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Getting on like a house on fire

I think everyone in this industry can recount situations that have made them wish an earthquake would hit their particular establishment, swallowing them and their embarrassment for ever.

It’s certainly been my fervent wish many times. At college a lecturer told me that I was the worst student he had ever met in more than 20 years of teaching – I’d produced a vat of oily green sludge instead of broccoli coated with oatmeal.

From then on I knew that there would be something memorable about my future.

I was not disappointed. My first job took me to a busy pub in the Midlands where I immediately set about making my mark. We had a snug bar where we held small functions and at Christmas time we did a few office parties.

On one uniquely memorable occasion I made a grand entrance with the Christmas pudding. The lights were dimmed, the brandy was lit and I marched into the room to the delighted accompaniment of many “oohs” and “aahs”.

It was a particularly nasty piece of threadbare carpet seam that was my undoing that evening. It grabbed my foot and tripped me up.

The flaming silver salver of Christmas pud sailed in slow motion through the air and landed at the foot of the curtains – as they did so, spraying them liberally with cooking brandy.

As the tongues of fire shot up the drapes with great speed, I lay dazed on the floor and peered on while the customers’ earlier cooing dissolved into screams as they stampeded out. Never, thankfully, to return.

I was going to tell you about the sweet trolley at a hotel in Bath . . . but that’s another story.

If you can relive the worst moment in your catering career, share it with us. Send it to My Worst Moment, Caterer & Hotelkeeper, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS. Everyone who has an item published will receive the original cartoon drawn to accompany the article.

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