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Down And Out In Padstow And London [Kindle Edition]

Alex Watts
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 240 pages
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Book Description

A humorous account of what really happens behind the scenes of both Michelin-starred restaurants and lesser establishments - and the extraordinary, larger-than-life characters who inhabit them.

The book begins with Lennie Nash's decision to give up his job as a journalist, aged 40, and a fateful meeting with Rick Stein, when the cheffing door is opened. There follow stints in the kitchens at Padstow, a failed audition for Masterchef, work as a commis chef under a crazed ex-football hooligan, 16-hour shifts as a kitchen slave in a gastropub, and the rigours of the Fat Duck. Unable to keep up with the younger chefs around him, he gives up the dream and returns to office life, only to find the itch starting again.

The book is aimed at the umpteen armchair chefs and foodies who would love to learn the trade first-hand from the professionals, braving the stress, 16-hour days, and low pay of kitchen life, but are far too sensible to do so...

Reviews:

"Reading 'Down and Out in Padstow and London' is a serious test for any food writer. Not only has Alex Watts done what all of us say we would like to do, tested his mettle in a professional kitchen, he also writes about his experiences so well that you spend as much time being jealous of his writing skills as you do of his experiences. It's an annoyingly enjoyable read."
- Simon Majumdar, author of two food/travel memoirs, Eat My Globe and Eating For Britain.

"Cracking read...It's great - seek it out. Raw, honest, funny, great stories..." @eatlikeagirl

"A must read for anyone interested in food/cooking/restaurants." @jteramsden

"Funny, engaging, interesting, lively." @oliverthring

"Great book - a one-sitting read! Love the Chelsea-Barca scene! " @MarkLewis32

"A rattling good read." @chrispople

"Sensational account of a chef’s life, couldn't put it down. Get it from Amazon now!" @Fishermansarms

"Really enjoyed it. Such refreshing food writing. Looking forward to your sequel..." @Jen_foodmag

"You will not be able to put it down - great read." @MTomkinsonChef

"Great, great stuff." @VictoriaHaschka

"A must read for wannabe chefs!" @londoneating

"The whole book is a real eye-opener into the differences between the TV image and the reality of the kitchen, particularly where celebrity chefs are concerned. It's sharp, easy to read and almost impossible to put down..."
- Nicola Hine, The Maidenhead Advertiser


Product Description

Review

Reading 'Down and Out in Padstow and London' is a serious test for any food writer. Not only has Alex Watts done what all of us say we would like to do, tested his mettle in a professional kitchen, he also writes about his experiences so well that you spend as much time being jealous of his writing skills as you do of his experiences. It's an annoyingly enjoyable read. - Simon Majumdar, author of two food/travel memoirs, Eat My Globe and Eating For Britain. --Simon Majumdar, author of two food/travel memoirs, Eat My Globe and Eating For Britain.

We've all shouted at the telly I could do better than that;. We've all begrudged the daily trudge to the same office job. At some stage you've got to live your dream - and Lennie Nash does just that. Well he has a go anyway. A tabloid journalist and secret foodie, Lennie jacks in the day job to follow his dream of being a chef. He soon realises it's a younger man's game, of long hours, blisters and bags of pheasants that won't pluck themselves. Down and out in Padstow and London isn't a Masterchef path to cheffing glory, it's the story of someone who has a dream and tries to give it a go. The wannabe cook is likeable, a little rough round the edges, with a journalist's drinking habits and cynical view of the world, but his passion for food keeps him going. There are brushes with celebrity, but Down and Out is about the other end of the kitchen and some of the real characters who don't get a TV series of their own - although maybe they should! A great read for armchair foodies, chefs and trapped Lennie Nashes everywhere. --@bailed

