In his 2006 book Heat, Bill Buford played apprentice in the kitchen at Babbo (the term played is used here as a mere figure of speech), giving an inside look at the workings of an upscale restaurant. Now, another writer is discovering that apprenticing is no picnic.

Australian Stephanie Wood jumps from the frying pan into the fire for an article about apprenticing at Melbourne’s Vue de monde. Her days in white were filled with, among other things, Brussels sprouts:

On the bench in front of me, 1.6 kilograms of brussels sprouts. In my hand, a devilishly sharp paring knife. On the wall next to me, a timer counting down 45 minutes. My task: to remove the most curvaceous leaves … without tearing them, the bloodshot eyes of four top chefs on me.

Her conclusion? “[I]f life’s too short to stuff a mushroom it’s almost certainly too short to disassemble a brussels sprout only to stick it back together again with mousse.”

Heat aficionados will likely appreciate another look inside a restaurant kitchen, another chance to wonder about how and why people actually decide to do this extremely demanding—and not often well compensated—work.

[T]o decide that to be an apprentice chef, a chef of any rank, in a restaurant like this, a person must have a streak of insanity. How else could he tolerate the crazy hours and hard labour, the danger and discomfort of working with samurai-sharp knives amid scorching stoves on slippery floors; the unnatural division of labour — mostly the menial slog of mise-en-place (preparation) punctuated by the fleeting delirium of service.

The full story is posted to Stephanie’s blog, Elegant Sufficiency.

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