My Chapter

In an attempt to make more content and post more regularly on the blog, I’ve decided to write about something everyday, using a tactic known to me as war. I used to write on other social medias when I was younger, and what me and people would do to build inspiration and stop writers block was to write constantly for 10 minutes. No stops. This could have been about a certain topic, or anything we wanted. The winner would be whoever had the higher word count. So I’ll begin doing this. Today, I’ll be writing about comparing myself to friends and other people in the industry.

The time is 20:17pm.

It’s important for me to remember that I’m right at the beginning of my sixpalmtrees and Chef Zak journey. While I’ve been planning things and thinking about what I want to do for ages, it doesn’t mean anything if I’m not actually doing the work I need to complete my goal. I see my friends, with larger social media followers and photos that look professional and can’t help but compare myself to them, even though they’ve known what they wanted to do for longer than I have, and have a much stronger support system. They have different strengths to me, and a lot more contacts which gives them an edge. I’m so proud of everything they’ve done and I love watching their journey, but it makes me think that I’m not doing enough, that I should be at a more advanced stage because that’s where they are. There are so many variations of the quote “don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else chapter 13” on the internet, and while it’s easy to agree with in principle, I find it hard not to compare.

Not even just with friends; I see established professionals on instagram and youtube who have been cooking and developing for years and again, I begin to feel annoyed at my lack of progress. I start to think about what I’m doing wrong and why I’m not getting the results it’s taken other people years to get in a couple of weeks. I have to remember I’ve come a lot farther than I think since I started officially in May. It hasn’t even been a month, but I’ve met so many people, learnt a lot about myself and my work ethic and my style. I’ve developed new skills and am putting in the groundwork to do bigger and better things. I know that sometimes I slack, and am not working as much as I should or I want to, I have to remember that before I decided to take this seriously, I’d sleep 18 hours a day and not really do much.

I discovered that I really like food photography and experimenting with recipes down to the individual teaspoon. I like that food can make people happy and bring people together. I don’t like spending hours online looking what other people are doing because it’s worthless, but when I have to post photos or connect with people, I can’t help doing it.

It’s 20:27. Pen down.

That was an interesting post. I’m not going to elaborate on what I said because I think that defeats the purpose of the exercise but what I will say is that I know there are lots of people who probably resonate with what I’ve just said and keep comparing themselves to others. Once we move away from this toxic mindset and focus on our own journey, that’s when we’ll really see progress.

Have a lovely day.

The Victoria Sponge Saga: 1

You’d think Victoria sponge cakes are really easy. Vanilla sponge, some jam, some cream and done? Actually, no.

For a cake so simple, you need to perfect everything. The sponge has to be light, fluffy, bouncy and perfectly sweet. This then has to balance out the more tart sweetness of the jam and finally the fresh sweetness of the cream. Mad stuff, I think.

Anyways, me and my mum decided to embark on the journey to make something that showcased all of these things, while still being pretty. She isn’t one to experiment with recipes and flavours, so I really had to beg her. It took two weeks by the way. I wonder how long it’ll take to do more complex things…?

We started with a basic pound cake recipe, but I knew from experience that if you follow the 1 egg for 50g method, the cake won’t be light and will be too eggy. So I decided to sneakily remove an egg and then reveal my secret once we were pouring the batter in. Judging by her reaction, I could tell she thought the cake wouldn’t turn out right, but I had the last laugh.

Not really, actually because the oven was turned on too high and the cakes browned a little faster than usual. It turned out good though, the texture was great and it was melt in the mouth. I don’t want to say it was perfect because of the browning issue, but I believe we were close to it.

Here’s how it turned out.

Lemon curd, cream and blueberries

Also, I just want to mention that living on a windy hill is very hard. The weather is ten times more dramatic for no reason, and meant that I had a very awkward photography session.

Jam, cream and strawberries

This was only the first attempt though, and I’m looking forward to making small changed with the decoration, other factors to make the cake taste and look perfect. Don’t worry, I’ll share the recipe when I’m done!

Thanks for reading, have a lovely day.

Fine Dining in the Future

No, this isn’t another one of those posts about how the future of the industry will change because of the pandemic and social distancing. I’m about to talk about something a lot more important in my opinion.

That’s about black girls in fine dining, and the culinary industry. Because that’s an industry that really needs to change. Within minutes of me posting “A Story on Colour” onto twitter, I was scrolling through my feed and noticed that a few chefs I had followed liking a racist tweet about the Black Lives Matter protests. I’m not sure if I was surprised, I was definitely let down though. To see an exact example of what I was talking about be played out in front of me by one of the few people I follow on twitter was a bitterly ironic moment.

Maybe that was a good thing though, because that was what made me decide what I want to do next, and how I intend to move on. I want to see black girls in the industry feel safe, respected and valued. I want to see black girls decide to cook because they love it and want people to be happy, not because it’s expected of them or because they have something to prove.

While you could argue the Michelin star is obsolete, it’s still one of the most prestigious culinary rankings and it holds a lot of weight in the industry. And guess what? There’s only one black female chef with a star, and she got it in 2019. There’s so much work to be done. If you honestly believe that she is the only black woman deserving of a star, then you need to rethink your belief because it’s not true.

