An announcement, some years ago, at a restaurant run by a couple called Cathy and Peter – “Good afternoon, and thank you for coming to this meeting. We wish to make a brief announcement.”
“As many of you will know we have been operating our restaurant for some years and it has been a lively and enjoyable ride. A journey of discovery in this very beautiful part of our beloved country.
In keeping with our continuing desire to re-invent ourselves and to provide you with new experiences we took a decision to expand our Far Eastern cooking options.
In order to ensure the very best for you we searched for and found a very fine Chef de Partie from China, a Mr. Chen.
Mr. Chen is not only a talented chef he is also a young man who has gathered a whole slew of extra curricular educational qualifications to improve his ability to operate in the very difficult and competitive world of the commercial kitchen.
Mr.Chen holds a highly respected chef’s diploma from the Ching, Ping and Wing cooking school based in Hong Kong.
In addition to his cooking credentials he also holds a diploma in business economics, a diploma in food technology and a post graduate course in origami. He was able to find his inner self at a Dale Carnegie ‘luvvie’ course and most important, he attended a series of time management courses in both Shanghai and London. He is very proud of his many skills and, in particular, his ability to organize his time to achieve optimum results.
As you can imagine we were as happy as fleas on a dog to find such a gem in the depths of the Midlands, so far from the centres of culinary excellence like Howick, Mooi River and the Kamberg, and for a fraction of the cost.
It is however with a heavy heart that we have to announce that it hasn’t worked out quite as we had anticipated.
Regrettably, Mr. Chen is no longer with us. He suffered a nervous breakdown and is currently recuperating at a coastal dolphinarium.
I feel we owe it to you to explain the sudden decline in his health and the consequential changes to our menu.
Two weeks ago, during a particularly busy dinner service, Cathy had completed her cooking of the main courses and had moved into the dining room to circulate with our guests. Mr. Chen, with the kitchen staff, was finishing off the plating of the dishes.
I went into the kitchen at the moment critique to find Mr. Chen gibbering incomprehensibly and jumping up and down vigorously.
He fixed me with a baleful stare and exclaimed – “Oh Mr. Peter, I am undone, totally undone”, he squealed.
“What happened Mr. Chen ?” I asked gently, with a quick glance at his clothing for evidence of exposure. He was metaphorically undone.
“Disaster, disaster”, he screamed while he jumped even higher.
The kitchen staff stood to one side bemused.
“Calm down Mr. Chen and tell me what happened”, I said.
“How can I calm down Mr. Peter, I have disgraced myself, I have fallen apart, I am a fraud, I can no longer grace your kitchen”, he protested vehemently.
Mindful of the Chinese custom of hacking off a finger or two in moments of disgrace I moved his kitchen knife to the side and put my arm round his shoulder as much to comfort him as to stop him leaping into the air.
He settled his head against my shoulder, cast his eyes downwards and tried to compose himself. He was shaking uncontrollably.
“You see Mr. Peter, I was finishing off with the 3 types of rice and had each in a different micro-wave oven. It was a disaster, a ghastly disaster”, he said.
“Come now Mr. Chen, that doesn’t sound like a disaster to me”, I said.
“But you don’t understand Mr. Peter, all three micro-waves finished the warming cycle at the same moment and I cracked”, he mumbled.
“How could the micro-waves cause you to crack” I asked gently.
Breaking down, he sobbed; “I have failed you Mr. Peter. You and Miss Cathy put your faith in me. Now I have failed you when you were relying on me. In spite of all my training I am ashamed to admit that I cannot do more than one ping at a time”.