Food service in restaurants

The other evening we were watching Bitter Sweet, a Starz television series, set in a fine dining restaurant. One of the themes of this episode was the heroine earning the accolade of being able to carry three hot plated meals, without a waiter’s cloth.

This got me thinking of how much food service in restaurants has changed in the 36 years since I was trained in silver service.

My studies demanded work experience. Being the embodiment of bathos, I had three jobs: function waiter at the Raven Hotel; hall porter at the Chateau Impney Hotel; and counter hand at Neptune’s Pantry, fish and chip shop.

Even at banquets with tables of ten plus people, everything was silver served. Runners, myself included, would lead by gathering a pile of superheated plates from the hot cupboard in the kitchen and stagger to the table, under the weight of the china.

The stack sat on the left forearm with one end of a folded waiter’s cloth underneath. The right hand, using the other end of the cloth polished and placed each down, from the left, in front of the seated guest.

One of the many Boadicean characters who had honed their craft year in year out followed with a silver flat of sliced meat and sauce. Behind came another runner serving vegetables. If you were unlucky the two compartment silver dish contained mashed potato in one and peas in the other. I am sure you can imagine the gloopy white and green nightmare that results from serving one then the other repeatedly, using a spoon and fork in one hand while carrying the dish with the other.

The shift started with the meat being plated then kitchens became more visible. Culminating in the presentation of the food being the signature of the chef.

Six years ago, during a sojourn in Sorrento, we were delighted to experience the drama of Crêpe Suzette in the restaurant of the Hotel Grand Excelsior Vittoria. The sauce was prepared and cooked from scratch at the table. The flambé echoed Versuvius’ antics, across the bay. It was reassuring to see that the theatre of food in the hands of talented wait staff was not dead.


My epiphany for this week is the realisation that going with the flow of transition provides opportunities to enjoy new or seldom experienced tasks like:

  • Working as a team
  • Planning the adventure
  • Reviewing oneself
  • Stretching to meet new challenges
  • Being present
  • Thinking about short and medium term goals with an eye on the vision

As the stars align and things start falling into place, the panic recedes, leaving space for calm.

On Thursday, we arranged for the real estate agent to give notice to the tenants in Brisbane. This is the second step, after electing to take redundancy.

Morning Moon

Waning Gibbous Moon 99%, perfect for letting go. The decision has been made, we are moving to Brisbane; my last day of work at UNSW is 31st August 2018. Today, I have drafted my first application for a new role. Aiming to shift my career focus, I am looking at school manager positions in universities.

925 km or 575 miles north.

Excitement and trepidation reign in our house, this weekend.

Bassey dreaming

In the cool darkness of morning, just before awaking. The intertwined tentacles of dreams slowly slipped away. Leaving behind memories of the words “it’s impossible”

My subconscious had melded the lyrics and melody of two songs. Perhaps it is the distinctive delivery by Dame Shirley Bassey that assisted this mind mix.

I remember a series of lines starting with “It’s impossible to dah dah dah” to the tune of “Never, Never, Never”.

My attempts to recreate the conglomeration yields a most unsatisfactory product. Looking something like the following:

It’s impossible to tell the sun to leave the sky

It’s impossible to ask a baby not to cry

It’s impossible to keep the ocean from rushin’ on the shore

It’s impossible for me to not ask for more

It’s impossible to stop the stars from shining high above

It’s impossible to live without your love

Should I go or stay?

Every seven or eight years something major seems to happen in my life. I have reached that point again. The choices are to take voluntary redundancy or stay in the place I have worked in since 2010 and try for a new role.

The first option is nicely summed up by the the number zero tarot card, the Fool. I would somewhat blindly be taking a leap of faith. The latter is reflected by the fifteenth major arcana card, the Fool. In many ways my go to position where I feel trapped by the material world. A bird in a gilded cage of my own making.

One is much more riskier than the other and has the benefit of potential growth. The other offers some new challenges in a familiar environment.

I have been wrestling with this conundrum for the last two years. It has taken until now for the workplace change to be officially announced. I have just over one week to decide. What makes it more challenging is that I enjoy working here.


Why the picture of kitchen tools, you ask? This is a black and white decision. It needs to be made for balance and harmony to be restored; peace of mind.

Perfect late lunch

One of many, Stan interludes, between courses.

A sunny Saturday afternoon in Autumn, perfect for sitting out front of Capriccio Osteria and Bar, Leichhardt ( As the sun moved around, there was no hesitation from the owner, Michele, bringing out an umbrella to provide shade.

We enjoyed antipasto of saffron arancini, green bean salad, tomato, basil and mozzarella, prosciutto – all beautifully fresh. The frangipane and fig tart was divine, and the cheeses, delicious.

The star of our meal, for me, was the squid ink pasta with the most tender crab, I have ever eaten. The light sauce was a perfect balance of chilli and garlic.

