Here’s a story for you

The backgrounder

So just over three months ago Chef received a phone call from a guy called Murray Howe, the owner of Murray’s Craft Brewing Company. Remember?

Murray Howe called him, asked to meet him and basically wanted Chef to run the whole food end of his foray into the Sydney market with the opening of his restaurant/bar in Manly called Murray’s. He told Chef that Manly would just be the start, that then there would be one on the other side of the bridge and then another somewhere else and that Chef would be executive chef over all of those. The package was good and the promise of bonuses when food costs were kept below a certain level a great sweetener.

This is what the company’s website said at the time.

There was an article in Good Living┬áby Willie Simpson(I can’t find it on the SMH site but here is a link to it being replicated on Microbrewing.com.au), The Sydney Morning Herald’s weekly food and beverage lift-out.

And so off we went.

Chef was loving it – he was working closely with the two other members of the start-up team – B and M. They had been head-hunted from Melbourne and they too were as committed and excited about being involved from the get-go in establishing the Murray’s brand in Sydney and then some.

For B it was an even bigger decision as his wife was pregnant with their first child. The offer and opportunity were such that while he trekked north his wife moved back to her parents place for the last few months of her pregnancy. Last week her waters broke at 35 weeks and while B headed straight to the airport onto the first available flight, he missed the birth of his first child. Mum and bub (a boy!) are doing well although bub is still in the NICU due to his early arrival.

There were some head-scratching moments of frustration when the proposed refurbishment of the space didn’t happen as quickly as they would have liked but it was all good.

This week

Sunday marked the last day before the restaurant closed for the always-planned refit. Monday Chef and M (B was back in Melbourne with his wife and new baby) were on site at 7am to meet with the project manager. Also there was MV, a restaurant consultant hired by Murray Howe a few weeks (we think) back.

Chef was working on finalising his breakfast menu for the re-opening for much of the day. That afternoon MV asked to meet with him. They did and M proceeded to sack Chef. The reason given was that they had decided to change the direction of the food aspect of the venture. By the following morning Chef’s severance pay was already in our bank account.

Needless to say Chef was dumbstruck. All he had received in the three months prior was positive, if not glowing, feedback on his menus and food. He was – and is – absolutely gutted. M and B had no idea.

Chef rang Murray Howe, several times that afternoon and evening. The phone just rang out. On Tuesday he rang him and it went to voicemail – a message left, yet to be returned.

On Tuesday, MV asked to meet with B. While B was having a meeting with the site manager MV came up to him and handed over an envelope addressed to B which had been opened. B commented that it was addressed to him but already opened. The letter terminated his employment. MV assured him it had nothing to do with his performance or attitude whatsoever.

 

Shall I go on?

 

Yesterday (Wednesday 21 Sept 2011) MV sat down with M. He assured him his position was safe and that now MV was in charge but he wanted M to be his 2IC. M questioned as to why they would want to keep him on after what they had done to his two colleagues. MV reassured him further that the plan was to open a whole stream of Murray’s up and down the Eastern Seaboard and they wanted M to be a part of that and that then they were going to make a ‘float’. MV asked M if he knew what that meant, M asked for an explanation. “It means we’re going to build up the business and then sell it”.

As to why this plan could not stay in place with Chef and B still at the helm is an unanswered question.

And there is also nothing wrong with this statement, I mean, it’s a pretty standard business model isn’t it? Build something up to a point and then make a mozza from it?

It does, however, reveal a game plan completely different to what Murray Howe had pitched to Chef, B and M to get them on board. Murray Howe is a loud voice in the promotion of craft breweries – a David to the Goliath beer manufacturers. That the big players are “gorillas” using bully-boy tactics to keep the small players out of the pubs and bars and clubs.

But this is a moot point now. Chef – our sole breadwinner is without a job. B – a new father in a new city is without a job. They will get new jobs but at the same pay? with similar opportunities as were promised at the outset of this one? ┬áThis is not really the point though is it.

 

Side-story

Murray Howe is also a property developer. According to M the team doing the demolition of the restaurant are contacts of Murray’s – but that there is no DA approval from Manly Council. Furthermore, M witnessed earlier in the week an electrician on site receive an electric shock so powerful he fell.off.the.ladder he was standing on. Work Safe Australia are to be contacted.

There is media interest in the story.

The boys are talking to Fair Work Australia regarding unfair dismissal. We’ve had preliminary legal advice that both are entitled to far more of a payout than their severance pay.

The support we’ve had on Twitter has been astronomical. In fact, when I first tweeted about it my handle – @allconsuming – was trending in Sydney AND Australia.

Job opportunities have come from it. Discussions are being had and meetings forthcoming.

 

But did this need to happen at all? Did it have to happen like this? Was it just that Murray didn’t want to pay wages during the next 6 weeks of the restaurant being closed? Was it always his plan to just hire these guys for the first three months as seat warmers? Who knows.

 

So, as we know, ONWARD!

 

black ute vs blue corolla: it really is just a matter of size

So Chef and I were walking down the street to our (legend) accountant today.

A man drives out from an underground carpark in a souped^ up black Holden ute.

I say, ‘well that’s just silly.’

Chef says, ‘ but he’s sooooo coool.’

And I say, ‘well maybe, but it’s also to compensate for his outrageously small penis.’

And Chef says, without missing a beat, ‘yeah, because nothing says ‘big massive cock’ more than a 1993 Toyota Corolla*.’

* That’d be what Chef drives, sans hubcaps.

