A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Power of Wishes...

I think I have become an optimistic pessimist...
If I had a choice I'd opt for my head in the mist.

I am not a pessimist really but what is actually happening around the Globe doesn't give room for optimism.

My country of birth, Algeria has not seen much peace for the last half century and it seems that there are those who promise many more deadly waves of suicide-bombers to this beautiful corner of the Mediterranean.

Benazir Bhutto, whatever her agenda, hidden or otherwise, is another victim of terrorism, state-sponsore or otherwise.

Kenya's rigged elections have sparked deadly riots in this hitherto most peaceful corner of Africa.

In numerous other parts of this world of ours countless ordinary people are born and die without have tasted a peaceful day. Afghanistan, Irak, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Chechnia, Nepal, the Middle East, etc...

I am writing this on New Year's Eve between the early service and the late one.

We have just fed, watered and entertained over 80 people. The staff are resetting the tables for just as many customers again.
The only thought on the minds of these diners is to have a great time surrounded by their family and friends to the sound of children's laughter.

I just wish that each and everyone around the world could be freed from strife to enjoy their life with their nearest and dearest in total peace and security.

Am I asking for too much?
Couldn't the power of wishes make a real difference?


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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tasty leftovers...

Ah, Christmas, bloody Merry Christmas....

I always promise myself that the next one will be perfect.
This one was perfect...
Well, nearly... That is until one of our head-chefs was diagnosed with severe angina! The poor guy, a loyal employee of over 12 years, is now awaiting a triple-heart bypass operation.

As a result, the run-up to the Christmas was a very busy and stressful period for the rest of his team who had to work twice as hard to make up for his absence. I tried to help a little in the middle of dashing between three restaurants tweaking, smiling, shaking hands, kissing, troubleshooting, shooting troublemakers...

And you know, when chefs get stressed out and tired they suddenly turn into Prima Donnas in need of love, reassurance and motivation!
Motivation in the form of a bloody kick up the arse and a pat on the back.
Every Christmas I could write a tragicomedy!
In actual fact I could commit a tragedy.
Such as shooting half a dozen chefs, two or three customers before riding away into the sunset!

But Christmas being the season to be merry, I have decided to bite on a few chocolates and my tongue while letting the New Year begin in bloodless harmony.

Ahhhh... That was therapeutic. Thanks for listening.

Happy New Year to you all great listeners.

I took this photo in a Brussels Square after that famous November wedding.
For this contented dog, "Happiness is a bowl of tasty leftovers."


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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Whatever we believe in...
Whatever our convictions...
I am sure that all our wishes are for Happiness for All and Peace on Earth
May these wishes come true...
Happy Holidays to all my blogfriends.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lighting up...

Christmas at one of the restaurants.

Waiting for the rest of the party...

Christmas at home...

Two years ago I wrote this post.
I think I have mellowed...

Dare I mention Global Warming on Christmas Day?


Saturday, December 15, 2007

My first car...

At the tender age of 28!!!! A white Ford Cortina. An ex-taxi.

I was working at an Italian restaurant at the time and got to know many of the customers. One of them owned a local taxi firm and I regularly used it for our diners.
Cliff offered to let me have one of the taxis he was replacing, a ten-year old Cortina for a bargain £175! The valeting alone must have cost £30! When I went to pick it up, my beautiful white chariot was gleaming inside and out.
I sat for a few minutes while Cliff explained the controls.
It was a Concorde compared to the tinny tiny Micra in which I had learnt to drive and passed my test.
He then waved me goodbye as I chugged to a shy start.

My first exploratory trip was that same afternoon to a town ten miles away.

My wife sat in the passenger seat. In the back, next to our two-year old son, Adam, sat her aunt who had been invited to go shopping with us.

I set off with a Cheshire cat's smile on my face, looking out for a familiar face to blow the horn at.

A couple of miles down the road we came upon a traffic accident. A policeman was surveying the scene and, as it happened, so was I.

Suddenly my wife let out a chilling scream.

Startled, I looked ahead.
An oncoming car swerved out of the way onto the pavement to avoid me. I had been so captivated by the sight of the two inept drivers who had collided, that I had veered onto the wrong side of the road. I quickly slipped back in the right lane. The aunt's face was as white as a sheet. Adam was screaming. My wife gave me a killer stare that forecast many frosty days ahead.
A few seconds later a flashing blue light appeared in the mirror. I stopped the car and began shaking like a leaf.

The policeman who had been attending to the accident was fuming. So was one of the drivers who had just missed a head-on collision with my Cortina. He had followed the police car to add further oil to the fire and ensure the admonishment was severe.

"Are you here on holiday?" The policeman asked. After all, I had briefly driven on the wrong side of the road.

