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L B - The Chef That Saved My Life

I would not be here without the guidance, support & ass kickings from Lindsay Bennett. Anyone who has read my cookbook will know how important L B was to my development as a chef. This blog post is a chefy love letter to him as the final days of his restaurant approach.

L B is a big scary, moustachioed chef who kicked my ass repeatedly, believed in me & taught me that cooking could give me the wings to fly & have a future.

So, L B this is your life, you are going to F*****G hate this but just suck it up buttercup & read about how awesome you are.

Behind that huge moustache I know you’re blushing; I know you hate compliments & I know you are a man of few words… But hey, get over it & be proud of everything you have achieved & the lives you have changed for the good.

As you & Suzy enter into the last few day of running Fusion restaurant I can’t stop thinking about you guys & I have been reflecting on all you have done for me as a chef, teacher, mentor & just as an all-round awesome human.

This post is my revenge for all those very, very, scary dry-store rark ups (“telling offs” or “pep talks” for non-Kiwis) when I was being a little dickhead or I was slacking. Or maybe when you stitched me up & made me enter that omelette competition. I came last & I still can’t make a bloody omelette! Omelettes are my biggest fear in the kitchen.

I am sad to think that I won’t be able to rock into your kitchen & verbally abuse you next time I am home.

Last time I was back one of your Commis chefs told me I am the only person who would get away with walking into your kitchen & yelling “cook me some eggs bitch” without losing a limb…

I’m sure you are going through a roller coaster of emotions. You have put your life & soul into Fusion for 16 years & what a bloody amazing job you have done.

You will leave a gaping hole in South Canterbury. Shit, I am in mourning already for your beef salad. Where am I going to find as good as that anywhere else in NZ?? (Hopefully your house?).

Are you ready for this big guy? Ok here goes... Stop laughing Suzy (I can hear your giggles from here).

You gave me the discipline of a head chef, the advice & support of a Dad, the organisational skills of an Army general, the ear of a friend & most of all you cut my bullshit away with a knife & told me I was something & that I could have anything if I worked for it.

You probably don’t remember this, but you once let me work the hot section at Katz, I overcooked a piece of Venison & it was the last steak. You didn’t yell or throw shit; you gave me that look, the look that put the fear of god into me & calmly said “Well girl, you better run down to Roberto’s restaurant & beg for a venison steak”. I have never run so fast, begged so hard & I have never overcooked a piece of venison since.

All those years ago I went off to London & when I walked out of my first Michelin star hotel job, I felt I had let you down. You were the one who pulled the strings to get me that job. I will never forget the feeling of dread as I was woken & told that Lindsay Bennett was on the phone for me (the middle of the night UK time).

You rang my mum & got my new number after you had a phone call from the hotel that I had just walked out of. I could hear the disappointment & anger in your voice. When I explained the Sous chef kept feeling me up & that I couldn’t take being the only female in a brigade of 36 touchy feely chefs, you then phoned the hotel back & gave them my side of the story. They offered me my job back & promised the harassment would end.

What I don’t think I ever told you was I was never going back because the Head chef was away & I actually totally lost my shit & punched the Sous chef in the face in the walk-in fridge. But, still like the great mentor & father figure you are, you let me find my own way & work out what I was doing.

I think back to all the time you put into all of your students. Even after long days teaching, you would invite us into your commercial kitchen to get more experience & more hours of training. I think of all the help with the New Zealand culinary fares we were entered into. I think of all the nights, the weekends, the time away from your young family. You even offered to come & speak to one of my employers with me when she was being unreasonable. You were like my Union rep (just scarier).

Fusion holds a special place in my heart. Every time I came home to Temuka, Nana & I would dine with you. You would make her a little Granny portion of some sexy fish dish & she would roll her eyes & say ‘He is the best Kj’.

When Nana became too ill to dine out you would send me home with savoury muffins or scones for her, she would sit in her chair snacking on them, saying ‘Kj. He is the best’. Nana was always right Lindsay… She always loved going to Fusion. She would tell everyone ‘We are going to Lindsay’s place for dinner, he won chef of NZ & he is the chef who trained Kirsten you know.’ She was as proud of you as she was of me!

After her death, you always checked in on me. You cooked for me, you & Suzy took me out for lunch, you took Al hunting. You phoned to check in on me, offered advice when I wanted to quit the café, when I was doubting myself & when Al got sick you stepped up again. You opened the door to your home & made me feel less alone.

You not only gave me gross profit formulas, recipes, ideas & shit loads of awesome flat whites. You gave me the time & support my family should have given me. You believed in me when no one else did.

You won’t know this because you would never do it, but if you Google your name there are bugger all pictures of you. Your name on Google brings up mainly photos & media of the chefs you have trained & that have made something of themselves.

Your trainees are saying the same about you as I am, except perhaps they say it in a more manly slap on the back kind of way, because I am the only one without a dick. p.s. I love the picture of you on the back of the Timaru bus….

You, like all chefs, have missed important times in your family & friends’ lives. Many chefs cook to fuel their massive egos, but you cook from the heart & have always had the time/patience to share your knowledge.

Sometimes our family & friends don’t understand the sacrifices we make to feed others, but you are one of the lucky ones. Your family and friends get it & I know they are really proud of their hubby/dad/friend - even though he is a big dickhead.

L B enjoy your freedom, enjoy some time off, enjoy hunting & then cooking your kill. It will be an adjustment & I am delighted your family will get more of you back. Although Suzy if you need to moan about what a pain in the ass he is being I am just at the end of a phone.

L B, there are many things I learnt from you, here are some of your gems that have stuck with me...

“Always bend your knees" (especially if you are a girl)

“Keep that bench clean or I will set fire to it”

“Work as a team – or else I will bang all your heads together & knock some sense into you”

“Work hard or go home”

“Don’t screw the crew”

"Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance"

Thanks L B – you are a good egg!


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