In the future, I see fine dining as a more open welcoming place. No more of the super elite, forced jacket wearing and front of house staff looking at you weirdly because you’re a person of colour and clearly don’t deserve to be in such an institution. I see fine dining as exactly what the phrase is. Good, well prepared food.

I see a whole new generation of black girls who are going to shake up the entire industry and show everyone what it means to be a chef. I see a current generation of black women already in the industry making big waves and showing everyone what it means to be a chef. I reckon I fit into the second category because I’ve been in the industry two years but at the same time, I just turned 20 and don’t feel that “grown” yet. I’m sure reality will hit once I finish uni.

To the black girls reading this, keep cooking. It’s your time and we’re so excited to see what you can do.

A Story on Colour

I talk about racism and harassment in this post, please read at your own discretion.

In the two years I’ve been working as a chef, I’ve seen the most amazing venues and kitchens, worked with food I’d never have the opportunity to make at home but on the flip side, I’ve experienced levels of racism, discrimination and harassment that would be shocking to a lot of people. I’ve come home from shifts, absolutely broken but I didn’t tell anyone what happened. There wasn’t any point, because that’s the reality of a black person in fine dining. My mum would see me look absolutely dead inside after a shift, and I’d tell her I’m just tired because I don’t want her to worry.

I used to write about the issues I faced at work in a joking manner, making light of the situations and really emphasising the fact that I worked long hours but skirting around what actually went on. The fact is, for most of my professional cooking career (before Covid hit and I wasn’t able to work), I was a black teenage girl in a kitchen full of much older white men. I think that sums it up quite well.

I’ve had my capabilities questioned, my suggestions ignored and I had one chef threaten to cut my braids off because he didn’t like the way they looked. It was maybe more than a threat, because I was approached with scissors and I said “If you touch my hair, you’re paying the £100 I spent on it.”

Working in the industry is hard and draining. Don’t listen to the cynical, washed out chefs who tell you it’s supposed to be like that, you’re supposed to be angry and depressed every shift because you aren’t. I’ve come out of shifts so excited, so inspired, no matter how tired I am and how long I’ve been working. I’ve done shifts that remind me why I love cooking so much and why I’m in the industry. The reason I’m drained and sad isn’t because I’m cooking all day it’s because the people I work with literally treat me like I’m subhuman and I can’t do anything about it.

The reason I’m drained and sad is because certain chefs feel so entitled to my space and my life that they can say the most disgusting things and get away with it.

No matter how long I’ve been working somewhere, no matter how long I’ve known these people, they’ll always act like I’m a new hire, desperate to prove myself and willing to do anything to show I have the skills. When in reality I know some of these menus and kitchens a lot better than my coworkers but I still have to fight to be respected.

There isn’t really an appropriate way to end this. I’m not sure exactly how to sign off because at the moment I’m upset thinking about what I, and so many young black women in the industry have gone through and will continue to go through.

I went to a predominately white school, I’ve always worked with mostly white people, and it was always uncomfortable to talk about race. I’d mention something and they’d get all awkward and angry with me for bringing it up. Even now, I feel weird bringing up race and my experiences in a professional environment if I know white people will be reading because I don’t want to look angry or ungrateful.

But fuck that.

I’m done skirting around the issue, I’m done hiding the fact that I’m uncomfortable just to keep people happy. Maybe finally discussing what I’ve gone through will inspire other people to do the same. And if people lose respect for me, I don’t really care because I don’t want your respect and you certainly don’t deserve mine.

An Evening Outside

My siblings were really restless, so dad took us out to one of their favourite parks in London, Richmond Park. I don’t make it a habit to go to that area of London, but I figured the fresh air would be good. Besides, we hadn’t been outside in a good three months.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a massive hill, which my two youngest siblings immediately decided to race up. My remaining sister and I walked up slowly, talking about whatever it is sisters talk about while walking up a hill. It was apparently much quieter than normal but I couldn’t imagine people running around playing in an area like this, even without the restrictions.

Maybe we felt a little out of place, running around loudly and not really speaking like everyone else in the area. Maybe I’m compensating for that now by writing more formally than I’m used to. It didn’t matter though, because we were having fun, and the kids could run around.

At one point, we all settled down to chill and talk about birds, and I figured this was the best time to whip out my camera and take some aesthetic photos.

If there’s something you have to know about my dad, it’s that he’s always trying to take pictures of you. It doesn’t matter the situation, he’ll always be holding his phone saying something about “family selfie” and then posting it to his whatsapp story. He says I’m the one obsessed with social media but I haven’t seen him without his phone in his hand, typing away.

Think about that.

After visiting the park, we took the long route home, via Twickenham Stadium. Unfortunately, the nature of my job has seen me work many unforgiving shifts there, on both prep and match days. Getting back home on a match day after a tense 13 hour shift usually involves a walk to Hounslow East because the buses are full and traffic refuses to go. The walk is definitely worse than the shift. But I won’t go into that today; I would be here forever.

But I’ll sign off with a simple question. What is it about Whitton that is so unnerving at 8pm on a match day?