After sheepishly apologizing and confessing that it was my first sortie in my brand new Cortina he let me go not without a reprimand and a caution to be more careful in future.

A year and a £10-water pump later I sold the Cortina for £225! A net profit of £40!

Come on then, what was your first car?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's your carrot?

Marrakesh streets are used by buses, cars, motorbikes, mopeds, bikes, horse-and-carts, donkey-and-carts.
A mish-mash of vehicles that often renders driving a hellish nightmare.

The last time I was there I hired a car and drove a little around downtown MK but mainly on the open road towards the Atlas Mountains. I managed to drive around without scratching the hire car.
The truth is that there is seldom real risk of a serious accident as the traffic unfolds mostly at crawling pace.

Often, at peak times, that is between 8am and 11pm, many a two-lane street is transformed into a four-lane car park where one can dance the salsa to the sounds of the blaring horns, neighing donkeys and bleeting sheep...

Just another facet of colourful MK.

I doctored the above photo using Corel Painter and added a stick and a carrot. This is to jump to the next topic.
What is your carrot? What drives you?

Personally, the minute I find myself sitting still, either my body or my mind longs to be busy.
Busy contemplating the next enterprise, busy travelling in body or mind.
I just hate plateaux.
I don't mind mountains to climb, as in a new challenge.
I enjoy the odd slide, as in a thick slice of recreation, be it travel, partying or gourmet dining.

But plateaux, no thanks...
So, as far as I am concerned, movement, life and vitality... That's what drives me...

So, what's your carrot?


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Friday, December 07, 2007

Daydreaming of little things...

Last night I dreamt of leaving the cold wind
And grey skies behind me.

For a minute I thought about getting into my kayak and sailing into the sunset.
But images of amnesia and Panama crossed my mind.
A sad guy in a police station just down the road from me must be desperately wishing he had stayed at home.
Stayed at home, looking out at the North Sea and doodling...

Just as did last night when I dreamed of warmer climes...

I started with the usual curls. Just a few little things.
The pen came to life and I suddenly began floating away.

Guess where I landed?


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tis a season to be well organised...

Party bookings are good and we expect these next three weeks to fly over.
No time to breathe or think. It's a question of how many turkeys, ducks, steaks, sea bass, puddings, etc...

Over the years we have become very well organised and everything is usually like clockwork.
Most parties order their meals beforehand from a wide choice of starters, main-courses and desserts. Many organisers choose to settle their bills well in advance so that they can enjoy their party in peace. (I'm sure that quite a few businesses would kill for such a set-up.)

We make it easy on ourselves too with a simple system whereby diners are labelled by their position on the table. And this avoids things like: "Who's the turkey?"
We came up with it after a visit to this posh hotel, The Sharrow Bay on Lake Ullswater in 1986.

The waiter came to the table and without asking, he placed the correct dishes in front of us. This happened over the three courses so I surmised that it couldn't possibly have been guesswork.
And after a great deal of cogitation, we came up with a simple plan. If we placed an "L" next to the lady's order and a "G" next to the gentleman's then we would know who was having what.
It couldn't have been easier!
Within days we extended that bright idea to larger parties with the numbering system.
Being served the correct dish without being asked what they have ordered never ceases to amaze our customers.

If any of you have friends in the catering business, please feel free to pass this on to them.
Call it a Christmas present, after all...

"Tis the season to be jolly"...

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lazy Sunday...

This has been a very lazy Sunday.
One of those damp, grey Sundays when I could not be bothered to do anything.
One of those Sundays that come after a busy Saturday night. The end of the month.

I got up late. Had a mug of tea, watched the news and just lazed around.
My son came to borrow the staple gun to put up the Christmas decorations and lights at the Tapas bar.
It is a job that I used to enjoy very much. But I passed it on to others a few years ago.

Later I raided the fridge and made some vegetable soup with what I could find.
I also made some unlevened bread the way my mother used to make it. But in a pancake pan.

The Euro 2008 draw was shown live on the telly. Next Summer will be a bit dull. None of the British teams made it.

While waiting for the soup to cook I practised My Lady D'Arbanville on my guitar. I resumed my guitar lessons a few weeks ago. A friend of mine has been giving me a weekly lesson. But I don't practise as often as I should. I go through phases. I watched a couple of versions of the song on YouTube and I'm getting to grips with the chords but the tips of my fingers feel raw.

Tonight we are supposed to go to the Tapas bar for our third Salsa lesson.
The lessons have become so popular that we have decided to also hold them on Tuesdays in the New Year.

A nice bowl of soup and a chunk of fresh bread.

Yes, a lazy Sunday indeed but the question remains... To Salsa or not to Salsa.

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