Today is day 6 and the final day of my internship at NOPI. We had dinner last night at Scully’ s and it was incredible. I decided yesterday that Scully’s is my favourite of all the restaurants I have ever been in London. The flavours are out of this world if you can handle the richness. If you haven’t been yet, please go. You will not be disappointed. We did not see Scully as he had the day off yesterday. Chef Tonto was at the pass. We had the table until 21:00 so luckily this time I came home earlier than yesterday and the day before.
Fortunately, I slept like a baby and got up the next morning for my final day at NOPI. I start my day with chef Jhumar (the clown in the back of the team picture), chef Dennis and chef Frances. My day starts again with cleaning, cutting, labelling and storing everything that got delivered today. I don’t have to cook breakfast today because chef Tim made a cake yesterday for the staff and we kept it for breakfast. All we needed to do was adding a fruit salad with yoghurt and that would be breakfast.
When chef Quyen comes in I ask her if I can help her on the larder section. My chef for today is not here yet. So I peel and cut cucumbers and peel pomegranates for the aubergine salad. Chef Quyen She asks me to slice spring onions into really thin long strips and I tell her I can do that, but it will take me all day. She starts laughing and tells me to go get the recipe bible and make some zhoug. She cuts the onions and it only takes her like 10 minutes. Although my knife skills improved like 400% this week I know there is still much more room for improvement. I just need more practice.
I make the zhoug in the Thermomix and put it away until we want to use it on the Romano pepper salad. Then I start on the beetroot salad. The beetroots have been roasted and puréed yesterday and have been straining overnight. I put the beetroot purée into a large container and add all the seasoning (chilli, vinegar, za’atar, Greek yoghurt, date molasses and olive oil) and also put this away until we want to plate the salad.
Then Xristos comes in and he tells me we are going to be on the fish section today, the only section I haven’t done yet. The fish came in whole and needed to be filleted. I have never done that before and don’t want to try it here, because I don’t want to mess up such beautiful fish. Xristos starts filleting the fish while I start on all the other things that go with this section.
I start with cutting corn from the cob for the miso glazed hake. Then I cut some grapes by putting them between 2 plates for the pan-fried seabream. A nice trick Xristos showed me that works really well. You can cut like 10 grapes in half at the same time. When the grapes are done I start on the dressing that goes on the salad of the mackerel dish. I make 1 litre of dressing and put it in the fridge for later use. My next job is the miso glaze, I add all ingredients, mix well and this also goes in the fridge. Xristos needs lemon and lime for the seabass so I slice them and put them in containers. I do that in the back of the kitchen because they need the island in the middle for prepping other dishes.
In the back chef Jhumar is cooking the sauce for the shakshuka, 10 litres of it. Chef Jhumar is from Maracay, Venezuela. I ask him how long he has been working for NOPI and he tells me that he’s been working at NOPI for one year now. His wife also works for Ottolenghi but in another restaurant. She has been working for the company for 4 years.
I ask him if he likes cooking and he tells me that cooking is like an addiction to him and sometimes he gets so sick of it that he wants to try something else. But then he asks himself what his favourite thing to do is in the whole wide world. The answer is cooking !!!! That’s when he decides to keep working as a chef. He has been working as a chef since he was 17 (I think he is in his fifties now).
He asks me if I like London and I answer that it’s fine for a week or so but I would never want to live here. It’s too busy and too many tourists in my opinion. I can’t believe the tube is so full at 06:00 that I can’t even sit down. He says that he always thought that he didn’t like big cities either, but actually he loves it. When he goes back to Maracay now it’s too quiet and too slow.
I ask him if there is a recipe for the shakshuka he is making. He says yes, but the recipe for his ‘baby’ is in here and he points at his head. I laugh and tell him that that’s too bad for me because I love NOPI’s shakshuka. He tells me he will teach me if I keep it a secret, but I tell him it’s my last day today so that will be difficult. Then he says to come and find him when I’m ready and he will tell me and I can write it down. Yeah!!!!
He’s also stirring a big pot of something else and I ask him what it is. He says it’s his famous lasagne sauce and chef Tim confirms that it’s the best lasagne in the world. Chef Jhumar tells me I will be the first intern to taste his lasagne, but then I tell him that I’m not staying for staff dinner because I’m meeting friends for dinner. Too bad though I did not get to taste the best lasagne in the world.
When Dennis sees me cutting limes he asks me with a big smile on his face to also do it for his dish. Of course I can’t say no to him and keep on cutting until he also has a container of cut limes and is a happy chappy. I then look at the clock and see it’s already past 15:00. I tell Xristos I’m stopping and he thanks me for all my help. Chef Carlos comes to thank me and I thank him for having me and giving me the opportunity to come and cook and learn here.
I say bye to everyone but not before I get a piece of paper to write down the shakshuka recipe. Some of the chefs ask me for my Instagram account name so they can keep following my cooking. Chef Frances gives me a hug and says to contact him if I have any cooking or other questions. What a great bunch of people have I met this week.
Now I need to hurry back to my hotel, take a shower and change so I can meet 3 friends at Honey&Smoke. Tomorrow I’m going back home and back to my desk job to give my feet a well-deserved rest.