My van collapsed in Hervey Bay and is now residing at Childers where Colin is remaking, renovating and recreating the engine and parts. This is going to cost me $2,000 at least and the pension just will not save for this.
I went home by train, full of concerns as to how I would make this amount by the time Colin fixed the motor, prayed for a miracle and knowing that miracles happen with some help, decided to seek work. I searched Seek.com and was responded by Bedourie who offered me a job as cook starting Monday. This was Friday. An answer to my prayer, so I accepted the job, left 4am Monday morning, driven to the ferry by Roman who got up to drive me as I did not have a car. At 3.30pm I was at Bedourie with temperatures in the late 30’s, red sand, and dust.
After watching that evening and being trained the next day by the cook who had resigned, I started work on Wednesday. The leaving cook had to show me where everything was and was stored. That alone was a huge undertaking as the Roadhouse cooks and serves almost anything you can think of that comes in a package….chips, fish, chicko rolls, hamburgers and chicken chips being the most popular. Then I learnt about wingdings, alfredos, devilled pork, winglets, wedges, garlic balls, potato balls, croquettes, and a host of other things I cannot even remember, but that has to be thawed for 2 minutes in the microwave and deep fried until golden in the deep fryer.
The hardest part is finding it. One scrabbles through the part opened packs on shelves in the deep freezer, then through the layers of boxes and packets on the floor of the deep freezer, then if the article is not found, into the walk in freezer where I freeze as I search the shelves looking for what I am needing. Then I have to seek help to find the article. This first week was new delivery, and everything was stacked inside in boxes which made things harder. One had to shift everything to the other side to get to the shelves as always the needed article is in the spot where the most boxes are piled in. Now the boxes have all been unpacked and their contents shelved, it is easier, but still I do not always find the article I am looking for. In fact, I still do not know where the seafood baskets or the devilled pork wingdings are.
The next issue is the cooking. I have now worked out the temperatures the deep fryer and the grill plate has to be at. They were far too hot and it was not until I saw the temperatures written on the information sheet that I realised I was cooking everything far at a far too high temperatures. Once I used the right temperature, all fell into place. The Fan forced oven here is wonderful…the only item I worked correctly from the beginning as I think I am the only cook to use this for anything beyond the weekly roast, and thus was not given instructions. I happily made pies and pastries until I ran out of frozen pastry. I now have to make my own or give up on my baked items. However carrot cake was a hit and I make a large one every second day. I should make some muffins soon.
Sandwiches are popular here with locals and with travelers and I love making sandwiches with different combinations of salad and ham, cheese, chicken and corn beef. Toasted ham, cheese and tomato is popular for breakfast and I started making a few and storing them in the fridge to hasten the procedure.
Cleaning was a huge issue and one I had to learn. I learnt to clean the grill plate with a chemical, then wash it down with water using a metal scrubber, then wash it down with lemon juice and scrub it back to silver. That took a lot of learning as two cooks gave me different instructions. First I poured the chemical on the hot plate, was overcome with fumes, and nearly burnt and steam burnt as I tried to scrub it off after it all dried on the plate. Then I poured on vinegar and everything fumed again and went in my eyes and nose. I tried to scrub that off and it all streaked black and got burnt. It was dangerous and ineffective. The lady boss finally showed me how to do it correctly and now I leave a smooth silver grill plate that I am proud of.
I had no idea how to drain the oil. I tried to pour it into a liner where it solidified. Then I tried it hot and the liner fell off and the hot oil went on my foot. In desperation I finally asked the Boss lady how to do it, and she directed me to special rubber gloves, a spare oil tin in which the sieve clipped and stayed stable with the filter, and the oil went in, drained and was replaced easily.
I always have swept and mopped the floors so that was not an issue, nor was wiping down the shelves and turning the dishwasher off.
Cooking I love and adore, The passion of my life is directed to food and my conversation is always food, which others seem to not find as fascinating as me, so I now make what I wish, using any ingredients I choose, the bosses instructions as he and his wife, too loves food.
The cook selects the daily Special…my first was a curry…my specialty. Advised by the other cook who informed me the public did not like garlic, spices, too spicy..she made curry by boiling sausages then thickening with flour and adding yellow curry powder…I could not find any meat but some rump I had thawed…which melted when cooked too long…added garlic, some bottled ginger, a couple of spoons of some vague curry powder and in desperation a tiny jar of green curry paste..some potatoes and carrots to stretch out the meat, making a very vague curry thickened with grated coconut. It was awful…Then next day when making corn-beef I asked the boss whether I could add the whole vegetables to the water and was told that is the way to do it not how it was being done…He also told me to use what I need to make recipes, no short shifts and scrapings…this freed me and the corn-beef was a dream…next time I add spices but it was day 2 and I was still following cooks instructions…The white sauce was lightly flavored with onion and had cheese added and was creamy and light. Slices of soft corn-beef was served with a whole potato, onion, carrot, yam and green peas. It was a perfect meal spoilt by the fact there were no customers as the council were having a barbecue, that I had catered for with coleslaw, tossed salad and potato bake and sausages and steaks. Those who ordered the special know what a delight it was.
The next night I decided on Chicken Parmigiana, Maggi style. To do this you quarter a chicken, dip it with seasoned flour and bake, then top with fresh salsa and cheese and bake or grill till cheese melted. This huge meal was served with sweet carrot, minted peas and potato. I made the delectable salsa with tomato, onion, red capsicum and garlic processed and seasoned to taste. It was fresh and tangy. However the chicken got a bit dry, so I must add water next time to keep the moisture in. I took a piece home but was far too tired to eat it with much enjoyment.
I was doing fine until almost closing up time..8.25pm when the boss turned up with a film crew of seven people who had been filming a story here and needed a meal. Only 2 specials, three wanted steaks with mushroom sauce, pepper sauce and gravy, one with vegetable and chips, one with chips and one with salad…and two fish with chips and one with salad too and the other with vegetables too. I got everything out with the boss lady helping take the meals out to the table. I did not leave the kitchen until 10.30 as still had all the cleaning to do. The next day I was told the steaks were well done and should have been medium. I had not read it properly…trying too hard to get all the meals ready and out at the same time.
Last nights gourmet special was Rich Beefy Stew with onions, tomato and capsicum. There were 19 specials served, one table of 11. There were only 4 meals that were not the special…a steak and chicken nuggets and chips. All the others were the special….a generous helping of rich stew, potato bake, carrots and sliced yam tossed in honey and a green mixture of beans, celery, peas, topped with a few almost raw spinach leaves. The plates came back almost licked clean so the meal was delicious. Three staff also had the special, but I could not even get a taste…the pot was scraped bare with the last serve.
It took me until 9.30 to do the pots, the dishes, the tidy up, the washing, the putting away of stuff, the cleaning of the grill plate, and the washing and mopping of the floor. I left the oil for the next day’s cook to change as it is oil change time…and straggled my way to bed exhausted.
Thus ends the first week of work as Desert Cook….