Bread, Bath, and Beyond

Due to circumstances, we’ve all found ourselves sitting inside without much to do. I’m cooking a lot to pass the time, for example I’ve just spent the day experimenting with macaron recipes and doing everything humanly possible to ignore uni work.
(It didn’t work, I’m going to study so hard tomorrow.)

A lot of people are taking the time to make sourdough bread, or banana bread, or any kind of bread really. Which seems fun, but I didn’t realise we as a nation liked bread so much. Hopefully this means we can move on from pre sliced bread because that stuff just isn’t the wave. Though this trend where everyone is cooking might put me out of business.

That’s all right though, we’re all doing what we need to survive. Stay strong everyone, and stay safe.

Leicester Square: Friend or Foe?

When any of my non Londoner friends come and visit, something a lot of them say is that they want to go to the “touristy” sites.

The Tower of London? Solid touristy fun in a nice area.

The Tate? It’s free and if you’re artsy, it’s definitely a place to go.

The London Eye? I mean, I guess the view is nice but is it really worth your money?

Leicester Square? Nope. Absolutely not. Don’t do it. Please don’t do it to yourself.

I understand the impulse. I really do. Flashy lights, cool buskers and M&M world is a culinary wonder but beyond the facade, what you really have is overpriced food in the middle of the pigeon district.

Let’s break this down.

You’ve exited the Piccadilly line at Leicester Square (you’ve made two mistakes already but we won’t go into that) and are ready to see the true authentic London. You take your expensive DSLR camera out, still loitering outside the station because clearly you don’t value yourself or other people.

So you’ve been knocked over twice after figuring out maybe the best place to stand isn’t by the doors with a whole lot of people coming and going. As you quickly move to a less congested area, you feel a gentle tug on your camera. The next tug is not so gentle, and you’re about to have your first fight with a pickpocket.

Luckily, it’s seriously crowded and you get away, but little do you know, you’re about to be pickpocketed again.

Why?

Because you’ve seen an Angus Steakhouse, and have decided to go in for a nice hearty meal. Can you hear me screaming from a random corner “Don’t do it?”

If you can’t, just imagine it. I’m doing it for your own good. I don’t want you to part with your money because of your quest for authenticity. Because when you eventually hate London, I’ll take it really personally.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Let’s carry on. After a bland, overpriced meal at Angus Steakhouse, you’ve decided you want to wash your troubles behind with a drink. So what do you do? You go to a “Traditional English Pub” (I’m not joking, that’s what’s written on the sign) serving “authentic fish and chips.”

For some reason you’re surprised that the clientele isn’t full of English lads having a pint; it’s confused tourists just like you. And as your bank account slowly drains, you’re wondering why people like London in the first place

Sigh.

After a disappointing day, you decide to turn in for the night, not even checking out the cool nightclubs in Soho. In your badly lit hotel room, you draw exes in your map and make a note of where you’re going to visit in the coming days.

M&M world, followed by Caffe Concerto, and to finish it off, you’ll take the trusty underground to Covent Garden and see the sights there.

We are the Future

So I’m lying in bed with an advanced stomach ache and three assignments that I need to do but instead I’m thinking of things that would be cool to write about.

Restaurant reviews and interesting places to visit are commonplace. It’s something everyone visiting London wants to know about. Even residents, because we like validation that we know the best places to go. After going between, twitter, blackboard and the wordpress editor, it finally hit me.

Without this component, no one would be here, and neither would a lot of things. I’m talking about the people. The mastermind behind London’s next big restaurant, the tourist who took the tube from Paddington to Lancaster Gate, the seasoned traveller who has their oyster card prepared when they wake up in the morning, or the student who has an exam but is electing to ignore it for a night out.

All of these people and all of their stories make London a fun dynamic place to live in and see. The diversity of cultures, nationalities, fashion and language, just to name a few is something you won’t see in a lot of places.

How am I going to do that?

I’m quite lucky because I can go around London with family and friends with different perspectives. They’ll all see the same places in different ways; some will be very used to the sights and others finding fish and chips really exciting. I’ll be featuring them a lot, so you’ll be getting to know my family and friends quite well.

I’ve rambled enough for one day I think, but thank you for reading. Until the next time!

Underground Archives: An introduction

If you’re like me, you’re one of the few people who enjoy using the underground and would defend it against anyone who dares besmirch it’s name. Our “we did it first” complex is strong, and we’re always ready to argue with every New Yorker, Hong Konger or Parisian who suggests we aren’t superior. (Sure, some of your railways are “cleaner” and “more efficient” but do you have the DLR line? I think not.)

The tube is a place where the true you is exposed and all your flaws come to light. The lighting is unfavourable, every noise and smell amplified by at least 1000% and everyone is glaring at each other. Not because of rbf but because no one wants anyone to sit or stand next to them. It’s true, Londoners aren’t the most social bunch.

In each instalment, I’ll talk about something I’ve experienced on the underground, or an interesting feature. Or maybe I’ll just talk about how much I can’t stand the Piccadilly line.

Enjoy the archives. I’ll post one every Friday.