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It looks as though the silly season has started early this year

11 July 2002 by
It looks as though the silly season has started early this year

July already… hasn't it flown by? The first half of 2002 hasn't been too bad, we've kept are heads above water and we're looking forward to the rest of the year.

But the strange customers have started. It doesn't usually begin until August, but this year it's early. We get waiting customers standing over eating customers, which is hard to stop when you don't have anywhere for them to wait.

And you can't go up to them and tell them it's very rude to watch people when they're eating.

Then there was the lady who sent her fresh tuna steak back because it tasted too much like fish. But the best one so far was the lady who asked if the kippers were vegetarian. What can you say to that?

I don't get to meet these people, being in the kitchen all the time, but the restaurant staff have mastered the art of telling a good tale. I really can't wait until we get into the full swing of the silly season.

The deli counter is going to be our main weapon this summer, filled to the brim, or at least to the required health and safety level, with take-away food. The number of day-trippers in Warkworth is amazing, and if they don't eat in the restaurant we're going to make sure they're eating our sandwiches and salads down by the river. And who knows, they might even take our ready-made meals home for their tea.

I hope we've covered all angles this year. I get really disappointed when someone walks away from the restaurant without a smile on their face or a full belly. Diversify, that's what it's all about these days.

The school holidays are a busy time and also a sad time. Most of the staff who have been with me since they were 15 are now ready to leave home and venture off to university.

Some have finished their college education and are moving on to full-time work. Every one of them could have a full-time job at the restaurant, but they all see it as just a pocket-money trade.

It breaks my heart to see them go. I'm already bursting into tears when I think of Amy going. My fiery, 5ft tall chef. She came to work in the restaurant the first week I opened, and she's been with me ever since. Seeing her potential in the kitchen was a godsend. In just three years she has become a competent chef and a very dear friend.

I would give her the full run of the kitchen at the drop of a hat. But she wants to be a social worker. So if anyone in Chester needs a good little chef for a few years, here she comes.

Meanwhile, I'm going to miss her so much.

HELEN CUTTS is chef-proprietor of the Greenhouse restaurant in Warkworth, Northumberland

Next diary from Helen Cutts: 29 August

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