Miyuki McGuffie: Chef Life #1

By Miyuki McGuffie, originally published on Feed 

So I’ve decided to become a chef…

Not really. Well, kind of. But not reeeeeeeally.

Let’s take it from the top.

I’ve been in hospo since I was 14 years old, working for $4.50 an hour cash on weekends. Eventually I was offered a “promotion” to night shifts at $8 an hour (taxed but still paid in cash, picking up my little baggie of earnings every Tuesday). Sweet dosh for a 14 year old in 2003.

My first proper dinner service was on Art Deco weekend. If you live in Hawke’s Bay you’ll know what a big fucking deal that is. I dropped food in a lady’s bag but luckily she was understanding and TripAdvisor didn’t exist back then so the world was none the wiser. As a teenager I spent my Friday and Saturday evenings waiting on tables, a foreshadow of what most of my adult life would entail.

I quit that job in a rage when at 16 years old my employers wouldn’t let me be the weekend maitre d because I was “too young”. I thought I was more than capable. I wrote my bosses an angry letter, and despite their lovely phone call to my mother to say they understood why I was upset and they would love to have me back, I felt scorned and was stubborn a little asshole.

I left high school early to work full time, mostly so I could leave home because I was and still am an independent overconfident “woman”. Since then my only breaks from the industry have been for small but frequent bouts of travel, a journalism diploma, and a brief stint of unemployment.

The journalism diploma (which I never ended up using unless you count 2 - 3 blogs, all failing due to lack of interest both from readers and myself) had me move to Wellington, where I worked on and off in various capacities at a restaurant called Trade Kitchen. The owner/boss, Olly Edwards, was an inspiration. His background was predominantly cheffing however at TK he was front of house, and he was damn good at it. I admired that he was able to assume the role of head chef when needed, but was a professional, charming, intelligent leader of the floor team. I decided that if I was ever to open my own restaurant, I would need to train in the kitchen so I could be called upon to do anything the business needed and to be able to direct kitchen staff with first hand experience behind me.

In late 2011 I moved back to my hometown of Napier, and after a couple of shitty jobs I found myself working my way up the ladder quite quickly at milk & honey. I had been thinking about doing the chef’s course at the local polytech but my job had momentum and I was learning so much that I decided to stick with it and forget study for the time being.

Four years later, still at the same restaurant, and after 10+ years as a waitress and manager, I’m ready for a change. I’ve already started this FEED lark, and what better source of material than a fish out of water slicing her fingers on knives and burning herself in the oven?

I am lucky that milk & honey has a head chef in the form of Hayden Esau, also a member of team FEED, who is game/dumb enough to let me in his kitchen for the purposes of a blog. I am also lucky that my bosses were happy to go along with the ride.

So this is my story about how my life got flip turned upside down. If you’d like to take a minute just sit right there and subscribe to my blog about life as a chef. 

To fellow Miyuki's misadventures in the kitchen, and see what her and her buddies are up to down in Hawkes Bay, check out Feed