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Irish kitchens

The Malt House

A two-day job in Galway Ireland

September 2001 —

I worked for a couple of days in Galway at a restaurant called the Malt House.

Two weeks before, I had missed the bus to Kilkenny, where I had wanted to go to ask about work — so I went to Galway instead. Why Kilkenny, I hadn't known anyway, and I wanted to get out of Dublin. Dublin is frenetic and expensive. I didn't like my job nor my apartment.

I stayed in Galway for about a week, leaving on September 11. The towers fell that afternoon; morning in New York. ...

In Galway, I'd spoken with Brendan, the head chef of the Malt House. He'd suggested I contact him after a couple of weeks. The prospect was not the most appealing of anything I'd seen, but it was the most promising.

About two weeks later, I quit my Dublin job, packed up, and went to Galway. Ten minutes off the bus, Brendan hired me to begin working immediately.

The young guy who was training me at the Malt House was discreet but clearly relieved that he would soon be leaving. "Usually you don't know how they want it done until you do it wrong," he said....

"You'll get used to it...."

I had my doubts about that.

Brendan was the problem. Brian, second chef, was very serious and direct — but I got a sense that he was "for real," at least. Brendan was a poor communicator, and he implied threat. At one point he even pretended to throw something at me from my periphery — a wake-up call sort of play. I could see it was fake and just gave him a disgusted frown.

During the night after the first day, I had a brilliant dream....

In the middle of the lunch hour on the second day Brendan said to me "Don't make any more salads" (side salads, in small bowls).... There were four of them left. A few minutes later, he called for four salads — now there are none. Of course this was unacceptable.

I think this was when I decided, aloud, that Brendan was a true wanker.

I was working split shifts, 10 AM to 3 PM; 5 to 10:30 PM; prep cook and salads.

My favorite quotation from Brendan: "This is your second day; you should know the menu by now."

On day three, I arrived at ten a.m. and started to make a bit of coffee. Brian said "Don't worry about the coffee."


"You need to get to work. If you'd wanted to make coffee you could have come in ten minutes early. [fair enough...] "In fact," he continued, "that seems pretty cheeky to me." And he didn't stop there. He went on about how that was really the height of something or other. I just stood there looking at him.

He told me that it was too early for coffee, and that there would be time for a break later. (This was bullshit; there would be time to stand and drink coffee while working, just like there was then.)*

He asked me why I was just looking at him. He told me I could get to work or I could leave.

I went to my work area. But no; I turned around, got my sweater and bag, and said goodbye to Francis.

I left.

Brian said "It's a tough industry."

I said "Yeah, I know — that's not the point."

It wasn't my greatest comeback ever — but then again, you don't have to say much when you walk out of a job.


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* I've learned since this Galway day about the tradition of workday tea-time. It consists, in any particularity, of a time to stop working and have a cup.

Many kitchens will be unable or unwilling to accommodate such a tradition — but the pertinent knowledge is that a cup of tea or coffee is associated with a period of the day in which the work pauses.

In this context, it must have appeared cheeky of me to brew coffee straightaway.

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