Can too many cooks spoil the broth? And why jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, really can be good for you!
Can there ever be too many cooks? I don’t think so and it’s not an industry at present which is currently overloaded with people picking up knives and queuing to learn how to cook and making it their career choice either, as we are seeing less and less school leavers taking this up as a profession each year because it is a tough, demanding and often stressful environment.
I have seen many good chefs loose themselves in drink & drugs over my 28 years in the industry and they have ended up with nothing but it has its fair share of success stories too and I have had the pleasure of nurturing and training some young chefs who I thought would never stick at it but are now working in some successful kitchens.
Please keep what I am about to say between us and don’t tell the other cooks but the Doorway kitchen is definitely one of my favourite kitchens to work in, if you can call it work as it’s always good fun and no session is ever the same and we definitely do not spoil the broth! Well how could we with the wealth of cooking experience we have within the Doorway kitchen and even if something did not go quite to plan, they would always have a trick in their apron to rescue the situation. Not that this has ever happened of course it is purely a hypothetical situation I am trying to explain as we are dealing with some highly skilled personalities here, who would never dream of just making something up on a whim and just padge it in and hoped for the best. So a special thank you to all of the Doorway cooks for welcoming me into the kitchen and putting up with me!
So why Doorway? A couple of years ago, believe it or not, I turned 40 and felt something was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, I had everything I could ask for and was in a very lucky position. I had my wonderful wife Rachel, three sons growing up far too fast and about to leave home and off to experience their own adventures, a great social life in Wiltshire, nice holidays and a job I enjoyed getting up for most days and my health was pretty good too.
So after a little consideration I came to the conclusion that one thing I hadn’t done too much of throughout my life and career was to use my experience and skills to help others and support a local organisation to help people who are less fortunate than myself. I had always been driven by my career and to make sure I provided the best for my family, but I think everyone has the right to sit round a table and enjoy a comforting hot meal or two, so you can either enjoy other people’s company and conversations or maybe it evokes food memories from your childhood or special occasions over the years. Food has the power to bring lifelong memories back to everyone through different smells, flavours & taste experiences.
So this got me thinking and I could remember as far back as to when I was around 8 years old and right up until my late twenties that every time I was either working or visiting in London I had the same thought which would return to me time after time. This was that no matter how quick the pace of London would change to keep up with the trends of the world around us, one thing never seemed to change and that was the number of different faces I would still see each day on the streets who did not have the day to day basics we all take for granted. They would all be sitting or sleeping under cardboard shelters, doorways, park benches or tube stations asking for a little help or a few minutes of your time to pass away their day with a simple conversation. This is everything I have always taken for granted; the simple stuff like dry & clean clothes, a hot meal, a cup of tea or even a bed for the night all of which evoked some of my own memories. These basics eluded these individuals for whatever reason it was not for me to judge, so I knew this was the only area I wanted to be able to offer some support and give a little of my time and experience to now that I was in a position to do so with my family growing up.
So I decided to jump out of my working frying pan into an unknown fire of volunteering by being able to offer a little of my time doing the only thing I know best and cook a few meals, but where would I go as there were so many good causes across Wiltshire. Then I stumbled across an article in the local Gazette. The article was giving the local services a right roasting on the lack of support and understanding for people who were either homeless or sofa surfing. I must admit it was the first time I had heard of the term sofa surfing and it sounded much more fun than I now know it actually is. As I carried on reading this article it made me realise that after moving to the area over eight years ago I hadn’t realised how serious this issue actually was and it had been on my doorstep for all this time.
So this prompted and inspired me to contact Lisa at Doorway the next day to see if I could help in anyway, within a couple of weeks I had an interview in the tiny old office which took me twenty minutes to park and a further ten minutes to find the front door. After an encouraging interview the next stage was to complete all of the paperwork and then to find someone to give me a character reference without laughing out loud was the biggest challenge!
It all moved along very quickly and once all the paperwork was done and dusted Lisa offered me the opportunity to join the Doorway kitchen. I was extremely excited about the opportunity and a little apprehensive as well as it’s very rare you work in an all-female kitchen but as soon as they knew I could peel a few dirty spuds and roll out some pastry I think I settled in and was made to feel very welcome. Even I felt a little daunted with the talk soon after joining that everyone takes turns in being the lead cook! Responsibility, keys, and alarms, surely I am not grown up enough for this yet I was thinking to myself, but I do love planning the menus now when you are lead cook and I also like to throw in a few surprises but I am nowhere near experienced enough yet to be able to take on a ‘use up’ week. I even find myself occasionally replying to the “Good morning ladies” from Mike with no hesitation which is a bit worrying!
It’s not until now nearly two years on from my first session that I realise the benefits of my own personal development, it has definitely made me a better person and given me a different approach to situations as it is a very calming environment at Doorway and I have definitely learnt to accept people for who they are and not to judge people too quickly. Just by working in a different environment a few times a month really does have a positive effect on your own life and it’s been like starting a new career all over again and just getting back to the basics. It’s made me realise how much I love cooking for our guests because you know how much it is appreciated and that makes it all worthwhile.
One final point to anyone considering getting involved, please do so it will be an eye opener and appreciated by others but more importantly it will change your outlook and make you a better person. For instance just before Christmas last year a school friend of one of our sons turned up on our doorstep without anywhere to sleep as he had been kicked out by his step dad. Now he was 18 and got into a bit of bother with the police and before Doorway I may not have been so welcoming. But it was only for a few nights we thought so we said he could stay for a few days until he got himself sorted and after listening to some of the Doorway guest reports, incidents and stories during the Thursday pre session meetings I feel if we had not have helped him I am sure I would have just been adding another sofa surfer to the list.
Doorway gave me the confidence in a way to understand this and he is still with us today and is going back to college and hopefully on the right road to sorting his life out and all it took was a little compassion, listening and the security of a bed to call his own with the odd hot meal. We are lucky enough to be in the position to do this and my time at Doorway has definitely been an interesting journey and always keeps me on my toes.