I was kind of nervous as I left my hotel for day one of my internship at NOPI. The head chef had given me a choice between the morning and evening shift. Because I wanted to have dinner with friends in the evening I chose the morning shift. That meant I had to get up at 05:45, leave my hotel at 06:15 to get at NOPI at 07:00. I had expected to get into a nearly empty tube at this time. Unfortunately the tube was completely stuffed with people going to work. I left my hotel a bit earlier on my first day because I did not want to be late. I’m glad I did because I arrived exactly on time.
I went through the front door and down the stairs into the kitchen. Carlos the head chef was there and we shook hands and went to the office. We took care of some official business, mainly contract related and he showed me where I could find the chefs whites, trousers and aprons. I got changed in a tiny locker room, took off my wedding ring and watch and went to the kitchen.
There I met the rest of the chefs who had just come in. Carlos told me I was assisting Quyen today. She was the chef that was responsible for the larder section today. This meant we were making mainly cold side dishes and salads. I was busy all day cleaning vegetables, cutting them, putting them into boxes and labelling them with content and date. As it was early we were mainly prepping for lunch. I washed and cut lettuce, carrots, three colours of beets, cucumbers and spring onions. I also peeled pomegranates and crumbled some goat cheese for the beetroot salad.
While I was prepping the vegetables I see Sami Tamimi coming down the stairs. Sami is the co-author of many of the Ottolenghi books. He comes into the kitchen to say hi and to wish me luck for the coming week. It’s always great to see Sami as he is so nice and always takes the time to talk to you. When we finish chopping, boxing and labelling all vegetables that came in that day chef Quyen asks me to make the sauce for the squash salad with ginger tomatoes. I tell her that I love that salad so much that I have already made it like 20 times at home. The chefs had a good laugh about that.
In the afternoon I got to plate a few of those big bold salads you always see at the takeaway section. I plated an aubergine salad with yoghurt, Aleppo chili, dill, pomegranate, deep fried mint leaves and toasted shaved almonds. The yoghurt sauce is put in on a serrated spoon that you tap hard on your hand so it creates a small but consistent splatter on top of the aubergine. A nice technique I will definitely use when making these kinds of salads at home. The second salad I plated was one of my favourite salads in the NOPI book: the squash salad with ginger tomatoes and fried shallots. The third salad we made was a beetroot salad with strained yoghurt, yellow beets, thinly sliced spring onion, goat cheese and hazelnuts. The fourth salad in the picture is the one with romano peppers dressed with zhoug, tahini, manouri and pine nuts.
The atmosphere in the kitchen is very dynamic and the kitchen is quite small for the number of people in it. Everyone has their own little corner where they work and you are supposed to not take up too much space. When I finished the salads, it was already past 15:00 and my shift was done. I clean my workstation and go back to the changing room to change into my normal clothes. Before I leave I sit down with a few people from the staff to eat something and I suddenly realize that I forgot to eat and drink all day. I promise myself to do that differently tomorrow, otherwise my body will not be happy after a few days. After eating with the staff I head back to my hotel.
In the tube I’m thinking about what to do or go see in London after I take a shower at the hotel. That was totally unnecessary because I’m so tired that when I get to my hotel I don’t want to leave anymore. Maybe tomorrow…………….