Cooking is love made visible.

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Rene Redzepi… Let that name sink in, (use google if you must).

 

Anyway, cooking is love but just in a way that we can see. Whether it’s on the table from mom or dad, Yiayia (grandmother), pappou (grandfather) or at a Michelin starred restaurant. For me, it’s one in the same. Some of the best meals, in my opinion, will come from home or an occasion that isn’t even an occasion, it just happened.

Recently I’ve been thinking more about the future. My future. I’ve never been more excited! What does it look like? Well, I couldn’t have answered that with first going back, going back to what food actually means to me and then being able to work and move forward with these feelings and memories and put them into my own ideas for my own place.

What does food mean to me? It’s not just a way to keep us going, to keep us nourished, to keep us living. Food is far more than that. It has the power to evoke incredibly vivid memories and being able to hold the power to potential evoke those memories is something that I cannot put into words. It’s special!

I find my idea of 14onFour constantly evolving, constantly getting better. My idea of sharing a meal with special people, around the same table, no technology to distract you, THAT my dear friends and family is how bonds are made and there just isn’t enough of it happening today and well, I think is a massive factor as to why the world is in the pile of hot and steamy it’s in today. Food is love. Love for the earth around you that you plant your seeds in. Love for the ingredient you use. Love for the animal who has unwillingly given itself to feed you. Love for the art of cooking. Love for the people you are feeding. And ultimately, love for those closest to you, the ones that drive you.

14onFour is not some pretentious place to come and eat. No! 14onFour is me. My heart and an extension of my home. I want people to feel that when they walk in and see that the kitchen is not where they expect it and can actually say hi to me because, you’ve just walked into my house for dinner.

I want the love to echo everywhere, on the plates and in each ingredient. I want someone to say to me, “Nic, this veg is ready this week along with this” and a farmer to say,”I have a sheep or 2″ or “I don’t have meat this week but the sheep’s milk and goat’s milk is superb!” I want my produce to dictate my menus… Not my menus dictating the produce. If I can get an animal that is raised in a natural setting and raised in the right way, then I know I’m starting on the right foot. And lets face it, not much comes close to the taste of a freshly picked tomato, still warm from the sun and smelling of the tomato vine.

Fire… the very element with which man learnt to cook with, wood burning. There’s something special about that and for me it reminds me of family braais, braais with friends out at a lake on a summer evening, having a lamb on the spit at easter, those kinds of things. If thats what it does for me, I shudder to think what it does for everyone else. That is why there will be fire in my kitchen, in that form. Not just from gas (And hopefully not the pan either). I want to be able to cook over the flame, on the coal and buried in the coal or under the ground covered in the coal.

I want my place to be a place where people have an experience. A place where I am able to afford young people the opportunity I had, to learn under some great people and jumpstart their own career.

I want 14onFour to be the best it can be, the best I can be, an extension of my love.

At the end of the day, the fact about food is this…

Food brings people together.

People are at their best when…

Well, I guess when they realise that they are truly connected. Regardless of colour or position in society.

When they realise that any argument or quarrel settles when you’re around a table to eat.

People automatically relax at a dinner table, they talk, they laugh… They LOVE!

And, well… That’s what food does.

 

Until next time my dear friends and Family.

Thanks for reading.

Much love,

 

Nic

xx

 

The Continuation

“Potential has a shelf life!”

Yup, those are 5 words, strung together so well that they stunned me.

As always, I seem to have some witty quote to put up which, if you know me well, you’ll know that’s not how I roll. But I find it so amazing, how, when I need to write parts of this blog, something always pops up somewhere in life.

I write this thinking about this year, June already?! I mean what the actual?! How quickly has this year gone people?! Something that was a dream this time last year is about to end, because in under a month, I graduate.
So now I think back to when I arrived, not knowing what to expect when I got here, thinking, “OK Nic… You’re here! Now what the hell are you going to do, where do you go from here, you know nobody here in Woking!”.
Funny how things happen in front of you and you don’t realise. The people I’ve met and the families I have inadvertently become a part of, the connections already established and the friends I have made. Wow. God truly is great! The Big Man upstairs knows what he’s doing. Definitely experienced in his job !

