the ducks. At Le Boucher I had to master the skill of opening up the cavity so that it was just large enough to get my fingers in and carefully scoop out the insides without staining the bird with its blood. Each morning I would prepare about twenty ducks, their sharp bones stabbing my fingers.
To ease the soreness I would have to wash with cold water and a bit of bleach. The duck process took me about four hours and then I would tend to the customers in the shop.
Everything was prepared to order. If a customer wanted a poulet de Bresse for a fricassee, then I would chop it up accordingly; if it was a chicken for roasting, then the bird would be beautifully tied and trussed. I had to be disciplined with my knife and hands and I had to work quickly.
When I turned up to see him, he seemed quite impressed by my experience and offered me the job. However, he was adamant about the money. Spend it how you like. There was no cash left for a washer-up, so Mario and I agreed to share the chore. I was quite proud of the deal—signs of my business brain were evident even back then. What he needed was a bit of discipline, so I found myself treating him as harshly as I had been treated by my former head chefs.
He responded to bollockings. Even though he may have faked it, he responded to them. One day I sent him out to get some tropical fruits and he returned with a bag of avocados. To this day, I do not know if he was taking the mickey. Last time we spoke he had launched a hot pan of risotto at my chest in service. I finally jacked in the job at the Six Bells in spring because I missed working in fine kitchens. There was also an incident with the barman at the Six Bells. Then he picked up a knife, as if to warn me off, and I tried to grab it.
The blade sliced the palm of my hand and the scar is still there today. Once I had the knife, I chinned him. Motherless readers will sympathize. White was the youngest chef at age 28 to win two Michelin stars, and was the first British chef to win three stars.
The Devil in the Kitchen exploits how his perfectionism in the kitchen made him a boss who would not tolerate mistakes, and treated those who made them with fury.
What can we learn from this memoir? Such success leads to freedom. Steve Hopkins, July 25,