Charlie’s knife glides through the blood-red capsicum like a Samurai slices off heads; his fiftieth pepper today; his one-hundredth potato; the incomprehensible mountain of garlic cloves; to be prepped like he was performing heart surgery. Charlie’s eagle-eyed boss – fires him a sharp glance, before turning back to the pass and flapping his pink gums at his long-suffering Sous-Chef. Charlie takes a moment to look up from the colossal pepper tree and thinks what a sententious asshole he works for. He is careful to let the moment pass; he gets back to his peppers immediately. Charlie knows one julienne too thick, one cube too fat – would rouse Head-Chef Aldo into an ebullition of rage; that is not good for anyone.
Charlie delivers a triumphant chop of his final pepper and makes a dash to the nearby walk-in fridge. This is his getaway – two minutes of breezy, cool, uninterrupted silence. He takes the array of delicately prepared items and admires their red, green, and yellow skin. After stacking them on a high shelf; Charlie takes a moment to reflect on his day and asks himself – is this really my highlight?
He had been rather fed up for a while; being unappreciated by Aldo, and feeling that his life depended on perfecting the aesthetics of peppers; for pompous businessmen to inhale down their throats. Before musing for too long – Charlie steps out of the fridge and walks over to a large sink which is full to the brim with water and Lollo Rosso. Plunging his tired fingers into the cool water; he scoops and twirls the lettuce like he was in an old-fashioned laundrette. Before relishing in the fantasy of his new job; he hears an almighty bang and jolts to attention. The cry of ‘useless idiot!’ distends from the guttural voice of “twenty cigs a day” Aldo; piercing Charlie’s ears, and making him nauseous.
To the right of Charlie – on a shiny silver worktop – lays his digital radio which Aldo had decided to use as ammunition. ‘Why the hell is there a slug in the lettuce?!’ Aldo bellows – ‘I’ll tell you why’ he continues – ‘because you haven’t washed it, you idiot!’. Charlie freezes and looks perplexed; Aldo marches over like a pint-sized drill Sergeant; then proceeds to condescend Charlie on the technique of washing lettuce; while stopping every few seconds to moisten his gums with a cold glass of cider. Charlie had no drink – just a low, despairing feeling that he was useless and would have to spend the rest of the evening, pussyfooting the kitchen floor like a guilty puppy. Once Charlie assures Aldo that he’s capable in the art of washing lettuce – he grabs a green chopping board and continues with his duties.
After a few jobs working in country pubs, Charlie had decided to progress his Career; he moved to London to work in a restaurant. Charlie was beginning to question whether it was a wise choice, but he was determined to keep going and told himself – one day I will be boss.
It’s around 3 pm when Charlie’s lunch shift is slowly winding down; his work-top gleams like a mirror as he glides the paper towel in perfect formation; scooping up roots, seeds, and withered old fruit. He grins as he visualizes himself taking a lazy nap before the night shift starts, and he goes to grab his coat. Before he has time – Aldo pounces upon Charlie’s offside like a stealthy ninja –and spurts out; ‘why did you throw away those limes, you idiot!’ – Charlie re-joins ‘because they were no good Chef’. ‘No good!’ barks Aldo; with his apoplectic onion-shaped head, steaming like hot soup. This time Aldo has no radio to use as a missile; instead, he swings an open palm at Charlie’s face; resembling a dissipated girl on a hen do. Little does Aldo know – Charlie was once a junior amateur boxing champion and sees the bitch slap coming; ducking the shot– he smoothly steps to the side and flicks his hair. Aldo looks like a tired sloth when he aims shot number two; the entire kitchen and waiting staff are now witnessing the event; with phones at the ready – to capture the perfect social media blockbuster. Aldo decides to step up his game and goes for a full fist punch; he thinks – “third time lucky” as his knuckles graze Charlie’s cheek. Finally roused from the unfair onslaught – Charlie shuffles like a pro and counters with a perfect right cross; Aldo’s odious onion bursts from its obliterated spout of a nose, and he collapses like a sack of bruised spuds. A gushing waterfall of bright red claret overwhelms the recently mopped kitchen floor. The fight is over.
Luckily for Charlie; the entire altercation was deemed to be self-defense and no charges were brought forward. He was also promoted to Chef de Partie and Aldo was fired. Aldo has since been seen working in a kebab shop, just down the road from the restaurant; he also joined a local boxing club, where his onion-shaped head has been a real asset.
A.T Hawthorn – 10.7.19