Anyway, I’m faffing about here. What I wanted to put down was the fact that having 2 exams and under a month to go I have never been more ready for this dream. 14onFour. I went to The Fat Duck, no I didn’t eat there (but if you’d like, I’m thinking of setting up a go fund me thingy where, well, you know the rest) and just standing outside made it all come together. I mean, I was frigging standing outside my dream job, I was stood in the same place that one of my idols stood.

Now if that wasn’t one of the old, “Space Shuttle Colombia up the non-return valve” moments then I don’t know what is?!Oh no, wait, I know what is, bloody well reading that quote on the way home from The Fat Duck. I think I was propelled into orbit quicker than Clarkson can say, “Poweeeeeeer!”.

I have such a fantastic future ahead of me that I can say, for the first time, is becoming clearer by the day!
Potential does in fact have a shelf life. What happens if you leave it too long? The fire burns out?! The passion fades? And ultimately your potential expires. There is no better moment than now! If you want something that badly, best you get off your rear and do something about it!

The people that have helped me out along the way… I owe a lot to all of you. And a massive thank you, but now is not the time.

Not yet.

I’m far from finished with my story.

Until next time

Thanks for reading.
Much love and God bless.

Nic
X

“The Thing Is”

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Mr. Capon…. How right you are!

 

There’s a little saying that I love and it goes something like this… “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

You see boys and girls, the thing is, that’s exactly what cooking is about at the end of the day. Food has no soul, (Yes I just said that!) the truth is, it’s you, you the cook that puts the soul into the food. Respect the ingredients, show them some love and you’ll breathe a bit of soul into each one and watch what they’ll do for you. Take time, be gentle with with it, dim the lights, light a candle or two, set the mood… Wait what?!… No don’t do that, just take your time and show some love when cooking. Don’t throw the ingredients around. Guys, honestly, treat the ingredients like you would treat your mother or the woman you love. Ladies treat them like that spanking new pair of heels your husband allowed you to buy but has no clue that you’ve actually bought a new pair and will possibly not notice until its NEARLY too late. (We do notice, eventually)

Anyway, I digress. The thing is, since moving over to the UK, I’ve come into contact with so many new ingredients that I absolutely love! Daunting at first for me as I had no clue how to use them, but you see, the thing is that that’s the beauty of it all. Letting your senses awaken to the experience of something new. This is why I think I have such a deep and intense love for what I do. I am lucky enough to be in a profession where you never stop learning and are constantly being humbled! Humbled by the teachers and the chefs I meet and more so, my fellow class mates. Seeing how far they have come and things they produce is astounding, inspiring and down right amazing! It may not mean much, but if one or two of you have read this, you’ve inspired me! You’ve motivated me and you’ve kept my fire burning so thank you!

See, the thing is, it’s taken me 5 years to realise only a few of the reasons I love to cook. And I know there are so many more I am yet to realise. The smile on someone’s face when they taste your food. A simple, “Thank you”. The Happiness I find in watching something like a risotto go from uncooked arborio rice , watching closely how it changes and becomes slightly transparent, adding the stock a ladle at a time and watching the starch thicken it slightly each time, right the way through to the finished risotto in the plate… There are times you question yourself, question your abilities and sometimes just say, “What the actual f**k just happened?!”. See the thing is, remembering the reasons why you love doing what you do, that is what gets you through.

Anyone who knows me knows when something’s up… They have also seen just how food has the ability to pick me up and give me that hug and make me smile. Whether I’ve cooked it or not, if I taste something and it’s THAT good, it’s visible all over me. I can’t stop smiling, I laugh, I do this little moronic (I don’t care if that is a word or not, it is now) dance come wiggle come vibration wave thingy that would definitely not win something like America’s Got Talent…. I’m being modest, of course it would!… Get me kicked off stage. But the thing is, I couldn’t care less. That’s what food does to me. See, thats the love I have for what I do. I can’t stress enough to whoever reads this fairly mundane blog that once in a while you need to step back a bit and think about the little moments that passed you by relatively unnoticed when you smiled at work or while you were doing something you love. See the thing is my friends, those are the moments that make you love what you do!.

