Word of advice. Never drink with Icelanders. Never drink with chefs. And most certainly never drink with Icelandic chefs. In my drunken stupor I had spectacularly printed off the wrong flight details resulting in missing my flight to NY by a full day. Foolish boy vs Foodish boy. Mum if you’re reading this before you offer any form of criticism let me remind you about the time you got the wrong Christmas day (and coincidentally so did Santa for that matter!) Here’s a few pics from my extra few (unplanned) days in Reyka…
21st June 2013: a day I’ll never forget. Having spent two days working lunch shifts, I stepped into my chef whites for the first time to cook a dinner service for a fully booked Dill Restaurant. I really don’t like to make life easy for myself. My first time in a profesional kitchen? A 7 course tasting menu at Iceland’s leading restaurant. Heart pounding, hands shaking, butterflies in my stomach; I hadn’t felt this nervous since my grade 1 piano exam.
“Lexi, table 4. 4 Snacks. Go!” Chef Gunnar calls the first order for the snack and amuse-bouche. Deep breath. Here we go… Snack ready. “Service” I announce as I send out my first ever dish in a professional kitchen. I’ve never felt so alive. The buzz and adrenaline are incredible.
Steadily the tables started to fill up and the pace quickened rapidly. Dill has an open kitchen and diners can keep a watchful eye on your every step. “Lexi, always keep good posture and cook with energy and grace.” Certainly an aspect I never considered when cooking at home (unless I’m trying to impress a woman of course.)
Snacks complete it was time to take down the station and move on to the main substance of the menu. Plating up the first course of rutabaga, cheese foam, sweet and dour dill sauce and crispy millet I was still struggling to fathom how such responsibility had been given someone with no kitchen experience beyond two days training. I had to pinch myself…yes, it was really happening.
The next few hours flew by in a daze of colour and heat. I became so engrossed in the orders I sometimes lost all sense of my surroundings. “Lexi, when I say something you respond yes. If we were in France you’d have to answer oui chef…because the French will be French.” Chef Arnar jokingly made sure I maintained good communication in the midst of chaos.
Before I knew it the first 5 courses were complete and only the puddings remained. Relieved to get away from the hot stove it was time for some fun with the liquid nitrogen.
At the end of a gruelling 14 hour shift I sat down for an ice-cold beer with Gunnar, Arnar and head waiter Tumi. As I gazed at the early morning light on the longest day of the year, I struggled to take in what an incredible experience this had been. It really was a Midsummer night’s dream.
The dream continues. Next stop: New York City…
The moment had finally arrived. The moment to say my goodbyes, pack my bags and step on a plane for 11 months around the globe. Following one hell of a send-off, which even featured my 9 year old cousin standing on the table and downing a glass of coke, it was an early start and short drive to Gatwick for me. At departures came the final farewell to my girl Phili. Less than a little sleep, a hangover from hell and emotional goodbyes are not a good combination. I’m not sure how many times security have carried out a routine body check on a 25 year old man crying like a baby. Advance warning: never try and hug them while they’re searching you – they really don’t like it.
First stop: Iceland. Upon arrival in Reykjavik I was in a slightly sombre mood with 2 days to kill before I started job 6 at Dill Restaurant. Not one to pass on opportunities I sent a quick message round some Couchsurfing forums and a few hours later I was with new friends planning a road trip along the South coast. Iceland is an incredibly stunning country with a breathtaking richness of natural landscapes that change dramatically at every turn (as did the weather for that matter). One minute I was looking at a beach, the next an iceberg lagoon. Here’s a few pictures from our journey…