 

I’m still chuckling, hours later.

 

^ I did put this out to Twitter – is it souped up? suped up? zouped up? zuped up?

20

On the 13th July 1991 Chef and I caught a train from Sydney to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to attend the 21st birthday party of someone from his uni dorm.

Why I went with him is one of those quirky mysteries. He had brazenly invited himself to a dinner party I was holding a couple of weeks prior at which I had a group of uni friends coming over to give my (first) ex-boyfriend the once over and to either confirm I had made the right decision to dump him the day (or so) after he had popped my cherry (I could never quite get over how ugly he was – how gruesomely bad is that. Yes, I am shallow and heartless. He had a shocking underbite which Chef can replicate with alarming perfection). Chef will tell you it was all a ruse to set up a compare and contrast for my friends between Exhibit A – the ex and Exhibit B – Chef but that is simply untrue. Afterall, he had invited himself over when I was infact asking him if he’d do my shift for me (at Pizza Hut) because I had this dinner planned.

Where were we?

Oh yes. So there was Chef asking me to cover a shift for him as he had this 21st to go to and I was all, oh no, I can’t do that as I’m going to that 21st as well. Outrageous!

So, there we were, 18 and 19 years old respectively on a train to Katoomba. He was wearing this really ugly leather college-style jacket which he of course adored. He barely said a word the whole.entire.way. It was rather stressful. We arrived in Katoomba and it was FUCKING freezing. We found the venue and Chef looked through the window, turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know anyone else in there’. I was, by this time, possibly in the early stages of hypothermia and commented that if he didn’t know anyone then what were the chances I knew anyone? We stood outside the venue (a Church hall perhaps?) for far too long trying to decide what to do.

We bailed and went to the Katoomba Hotel. Quite the classy establishment*. It had an Italian restaurant out the back and we got to inhaling a significant amount of alcohol to restore feeling to our extremities and well, to just take the edge off and to hopefully start him talking.

There was one other table there – three women from New Zealand. After a while and several carafes of house red later we were all sitting together along with the Chef. It was quite a night from what hazy shadows of it my memory allows.

The choir of angels and blinding orbs of romantic light hit at some late stage when one of the women asked how long we’d been together and we answered, IN UNISON, ‘oh we’re not together. YET’.

I KNOW. Do you need a minute to regroup?

After that there was a very hasty discussion between us while the others talked amongst themselves which involved an exchange along the lines of ‘I roolly loik you,’ ‘I roolly loik you too’ and then – and this is what I have remembered for FOREVER, Chef said ‘I really want to be with you for a really long time’. How ODD and comforting all at the same time huh?

Then there was some significant sucking off of each other’s face and giggles and cheers and more alcohol.

Of course it was a little later the Chef asked us where we were staying for the night and we were all, ‘oh no, we’re getting the train back to Sydney’ and he was all ‘oh no the last train left about an hour ago’. And we were all, ‘oh shit’ and then, ‘well have you got any rooms?’ and he was all, ‘oh NO, there’s __ festival on at the moment and we’re booked out as is pretty much everything else in town.’

You can see where this is heading can’t you. Can’t you?

We SLEPT ON THE FLOOR of the New Zealanders. And if by sleep I mean basically had sex with our clothes on then yes, we slept on their floor.

I have this to say about that part of the experience: FUCK IT WAS COLD and the flooring was those weird carpet floor tiles that are really scratchy and OH MY GOD MY HEAD.

I know I know. I am one of the classiest women you have ever met.

I have no idea what really happened after that. We must have slept for some period of time, woken outrageously early as we sensed death from freezing was imminent and escaped to Katoomba railway station where we SHIVERED until a train arrived about an hour later.

Ahhh, good times.

Did I have any idea back then we would be here, together, 20 years later? Absolutely not.

Can I believe we are? Absolutely.

I remember back then being completely intrigued by him – he seemed so sad and yet was such a practical joker and was just adored by so many workmates. He was so freaking quiet – I mean how can someone say so little? It still baffles me. Of course, when he does say something it absolutely nails the topic or scene that is at play.

We have been through so much – we have, in essence grown up together.

There was quite a while in there when Oscar and Felix were little that I didn’t think we’d make it.

There have been many many many hardships and trials and hurdles.

But equally there has been so much laughter, so much good food, a lot of booze and well, look, we’ve virtually created our own race.

Onward!

 

 

*not really

 

 

Home alone

The boys are at my Dad and Stepmum’s for two days.

So what do you do when you’re home alone?

Go to bed really really late.

SLEEP IN.

Go and catch up with some girlfriends and not have to tend to anyone.

Schlepp to another part of town to check out a fabric store and take as.much.time.as.you.like.

Come home, tootle round on the Interweb, pour a glass – or three – of wine, marvel at how an evening can transpire when you are not having to tend to four little people.

Sit on the lounge.

Make a fancy pants dinner and – gasp – eat.late.

Just lovely.

(Dinner: pan roasted rib eye on the bone served with a flavoured butter (sundried tomatoes, olives, anchovies, garlic and rosemary), sauteed cavalo nero, roasted fennel with carrots. Dessert: poached rhubarb creme brulee)

 

Onward!

 

 

 

 

 

40

Chef was 40 last week.

Next month we have been together for 20 years.

That he didn’t run to the hills during one of my many batshit crazy episodes still baffles me.

Almost as much as his love of electronic gaming.

He is quiet, intelligent and wickedly funny.

He is an AWESOME dad.

He loves me to the ends of the earth and back.

This man is my world.