For me, the smell of fresh ingredients, from the field or foraged. The feel of a fresh salmon in front of me knowing that whatever I’m about to turn it into is not going to disrespect it, the look of a piece of meat that has fat marbled all throughout it and realising how lucky I am that I am the one who gets to use these. From the humble potato to the extravagant truffle. All get treated equally, with love!

See the thing is, I’m lucky enough to do an age old profession which has been incredibly important throughout the ages.

See the thing is, I get to evoke emotions from people that eat my food.

See the thing is, I get to play with your senses.

See the thing is, I get to see someone smile because of food.

See the thing is, I’m that cook who smiles out loud when I taste my own work.

See the thing is… Well, the thing… just is…

The thing is love, for someone, for something, for what you do, for an ingredient, for life.

See…. LOVE. JUST. IS.

’til next time

Thanks for reading and much love.

Nic

x

The Stock

“Indeed, stock is everything in cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.” – Auguste Escoffier

Stop. Read it again and think about it…

Yup! I’m back. Nope! I haven’t forgotten about this. Now is the right time to write a little something for the first time while I am actually living my dream! To those who dream… Keep dreaming and chase those dreams, chase until you’re tired and then keep on running after it. It doesn’t come easy. I haven’t even scratched the surface of mine yet.

Indeed stock IS everything! Without the stock, the grounding, the basis, your finished dish will be substandard. BUT, in order to get a stock rrrrreally worth something, you need to use top quality ingredients and treat them properly, with respect, care and most of all, LOVE.

See, I happen to be at my ‘stock’ phase. Yes I’ve worked 5 years in kitchens, learnt so much and haphazardly experimented, (usually with successful outcomes), but now it the time where I become that mirepoix for my stock and it’s up to me to be the best of ingredients.

I’ve gone to school, Tante Marie to be specific, my dream. I am living my dream at the moment. I write this after being in England for a little under 2 weeks. This cold though… Something else for this African boy who loves the sun but you know what, what’s a little nipple stand when you are doing what you love?!

I’ve been in Tante Marie now for 2 weeks and goodness! The people are amazing, the staff, the people in my class. It’s all worked out. The big man is definitely watching over me! Even though I have a 20 min walk to school, (side note – BEST thing in the world when you cook with all the goodness of butter and sugar and oh!) the cold tends to wake you up a little too…

Strange though because there’s so much I’m learning here that I need to almost disregard what I already know, for now anyway, because getting to see these chefs do it properly is something truly humbling. I have so much respect for them.
After all, I have to disregard what I know, for now, because I’m here to learn, to get trained.

It’s hard to think that a few months ago this was a dream, a series of what ifs and Now I’m here, living it…

What does that mean for me, my dream of 14onFour is VERY possible, 3 Michelin stars and I’m not going to stop. I have so many people to make proud and that, THAT is my motivation, that is part of the fire that burns within me (keeping me toasty in this weather too).

Good friends are being made, connections being established. Now to work my arse off and gain the respect of those that I respect most! Never let the fire die inside you! Always feel that burning desire for more!

’til next time

Thanks for reading.
Much love

Nic

X

The Future is Near

Right..  So I know it’s been a while since my last post, but, I did say only when I really feel i need to, I’ll be posting important things leading up to my dream.

Let me take you back 2 months, things started to spiral out of control a bit, my morale and motivation was low in terms of food, (Yes! Every chef goes through phases like that) my personal life started to skid all over the road in a sense. So, with all the stresses of work I had to get a grip of myself, grab my self by my collar and pull myself toward the goal.

