Delilah, at the front of the restaurant, stood 8 feet tall in black leather, handcuffs and whip swinging from a thin belt around her waist. Zing! A half eaten ham roll whizzed past my ear as she pelted me with food. I picked up my chefs knife and headed out to do battle. The entire restaurant applauded…
Just another day in down town New Farm in the crazy 80s. Brisbane, under the Fitzgerald Enquiry into organized crime, the crime didn’t miss a beat. And my place was in the middle of it all. I fed crime lords, gambling dens, brothels and QCs. My life in the restaurant business was never dull.
You might ask why it’s taken me so long to write my memoirs, when writing is something I love, and now do for a living? Well, it’s been a big journey, and many of the memories are painful. It’s taken a few years’ distance and water under that bridge before I could face the prospect. Make sense of it all.
And still so much of it doesn’t make sense. But that’s life, isn’t it? My last restaurant, in the dark sunshine of a supposedly sunny place was such a painful experience I thought I would die. Almost did, actually. Someone cut the brakes on my car. The restaurant? Oh it was a success. Too successful. Too good an idea for a local crime boss to ignore. There were forces in the shade that I stood no chance of beating. So they beat me.
My friends tell me they rule there still, and it’s taken almost twenty years to put these words down and tell the stories. The beginning was fun. Exhilarating – and cooking was my oxygen. Commercial cooking? A piece of p*ss. For me, my strategic brain chewed up problems with joy.
As I went from one daring risk to another, somehow it all worked, and I learned. Fast and hard. As you do in the hospitality industry. Picking up friends from all over, schmoozing with high rollers and low lifes – not much difference really, when it’s all said and done. It’s all a matter of perspective. Viewpoint.
Because there are so many lessons in the crazy, crooked paths I took, I wanted to share these stories with you, my readers and wonderful people who like what I’m doing and enjoy the jokes and the incidents. Who keep me going, engaged and giving, as much as I can in this complex life of mine.
And now, with the launch of my chef’s support site, Off the Hotplate, life has come full circle and while I’m not in the kitchen, and never will again, at least this might help. Help make chefs lives better, give them some soft skills they’re never taught – at home, in their apprenticeship, when they cook.
If now my stories of one small woman’s fight against the odds, the universe and crime bosses may give you some small pleasure, and a few chuckles as well, then it was all worth it. Like me, I hope you enjoy the trip. But not everyone is as lucky as I was, to escape and survive. For those still in there – get Off the Hotplate and get the life you want.