On day 3 of my internship at NOPI, I woke up at 05:35, my body is actually getting used to the early schedule. That’s quicker than I thought. I walk to Liverpool station in one go today. Yesterday I still had some problems finding my way through the streets of London.
I arrive in time with only 2 chefs in the kitchen. I start with what I know and that’s unpacking vegetables, washing and labelling them and putting them in the fridge. About half an hour later the head-chef arrives and I ask him what I can do. He tells me he is going to give me a prep list with things I need to do all by myself. The chef I assist today is coming in later. He gives me my prep list and I start working.
Then he calls me again and says he has a very nice job for me and if I do it right today I will be responsible for it all week. Oh oh…… my heart starts pounding and I ask him what it is. He tells me to come up with a quick egg-based recipe and cook it for the staff breakfast. The staff??? You mean everyone here who knows how to cook and is used to a very high standard of cooking????
He asks me ‘are you up for it’ with a smile on his face….. ‘You can use whatever ingredients you want as long as it’s quick and egg based.’ I tell him yes and I go back to my station and start cutting leeks and start thinking what to make. I decide to make a frittata with leeks, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, spring onions and some za’atar and fresh coriander. It’s going to be a big frittata which will feed 15-20 people. I fry the vegetables, break the eggs and mix them together. I add salt, pepper, coriander and za’atar and cook it in the oven. When it’s done I cut it up and put it on the table where the staff always eats breakfast. Everyone who tries my frittata tells me they like it and that means I will be cooking breakfast for the rest of the week.
Then the chef who I will assist for today walks in. His name is Dennis and he is from South Korea. A few colleagues call him ‘Spicy Dennis’ because he likes to make everything spicy. He’s on the warm side dishes today so that means we are prepping for the famous baked Valdeón blue cheesecake and the polenta chips. We also make aioli and potato cake. This time I’m not plating because the station chef Dennis uses to plate is too crowded for one more chef.
I fill up the pans with the base for the Valdeón cheesecake and add the filling, put it in the oven and then Dennis brings it to be served. He also shows me how to cut the polenta he prepped yesterday and I get to cut it. I use a ruler so all the chips are approximately the same size. After I finish the polenta chips we make 3 portions (4 litres each) of aioli to go with the polenta chips. The quantities we make here are incredible, but of course the aioli will be used for several days.
While I’m preparing the aioli chef Tim comes to me and says he is going to finish the ice cream I started yesterday with chef Andrea and he would like me to help. He takes out the container Andrea and I made yesterday and we strain it. While he warms up this mixture he takes some egg yolks, adds malt honey, sugar and glucose and mixes everything together. When the malt mixture is warm enough he adds some of it to the egg mixture. I start to stir so we don’t get any lumps and then he tips the egg mixture back into the pan. This mixture needs to be stirred until it’s 82 degrees. He starts mixing and I go back to help Spicy Dennis.
Service just started so I try to help everywhere I can. The larder section needs more kohlrabi and apple salad so I start making some. Then the meat section who is doing a meat on a skewer dish needs help putting the meat on the skewers so I help there until Dennis tells me to come and help prep for the potato cake for dinner tonight. The potatoes that I peeled this morning (10 kilos) are cooked and need to be passed through a sieve. After passing it through a sieve we add turmeric and black mustard seeds. I mix everything wearing gloves because of the turmeric, but also because the potatoes are still very hot. I finish mixing it, bag it and put it in the fridge for tonight’s service.
Half an hour to go before I finish and chef Frances says we need more roasted aubergine. The trays are almost empty so he asks me to cut a lot of aubergines and prepare them for roasting. I get 5 cases of aubergine and start cleaning and cutting them. I now realize I cut my aubergine at home way too thin. Here they cut them around 3-4cm while I cut them into 2cm slices. When I’m done cleaning and cutting the aubergine I realize it’s already 15:40 and my shift ended at 15:00. I clean my workstation and leave the oiling and roasting to someone else. My friends are waiting for me back at the hotel.
Today a few Dutch, Belgian and U.K. friends arrive in London for dinner at NOPI. Tomorrow we will go to ROVI and Friday we dine at Scully’s. I hope I have enough energy to join for all dinners. On Saturday I will have dinner with 3 other friends from London at Honey and Smoke.