(Update: You can read Part II Here)
Yes I dropped the ball on the Friday review, did anybody miss me? I have a very good excuse though and I’ve been hard at work on producing something a little different.
The basic premise was simple really – I wanted to feel what it was like to produce food at a London restaurant, and have the chance to document that process. It is the part of me who aspires to documentary photography in the tradition of the great Magnum photographers, who amongst them, are my heroes. Of course, I’m no photo journalist and I’d never done something like this before, and so nervously sent out emails to see if anyone would grant me the kind of access I was looking for. Fortunately, Gazette thought it was an interesting proposition, and they gave me the opportunity to spend a Saturday evening service at the restaurant. Gazette being a lovely neighbourhood French brasserie in Battersea.
It’s about time the restaurant collector stepped behind the stove to watch the action from the other side. An enriching experience, a personal project of sorts and a bit of a labour of love. I hope you’ll enjoy this two part series folks.
Welcome to the Kitchens of Gazette.
As I pass through the doors for the first time, my senses are immediately saturated. The kitchen – as expected – is bustling, chatter and clatter and the rich smell of butter. Overwhelming excitement took over, I felt alive…. time to let that shutter rip…
…but not before the ‘No Pictures’ shot.
And now we go to the characters in the kitchen, starting with the main man – Chef Pascal – gathering his troops at the start of the evening service.
After a quick prep talk, the stove heats up, water begins to boil and the chef starts work on them beautiful steaks.
During the pauses of energy, the Chef introduced himself and his staff to me before he explained that they were prepping for a catering order. He zips back into his food, this time meticulously trimming what looks like a brisket to me.
On the other side of the kitchen, whole chickens were stripped of their meat, while two staff look to discuss their cooking plans ahead.
As much as I tried to remain invisible (as per my instructions to the kitchen), they couldn’t help but notice this fly on the wall and occasionally gave me a smile or two. The kitchen is calm so far, I am still disconnected but slowly jiving to the rhythm. Here’s hoping I don’t get in the way.
Like a well oiled machine, the cogs talk to each to keep the machine chugging along, by now this machine was near its peak performance and there was a good feeling around the kitchen. The kitchen is completely French so they could be taking a piss out of me for all I know, but they talked to each other and that camaraderie was evident. Warming.
The Chef is a busy man it seems, as the kitchen settles into its groove, it is time for him to tend to other matters. Gazette is based in two locations, this one in Battersea and a newer location at Balham.
Like the calm before the storm, all was quiet at half past seven, so I decided to sneak into the larder….
The kitchen is now business as usual…
… I first watched this guy prep the snails, and then watched him prepare the terrine starters.
Here’s a little cameo from front of house, the restaurant manager and the co-owner, sneaking into the kitchen for a quick bite before service. You’ll see more of them in Part II.
My eyes kept peeling away from the characters to all the rich detail in the kitchen. The pots and pans, the blenders, the oven and all that steel.
Here, we follow the steaks again, this time, looking alot more cooked.
Here’s a close up of the awesome piece of meat resting.
At eight o’clock the restaurant is really buzzing. Outside it is completely packed out, and the kitchen is now keeping more and more pots cooking simultaneously.
I managed to squeeze into the hot area for a quick snap before pulling out again. It’s hot, but man does it smell good.
The obligatory shots of the green & reds.
The waiters are now bringing in more and more finished plates and at 8.30, the kitchen was so busy, there was hardly any room or corners left for me to squeeze into to take my pictures.
Oh yes, before I forget: The finished product.
As I stepped away from the kitchen, my clothes and my camera were infused with the smell of butter; Food was now flying out of the kitchen. I catch a moment where one of the waiters were sending them out. It was an intense three hours, and I somehow felt a sense of achievement, even though I hadn’t actually slogged it out. I was happy to have had this experience. It was certainly a contrast to watching unfolding kitchen nightmares on TV and swearing chefs and I think there really is abit of magic in such an atmospheric environment….