Fine Living | Diary of a Somebody

Jacob Kenedy

It’s a manic Monday for the London chef-of-the-moment

Jacob Kenedy

December 06 2011
Jacob Kenedy

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

It’s Monday, but somehow I manage to wrench myself from bed at 8am. This is always an ordeal, as I’m no morning person, but the sun is shining and I adopt a brave and happy face unusually quickly. I walk the dog (who spends some days in our office) into work with my partner and business partner, Victor. It’s a beautiful day; our route takes us through Vauxhall Park, along the embankment past the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, then up through Trafalgar and Leicester Squares and finally Chinatown before arriving at Bocca di Lupo. The Thames is swollen and glistening bright in the morning light. Life in London just doesn’t get any better.

I start my day by catching up with the morning crew at Bocca di Lupo and Gelupo – I touch base briefly with Alec (Gelupo’s GM, who’s busy upgrading our website), Simon (wholesale gelato sales), Franziska (shop manager), Richard (floor manager at Bocca di Lupo) and Daniele (sous-chef in charge of Bocca’s kitchens today) before passing through the kitchen in detail – showing someone how to truss a chicken, another to stuff mussels, a kitchen porter how to recharge the water softener. I spend about five minutes with each person in the kitchen, discussing how a certain dish – the tripe or the bollito misto or the gelato – can be improved or seasoned to perfection.

Then the boring part begins. From 11 to 12 I have to do office work that grates and grinds and seemingly never ends. I update the rota and process the kitchen payroll. I speak on the phone to a Spanish lady in Cambridge, giving her some advice for a restaurant idea she is thinking of pursuing. I catch up with my PA, Nathaniel, especially on some ongoing maintenance projects. I review the menu (restaurant and private dining), and print off some copies for my meeting later today with Alberto, my right-hand man in the kitchen, as well as putting the final touches on a job offer I have for him. I discuss Sunday opening hours with Victor (we have been giving Sunday dinners a trial in addition to our normal Sunday lunches). When I look up. it’s midday, and I need to get on the restaurant floor.

From midday to 3pm I’m working on the pass, on the waiters’ side – checking each dish, making sure it reaches the right customer, overseeing kitchen and floor. I’m in my element. Dish after dish after dish goes out. I resent that I’m not the one to eat each plate, but the smiles I get in return almost make not eating the food myself worthwhile. I get very, very hungry in the process.

At 3pm sharp I need to go to the gym, but just before this I spend 10 minutes speaking with a chef who has a couple of complaints about how the kitchen was run this morning; I feel he is blaming others for mistakes he made himself, and tell him so in the nicest possible way. So now I’m going to the gym; but just before I go, I spend another 10 minutes with another chef, who I have been training up over the past eight weeks from a previous career in PR – he has done well, and I give him words of encouragement and confirm his employment. I really need to go to the gym now, but on my way out I’m stopped by yet another chef who wants to introduce me to a friend of his who’s seeking employment. It only takes a couple of minutes…

4:30, and I haven’t gone to the gym. Instead I need to race home as Alberto is coming over at 5pm to plan our January menus for 2011 with me, and I just hate being late. We spend a good three hours imagining delicious things – I want to bring our prices down slightly in the New Year, but that’s no burden: my policy is to use the same percentage mark-up on all ingredients so next year’s menu will just have a little less truffle and lobster, a little more rustication. We decide, among other things, on many dishes showcasing blood oranges, which will start their season soon, and minestra maritata – a delicious Campanian soup of pork, sausages and bitter greens. When we’re done, I discuss a promotion package with him; I spend about half my time in the kitchen, but it needs a full-time chef de cuisine to keep the cogs oiled and the staff supervised to the level they deserve. He would be brilliant at it, and is virtually doing it anyway. He says he will think on it; my fingers are crossed. As he’s leaving, I dig out some porcini I bought earlier today from an amateur forager – I’m going to grill them with bacon for dinner. They are delicious with a squeeze of lemon. I drink a glass of wine, cuddle the dog, watch some gratuitous television and snuggle into bed. It was a good day.