Somewhere over the rainbow

The KLM flight landed just after 6am at Kingsford Smith Airport, twenty years ago, today. The morning was very much like the one today, around 17oC and a huge blue sky.

We had spent the previous month in a heightened state of anxiety; a mixture of panic and excitement. We had packed up our home, shipped it to Australia, furnished the apartment we were letting out, and farewelled our dear friends and family.

The final scenes in the UK are etched on our memories. Friends sat waiting with us until the last moment when we needed to go through passport control and security at Birmingham International Airport. The usual chatter felt somehow constrained by what was about to happen.

This prelude culminated in a long walk of goodbye, amongst tears flowing freely, while carrying more hand luggage than a pack horse would carry in its lifetime.

The relief of taking our seats on the plane to Amsterdam, where we were to pick up an international connection to the Far East, was overwhelming.

Time has dimmed the memory of the stopover in Singapore and the flight to Sydney.

Why is it significant to mark this milestone? It is an opportunity for us to reflect on our choice to make the journey over the rainbow, to become immigrants and aliens in a foreign land. The fact that we have lived over 54% of our adult lives, to date, in Australia is an indication of commitment, at least.

We plan to review our decision over dinner, this evening.

Excerpt from the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, lyrics by Yip Harburg:

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I have heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
and wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops

Way above the chimney tops that’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly

Birds fly over the rainbow why then oh why can’t I?

Post extraction

It will have been a week, on Christmas Day, since tooth #16 was extracted. This first molar in the upper right side had caused me excruciating pain during the previous week. X-rays did not help in explaining the symptoms. A bit of bashing around with a seemingly metal implement, followed by a “does that hurt?”, identified the offending, not so pearly white. The cause could be due to the nerve dying or a fracture. Root canal surgery would fix the former, while a crown would sort out the latter. The monitoring period, when I planned to work out which organ I would need to harvest and sell to pay for the procedure was short lived.

On the following day, a sliver of dentine on the inside of the tooth was behaving like a bottom hinged window when brushed gently with the tip of my tongue. Another visit to the dentist quickly cleared up the mystery. It had fractured down the middle, below the gum. With not unpleasant memories of wisdom teeth removal, while asleep, over thirty years ago, I happily agreed to a tooth pulling. To take place there and then with local anaesthetic, although “it will not be an easy one to get out”. Four injections later, what seemed like an eternity of rocking the ivory back and forth and a great deal effort, it was out, despite exclamations of “your bone is dense”. Isn’t that a good thing?, I silently asked myself.

When the anaesthetic began to wear off, I took ibuprofen with codeine for the pain. A sleepless night and limited relief resulted in the dentist prescribing panadeine forte. Migraine like headaches and earache followed for the next two days. Another visit to the dentist revealed I had a dry socket, the pain was due to the jawbone being exposed. After an uncomfortable rinsing with saltwater, a rather pleasant clove tasting concoction with analgesic properties was packed into the wound. Yesterday was my first pain killer free day. This morning the cavity is throbbing. I call upon the Universe to allow me the enjoyment of being able to partake in the upcoming feasting, even with using my left hand teeth to chew. 

Getting in touch with my inner mer

I don’t know why I find water so attractive, perhaps it is due to me being born in the Chinese year of the Water Rabbit. Alternatively, it might be due to growing up in the middle of the country without easy access to anything other than canals filled with rubbish and the odd boating lake. 

In rather than on

Admittedly, I have limited experience of being on water, this is for good reason. I have a few memories of ferry trips and the like that were okay. Taking me out through the Heads of Sydney Harbour, to be bobbed around in a craft like a cork, in the swell of the Pacific results in dizziness, nausea and profuse sweating. The best I can manage is the taming and riding of inflatable devices, such as lylos, pink flamingoes and noodles; in the safety of a pool.

Early life

My fascination with swimming pools started early in life. The primary school I attended would run double decker buses, once a week, to the local public baths in Harborne. Opened in 1923, to a child, this drafty old building, with an interior of cathedral like proportions was awe inspiring. Patrons were greeted with an acrid chlorine smell that pervaded throughout. An arched entrance followed by a gloomy ticket hall opened onto the shallow end of the pool area. 

The delighted shrilled shouts and screams of small voices and the high pitched sound from pea-whistles echoed around the honey coloured brick interior. Dark wooden changing cubicles were arranged regimentally, along either side of the length of the pool; girls on the left, boys to the right. Cubicles consisted of a bench and hooks, where you would leave your clothes. As children, we had to share a cubicle.

Either no one explained swimming pool safety before my first visit or I wasn’t listening. After exiting my cubicle, dressed in saggy red trunks, I ran towards the large arched window at the far end of the pool. Shafts of sunlight from skylights set high up, in the apex of the roof, danced on the surface of the water. Jumping high into the golden Autumn air, I plunged into the chilly water. The sound of the water swooshed past my ears. My sinuses responded in pain to the rapid intake of liquid. The silky water caressed my skin, turning into a peaceful embrace as I sank rapidly to the bottom, in the deep end.  

