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the summer rush is driving us near to boiling point

15 August 2002 by
the summer rush is driving us near to boiling point

Summer's here and we're fully staffed. About bloody time! The restaurant is full of ankle socks and snotty noses, tired-looking parents and grumbling grannies. No two days are the same, and it's great.

I love the rush of it all. This is what I adore about catering; adrenalin soaring through your body as you try to please all the people, all the time.

Evening bookings are coming in thick and fast, and the daytime business is better than expected. You've got to get it while you can, because it's a long winter.

The staff are working extremely hard, complaining about their sore feet only at least six times a day. I'll make it up to them, though.

Sunshine sends everyone stupid, and there's been plenty of it here in Northumberland. Even I got sunburnt during one of my rare days off. Mind you, I don't think my legs have been outside a pair of chefs' trousers in the past three years. But people do go a little strange at this time of year and most of them lose their common sense.

There's one particular bugbear that's bothering me most at the moment. You're in a hot, working kitchen, the restaurant is full, and you're working flat out. The phone rings, so you drop what you're doing to answer it, expecting it to be another booking for this evening. Instead, you get: "Hello, Mrs Cutts. We're doing a survey and…" Aargh! Need I go on?

It's 1pm and I'm required to answer a load of irrelevant questions. Think, people. I don't mind answering questions out of hours, but, come on. All it needs is a bit of common sense.

Then there's the reps. Yes, I know we need them and they do a super job, but surely if they come in looking for new business and they see that you are busy, a little common sense would tell them to come back later. No, they insist on standing in the middle of my kitchen, shuffling leaflets and pamphlets.

Mind you, there are some lovely reps. In fact, all those who I deal with are great and I get on well with them.

We drink coffee and chat about bloke stuff; some I've known for almost 15 years. Our favourite is Mark from Lancaster Wines.

He's a nice bloke and always has something new to sell. And he's good, so the staff always stop for him. Take his latest product, a monks' tea called Kombucha.

It's non-alcoholic, refreshing and pink! Would you buy it? Strangely, it's selling amazingly well and the fussy staff drink more than the customers.

I pretend not to be impressed by it, but if they ever find my secret stash under the stairs, I'm done for.

Helen Cutts is chef-proprietor of the Greenhouse restaurant in Warkworth, Northumberland

Next diary from Helen Cutts: 26 September

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