Thats when I FINALLY managed to watch, ‘Chef’ the movie. (No don’t judge me because it had been out a while, I work chef hours). About a month ago now.

This movie reignited my passion. But i mean like INTENSE! My creativity came back my happiness came back and although there’s stuff I still work through, I’m there. And all of what’s happened is through the work of our Lord and saviour! That’s a fact and my belief.

Now I know I throw the term “chef” around quite frequently, but the fact of the matter is that I am still not a chef! I am a cook, with a bit of knowledge.
I say this because as of recently, I am off to get my papers, off to London, Woking if I’m honest. To Tanté Marie which is a dream that has become a reality. This school allows me the opportunity to land dream jobs at my idols’ restaurants… When I deem myself a chef, thats when I will truely be satisfied with my work.

I can’t wait. I’m ready for the world and I hope to God that the world is ready for me! The most exciting thing now is that I will be learning everyday and will never stop.

Till next time.

Much love

Nic  x

Hard Work

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” -Colin Powell

So I know it’s been a while since I last put up a post, but I feel now is as good a time as any.

So recently, without notice or warning of any sort, we became 2 men down in our kitchen. thats 2 pairs of hands in an already small kitchen. Suddenly the phrase, “Man up” came to mind and thats what I had to do. Prep in the kitchen increased tenfold and actually, for the first time i realised just how valuable each person on the team is. Probably the most important would be the kitchen porters. Anyway, all of a sardine, there was a never ending conveyor of creme brûlée to bake, semi freddo to make, bavarian mousse to whip up and panacotta to set, over and above the usual prep for lunches and dinner.

You know, I remember reading an article recently and one thing that stuck out quite a lot for me was the part when they said,”There comes a time when, without thought, one has to step up to the plate. One has to fill in for somebody and do their work when they are sick or can’t make tin, in the hope that one day, they may do the same for you.” Now, this may not be the case for me as I have said, we’re 2 down. Nevertheless, that passage from the article I read sounded out loud in my mind. This last week has taught me the meaning of hard work, true grit and determination to succeed, no matter what the odds are. I think having to face a strenuous week being sick, knowing that i cannot take a sick day made me grow up a bit more.

Why am I writing this?! Simple. To be able to tell those that are doubting themselves that there will come a day where manning up and facing the challenges comes almost naturally, as if we had been programmed to do so.

This week has also opened my eyes to the industry and shown me that you really need a passion and love for food in order to work in a commercial kitchen. My passion has not died or dimmed or any other word like that. instead, It’s only grown bigger and given me a glimpse of what I am truly capable of… Greatness is my aim and I will not stop until it has been achieved.

Big things lie ahead and 14onFour is truly on the horizon for me.

Thanks for reading.

Much Love and stay blessed until next time.

Nic x

The albatross

“Consultants, they’re like albatrosses. They fly in, shit all over everybody and then fly out”

This is what I was told with my first experience of a consultant. Boy was it right! So when I got my first opportunity recently to be one, I kept that in mind. I wasn’t going to be an “albatross”.

Anyway. A while back, a good friend of mine asked me if I’d be willing to design a menu for her new cafe she was going to be opening (and subsequently as I write this, she is on the verge of opening for business). For the first time in my life I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t question whether or not I could do it, I knew I could do it.

Let me not bore you with the fairly mundane proceedings, but instead tell you that today, I finished my job for her. I made sure I wasn’t “that guy”.

I guess what I loved most about this was the whole feel of her place, what she wanted but more so, the coffee! OH THE COFFEE!!!! I’m a self confessed coffaholic and there’s not much that can beat a good “cuppa’ jo!” so I knew this was a time to push the “trend” and use wood and go rustic. Something I’d love to serve.

Now I can’t rate what I made today but I can say (like every egotistical chef out there, cause we all are) it tastes good!

But before I can go check it out properly, I have a small matter of my own job to attend to tomorrow. Back to work after a 2 week holiday. I just pray I am able to push the boundary again in these next 6 months!

’till my next post.

Much love

Nic

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