Man About Town: Through the keyhole and into the kitchen

There's a thrill to finding out what's going on in the kitchens of big parties

Share

Going to a ball or a big charity dinner is fairly straightforward. You walk in, pick up the glass of champagne from the tray in front of you, and if you stay in the
same place, it’s likely a canapé will come past too. Then all you really have
to do is walk to your table where waiting staff arrive en masse arrive to fill your
glasses and put plates in front of you.

It might be the annual vacuum cleaner bag awards and your table guests might be the dullest to have ever been allowed to converse, but it’s still quite straightforward. You rarely have to think what is going on in the kitchen: the swing doors open and food arrives.

So when I was invited to spend the early part of an evening seeing what happens in such a kitchen, I put down my champagne flute and rolled up my sleeves. The event was the now annual charity Halloween ball at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in London.

The hotel’s operation for big events is impressive: for their New Year’s celebrations, executive chef Ben Purton is planning to work from 9am on New Year’s Eve to 10pm the following night. On New Year’s Day 2014, they are expecting to serve breakfast to 2,500 people involved in the Lord Mayor’s Show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their huge kitchens, like walking into the bowels of a large ship, match that scale. It was there that we started with the small eats – or canapés. Usually I pay little attention to them, but I gained a new appreciation of them when I had difficulty rolling even the simple ones with Parma ham with rocket, parmesan and sun dried tomatoes.

Perhaps even trickier was the “bloody” salmon. We had to slice a fish which had been marinated in beetroot (the pieces of which gave it a nice feeling of entrails – it was Halloween, remember), and present it, neatly layered, on plate. Then came the pumpkin carving, which allowed me to unnerve my fellow kitchen workers with a cannibalistic pumpkin creation (again, what did they expect, it was Halloween). Afterwards we learned how “the pass” works, where between four and eight quick-handed chefs, are given the job of putting just one element on each plate before it goes out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time I arrived at the dinner table for the ball, I had a new-found respect for those putting it together – along with the knowledge that life is considerably easier for those on the other side of the swing doors.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Java developer - (Intershop Enfinity)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Java Developer...

School Office/ Finance Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Ilford: School Office/ Finance Assistant Long t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria  

Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison - but what then?

Rosie Millard
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album