I had not thought through the implications of my impulsive behaviour, being unable to swim. Only the recollection of that first exhilarating jump into the unknown remains etched into my memory. How I reached safety and the rest of the lesson has faded into my dim memories of the late 1960s/early 1970s. After this episode, I was only allowed to swim widths in the shallow end. I’m sure I was a disappointment to my mother who had won awards for her swimming prowess.


Even now I am not a strong swimmer, I get by with a hybrid form of breast stroke with my head out of the water. I also enjoy floating on my back and treading water.

Whenever we holiday in our favourite Far North Queensland destination, Port Douglas we spend hours in the pool. The calming effect it has on us has inspired our annual ritual of putting up a temporary pool at home. It is here every Summer that I get back in touch with my inner mer.

Not for me. Really?

Being the product of a broken home and seeing so many failed relationships, led me to believe that marriage wasn’t for me. In 1993, my thirtieth year I fell in love with my future husband. Within two weeks of our first passionate encounter, we were living together. 
At that time in the U.K. I had the perception that being gay was something that brought shame to the person and their family. I grew up trying to conceal the part of myself that was largely unacceptable to society. I became expert in hiding in plain sight. Doing everything to avoid the spotlight. The opposite was true in circumstances where I felt comfortable in being myself, to the point of outrageousness. Perhaps this is an insight into what might have been if I had explored this side of my personality. 

A couple of trips to Sydney showed us a completely different culture. When interacting with staff in shops and banks we were engaged in conversations together, not individually. People generally appeared to be more friendly and accepting of differences. Having said that I remember conversations about boycotting products from the island state of Tasmania because sex between two consenting adult men was still illegal. This was decriminalised in 1997. 

Combine blue skies, sunshine, and the Harbour with a lifestyle that offered freedom; this was an opportunity that should not be missed! With the the intention of giving it a go for two years, in 1998, we upped sticks to literally move to the other side of the World. By facing challenges together, we learned to depend on each other. 

We have embraced Australia as our home for almost twenty years. Over that time the World has changed, dramatically, including same-sex marriage becoming a reality for one country after another. 

In our twentieth year together, legislation came into effect that allowed same-sex marriage in England, Wales and Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland. On Saturday morning over breakfast in July we chatted about reports in the news that same-sex British citizens would soon be able to marry at the British Consulate. This coincided with a planned visit by my partner’s family, in October. We both commented at the same time time that this would be an ideal time to celebrate our love and the support of our family and friends. We then realised that we had proposed to each other. 

Much planning and organising occurred from that moment up until Friday 24 October. My husband has kindly agreed that I can share the following post from his private Facebook page. It describes how we became part of the above picture by Zest Events International :

“As I have been asked to share this again…amazing chalk art picture, the largest ever created in Australia in the forecourt of Customs House. 

The night before our wedding in 2014 we walked past the proposed location of our wedding photos and found the area barriered off. At the same time we bumped into a former work colleague, Andi, who explained her new company was creating the amazing artwork. She explained it was a comment on the current political situation in Australia. The mechanical head spewing toxic liquid and consuming books was the then prime minister, Tony Abbott (who was always a NO to same sex marriage and even at the eleventh hour yesterday was trying to derail it). The toddler in the picture, based on Andi’s niece, was left with nothing but mechanical creatures as the ones in nature had been destroyed. A sad picture indeed. 

When we explained about out wedding, at the time only possible at the British Consulate, Andi insisted we should be part of the installation and be photographed on the picture. The artwork took two weeks and seven artists to create and as you can see it is 3D, a no mean feat on something so huge.

So the day of our wedding, we had an amazing lunch, went to the Consulate where numbers were limited to 20 guests. I fluffed my lines I was so overwhelmed with excitement, I ended up with both rings and we all cried with happiness. Drinks afterwards in the Customs House forecourt and pictures on the art work. 

Now I admit I was concerned as to people’s reactions…I am sad to say I was concerned someone might say something nasty and spoil the day. One of Andi’s team had made us a chalkboard heart with “Just Married” which we had clipped to our lapel. We stepped out onto the picture and played around with where to stand, guided by someone located high above on Customs House. People started taking photos and asking if we had indeed got married, I beamed “Yes” more people gathered. Instead of insults the comments were nothing but congratulations and praise. A little old lady walked past thrilled for us. It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

We were also blown away when a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in an ice bucket arrived at our table. A generous gift from a group of people on there way back to Melbourne after visiting a production company on the North Shore. 

Over the next two days, we shared our joy of being married with family and friends. The golden light that seemed to touch our lives after this special occasion lasted for over a year. 

Our marriage will now be recognised by the county we have chosen to call home.