Down and Out in Padstow and London should be required reading for anyone who has ever dreamed of leaving the monotony of the 9 to 5 rat race to open their own restaurant. Alex Watts' book recounts his journey of giving up a well-paid secure lifestyle in his early forties to start again as a commis-chef in search of the ultimate dream, a restaurant by the sea. You may know his alter-ego Lennie Nash. I thought that perhaps the book should be required reading for all chefs just starting out in college too. In retrospect, at that stage of life those students probably need more encouragement than a big gulp of common sense so carefully administered by Alex. The story engaged me because I share Alex's dream of my own restaurant, mine a bistro and not by the sea. Anyone who has considered giving it all up knows how to feign interest when friends say that the idea is crazy, pretends to listen when loved ones explain the costs to social life and perhaps health and ignore naysayers who don't have enough imagination to see the potential new life as a chef patron. But I can't dismiss Alex. His life cannot be ignored. Alex takes the reader with him from bistros in London, to hotels in Padstow, to a certain Michelin Temple in Berkshire, very briefly into the machine of the Ramsay Empire and to a James Bond film (yes truly). He describes the rituals, the humiliation and the trials as he finally crosses his own Rubicon into the fiery furnaces. I felt like I was there with him and I know all the people that he met. His tales are stark, honest, vulnerable and told with a no nonsense matter of fact dose of here's how it was. I imagine that his food tastes honest like his words do. When I finished the book I was both uplifted by the ending of Alex's own walking off into the glorious sunset and disappointed and empty too. It wasn't the book. It was me. I knew, unlike the family and friends well-meaning advice I could not silence Alex. But here is the beauty of his book, it never once told me not to, it didn't speak down to me and call me an idiot for having the dream in the first place. In fact, the more I dwelled on Alex's transition from life to dream life the more I was inspired. Alex's journalistic objectivity explains reality yet doesn't discourage or disparage the readers' own ideals. Alex carefully leaves the reader in a position of eyes wide open and should the reader's dream fail, could rightly say I told you so;. I just don't think he would. Instead he'd nod sagely and tell you to get up of the mat and try again. And also to raise a glass to Keith Floyd. --@breilbistro

About the Author

Alex Watts is a travelling journalist and sometime chef, currently eating and writing his way around SE Asia. He has written for TV, radio and national newspapers in the UK, America and Australia. He also writes the blog Chef Sandwich - a journal of his food and travel writing.

Product details


More About the Author

Alex Watts is an author and sometime cook, currently eating and writing his way around SE Asia.

He has written for TV, radio and national newspapers in the UK, America and Australia. He also writes the blog Chef Sandwich - a journal of his food and travel writing.

He was once verbally abused by Tom Cruise.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living the dream - however painful 31 Dec. 2011
By bailed
Format:Kindle Edition
We've all shouted at the telly "I could do better than that". We've all begrudged the daily trudge to the same office job. At some stage you've got to live your dream - and Lennie Nash does just that. Well he has a go anyway. A tabloid journalist and secret foodie, Lennie jacks in the day job to follow his dream of being a chef. He soon realises it's a younger man's game, of long hours, blisters and bags of pheasants that won't pluck themselves.
Down and out in Padstow and London isn't a Masterchef path to cheffing glory, it's the story of someone who has a dream and tries to give it a go. The wannabe cook is likeable, a little rough round the edges, with a journalist's drinking habits and cynical view of the world, but his passion for food keeps him going.
There are brushes with celebrity, but Down and Out is about the other end of the kitchen and some of the real characters who don't get a TV series of their own - although maybe they should!
A great read for armchair foodies, chefs and trapped Lennie Nashes everywhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An insightful read 16 Aug. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book takes a fascinating and very honest look at the world of the professional chef, as seen through the eyes of the author. It tells of the difficulties of starting a new career in mid- life, as well as revealing the truth of those celebrity chef owned restaurants. All in all, a very entertaining and informative read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Give Up The Day Job 21 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having eaten at the Fat Duck the author's experience working for the seldom seen Heston B was an eye opener.
There are many interesting facts to be found in this book and for that reason alone it is worth sticking with to the end. It is also an amusing read written with first hand knowledge and wit.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read and a warning to all wannabe chefs! 30 Dec. 2011
By richard
Format:Kindle Edition
I've been following 'Lennie Nash's' blog for some time and found his stories and experiences a great read and I've willed him on as he's tried to make it as a chef. As many a keen amateur cook I've harboured ambitions about living the dream and becoming a chef, but Alex/Lennie actually went out and tried it. His experience should serve as an amusing warning to all of us amateur gourmets and dinner party hosts as he details the back breaking work and the characters that exist in the restaurant world from the local pub all the way up to the giddy heights of michelin stars.

It's candid, amusing and difficult to put down once you've started. A great read and should be a set text if you're considering a change of career, or god forbid, applying to masterchef.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cheffing 26 Oct. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Easy read giving a surprising insight into the world of the professional chef and exposing the harsh realities involved. Some great lines too.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This was entertaining and easy to read 27 Aug. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was entertaining and easy to read, but two things began to grate on me after a while. Firstly, the copy-editing is patchy in places, which is especially jarring given the author's history as a journalist. Secondly, if the author doesn't like a job, he'll just stop turning up, like a sulky teenager. I thought that was something people generally grew out of long before their 40s, but he does it at least four times over the course of the book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alex Watts is Required Reading 5 Jan. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Down and Out in Padstow and London should be required reading for anyone who has ever dreamed of leaving the monotony of the 9 to 5 rat race to open their own restaurant. Alex Watts' book recounts his journey of giving up a well-paid secure lifestyle in his early forties to start again as a commis-chef in search of the ultimate dream, a restaurant by the sea. You may know his alter-ego Lennie Nash.

