A Day In The Life - A Photo Diary

This is what a typical day was like for me as a 3rd-year student on the Professional Chef Diploma course at Westminster Kingsway College. In Years 1 and 2 there was plenty of classroom work, leading to the hygiene, health & safety and other training certificates required for work in a professional kitchen. The third year, however, is focused on practical cooking. I hope this diary doesn't put anyone off their ambition to become a professional chef. It's very hard work, but well worth it in the end!


Zzzzzzz...... Brrrnnngg!

Blissful sleep is disturbed by the jarring sound of the alarm clock.

You can't really see Tower Bridge from my house at sunrise, but it's only a mile or so away.

I roll out of bed, wander upstairs and run a bath. We've got a deep roll-top bath and the boiler is old and lives in the basement, so it struggles for 15 minutes to give me the hot water I need in the morning.

The delay provides an opportunity for me to check my email and any comments on my blog. If I need to mail or post responses I do this afterwards, while getting dressed and ready to set off for college.

No matter how busy I am I always find time for a bowl of cereals and milk. It's so important to start each day with some breakfast, especially if you can add some fresh or dried fruit to it.

My final task before setting off is checking my college bag, which I always pack very carefully the night before.

It's a large bag - and it needs to be. Most days I have to bring a chef's jacket and trousers, an apron, cloth, chef's hat and neckerchief and there's often other things depending on what rotation I'm on (butchery, larder, etc).

There's plenty of clothes washing to do in our house each week!

During term-time I can store my knives and shoes in my locker, but at beginning and end of term I have to transport these as well.

My journey to college takes me right across London from the East End to the West End and beyond to Victoria.

I start with the bus from Hackney down to the City, to catch the underground train (we Londoners call it "the tube") at Liverpool Street station.

With the security issues in central London, I always keep my Craft Guild of Chefs card handy, just in case my bag is searched by police and I have to explain why I'm carrying a large set of knives.

The tube takes me across town to St. James's (near Westminster Cathedral and Buckingham Palace), from where it's a five minute walk to college in Victoria.

Most days I arrive at Westminster Kingsway College a bit after 8am. Sometimes I get some extra sleep and start later, but when I'm directly supervising 2nd year students I have to get in before 8am.

Hospitality is a highly disciplined profession and it's very important to set a good example to your subordinates.

The first task of the day - and the most important - is to light the college kitchen stoves and ovens.

At home it probably takes you no more than a few seconds to switch on your electric oven or light your gas oven.

In the Brasserie kitchen we have 10 ovens and this job takes a lot longer. Each 3rd year Chef de Partie is responsible for their own ovens, but whoever is acting Head Chef has overall responsibility for the lot. Discovering that the ovens are cold just as you are about to start cooking lunch would be very embarrassing!

On the left you can see "The Vincent Rooms" - Westminster Kingsway's restaurant facility that we run as part of our practical work.

The Brasserie and Escoffier Room (dedicated to the man who popularised French haute cuisine) are open to the public and offer brasserie food and fine dining respectively, at very reasonable prices. At the moment I spend most of the day cooking in the Brasserie kitchens.

So next time you're in London why not pay a visit for lunch or dinner? You might even find that Trig is your Head Chef.

When mis en place is in full swing I can't stop to take a photo, so you'll have to use your imagination to picture us all fully engaged in the business of food preparation and cooking.

Typically, six 3rd years and ten 2nd years will be working here, prepping the ingredients and cooking the different components of the dishes for the restaurant menu.

By this time, lunch at the Brasserie is in full swing. On a busy day we can serve up to 120 covers (seated customers) in lunch service, but most days we have between 20 and 65.

Here's a picture of me plating up the dish "ravioli with a wild mushroom and madeira jus" at my starter section.

I don't do a great deal of classroom work now I'm a third-year student, but I still have some kitchen management and gastronomy classes with my lecturers that involve me paying a visit to this part of the building.

When there's a lecture in progress the room will obviously be full, but I just sneaked in and set my camera to auto-shot in order to take this photograph to show you what the lecture room facilities at Westminster Kingsway are like.

Most days I get out of college shortly after 4pm, but sometimes I have to stay until quite a bit later.

When that happens it means by the time I get home it's hard to find time to eat, relax, do my blog and get packed for the following day.

A brisk 5-minute walk from college takes me back to St. James's Park tube station for the one-hour journey back across London to Hackney.

Home again and ready for the evening's activities.

When there's project work or coursework to be done, this has to take priority.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights often mean football because my team Chelsea is in three different competitions.

Sometimes I go to Stamford Bridge with my friend Carl on a Saturday, but weekday evenings means a trip to the pub to watch the match on Sky Sports.

I try to get new blog postings out early in the evening. This is much easier now I plan many of my posts a day or two in advance and get things into draft early.

If I had to write everything in real time I would find it impossible, so I admire those bloggers who manage to do this regularly.

The world stops for Hollyoaks which is on Channel 4 TV every night. It's the only soap that I watch.

The photo will help to explain why (shame she's now left the programme).

This is the time when I cook. Those evenings when I have course work to do I make something simple. I might make baked potato with cheese or stuffed pasta with sauce.

When I have more time, I cook something more adventurous and take photos of the stages of preparation and cooking for the blog.

I know some students who cook during the day but never cook at home, but I simply can't understand this. I love to cook and to eat!

Apart from project work, I also have to fill in my City and Guilds folder daily, documenting each dish I am responsible for under its appropriate syllabus units.

I also have to produce dish specification sheets listing ingredient quantities and cookery methods. Sheets like these are produced by Head Chefs in large professional kitchens so the purchasing staff know what to buy and the Chefs de Partie know exactly how the dishes are to be prepared and cooked.

By 10.30 p.m. I've usually finished everything that needs to be done and, at last, I can relax.

I'll listen to some of my CDs or music downloads, enjoy a beer with my mates, chat to friends over MSN Messenger or simply watch TV or watch a film from my DVD collection or my dad's collection of movie classics.

Bag packed for tomorrow and tucked up in bed.

Not on Friday, of course, when I'm probably down the pub with my mates at this time and maybe out clubbing afterwards.

As a trainee chef you don't get much leisure time, so I make sure I enjoy mine as much as possible!

So after reading this, do you fancy becoming a trainee professional chef?