I thought that perhaps the book should be required reading for all chefs just starting out in college too. In retrospect, at that stage of life those students probably need more encouragement than a big gulp of common sense so carefully administered by Alex.

The story engaged me because I share Alex's dream of my own restaurant, mine a bistro and not by the sea. Anyone who has considered giving it all up knows how to feign interest when friends say that the idea is crazy, pretends to listen when loved ones explain the costs to social life and perhaps health and ignore naysayers who don't have enough imagination to see the potential new life as a chef patron. But I can't dismiss Alex. His life cannot be ignored.

Alex takes the reader with him from bistros in London, to hotels in Padstow, to a certain Michelin Temple in Berkshire, very briefly into the machine of the Ramsay Empire and to a James Bond film (yes truly). He describes the rituals, the humiliation and the trials as he finally crosses his own Rubicon into the fiery furnaces. I felt like I was there with him and I know all the people that he met. His tales are stark, honest, vulnerable and told with a no nonsense matter of fact dose of here's how it was. I imagine that his food tastes honest like his words do.
Read more ›
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compliments to the chef... 19 Jan. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
First things first, I bloody loved this book. I was two-timing it with a P G Wodehouse novel for a time and 'Down and out...' won me over and made me finish it off first. An addictive mistress indeed, I dare say I'll sneak back greedily for second helpings.
Down to business, the book centres on a forty(ish) year old hack, fed up with Fleet Street, hell bent on ditching the day job and making a living from cooking. Starting with a blagged stint in Padstow at Rick Stein's place and taking in the odd bistro, gastro-pub, hell-hole and Heston Blumenthal's three-starred Fat Duck.
Watts provides us with a fascinating view of the other side of the kitchen door, of the frequently insane environments from whence our dinners came. More than this, Watts is a protagonist so engaging that we truly take this journey with him, we feel his ups and downs as if our own, we celebrate his successes and mourn his failures.
We are dragged through the 18-hour days, the learning curve so steep it's near vertical, the nutters, and the mind numbing nonsense with a deft and class that makes the read exhilarating, exciting and exhausting.
This book is worth reading just because it's a damn good story, if you've ever held a flame for life in a 'real' kitchen, hankered for your own restaurant or even flirted with applying for Masterchef, it's required reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Account
A brilliant tale of the hardships of chef training
Published 12 days ago by PlodderK
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great read for any aspirational chefs. An eye opener.
Published 8 months ago by Charlotte Haskelll
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read !!!
I could not put this down. Excellent read. Very open and honest account of a quest to be a chef. I hope the author eventually fulfils his dream.
Published 12 months ago by Angel Eyes
5.0 out of 5 stars A chef's life
as I am a chef myself have been through all the misery and got the tee shirt what a wonderful and funny read
Published 13 months ago by Justin hill
2.0 out of 5 stars Let Down By Poor Service
The trouble is, that unless Alex Watts' tale leads to him becoming a successful chef, then it doesn't really have any validity as a "chef-biog". And he isn't, so it doesn't. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Roger Risborough
5.0 out of 5 stars A real kitchen tale
A fantastic read. I was a bit sceptical at first the idea of a perfectly normal, sane, journalist giving up a good job to become a chef. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Nathan Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside the kitchen of celebrity chef ding
Forget Masterchef and BakeOff. This book takes you deep inside the reality of life as a wannabe chef working for Stein, Blumenthal and the rest. Read more
Published 18 months ago by JG
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
although I found the abrupt ending a bit odd. Felt a little like the author just went 'Oh I'm bored of this now'
Published 19 months ago by RachaelW
5.0 out of 5 stars Un-put downable
Alex is a journalist. He writes superbly well. He also has a great story to tell - the one of his journey to become a professional chef. Read more
Published 20 months ago by WillHam
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting take on travel/ cookery book
I must say I was suprised by this book.. it was amusing in parts.. the bit about Masterchef was really funny and in others it was quite informative.. Read more
Published 20 months ago by cruise queen
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