Chef: The successful applicant should be tall, slim, possess long shapely legs, firm breasts and a less than strict moral attitude to casual sex. Being able to boil an egg an advantage.
Now that I am so near opening (so near is a relative term in Africa, but I live in hope), I need a Chef. I like to cook and I like to think I am good at it but operating in a commercial environment is a whole new ball game. With all the ill-gotten gains I have invested in this place it would be foolish to jeopardize the lot by being vain. I need to employ a professional.
I like Angolan cuisine, to a degree. It is a blend of Portuguese and ethnic African cooking. I love Bacalhão com Natas, dried salted cod, soaked overnight and then baked in a cream sauce. I adore Muamba da Galinha, tough local chicken braised for hours in a peanut sauce. I have developed, after initial revulsion, a taste for Feijoada , a stew made with orange coloured palm oil, beans and all the fatty gristly bits of pork no-one in Europe eats. I can even cope with Funge, the wallpaper glue-like paste made from powdered manioc. I cannot stand the way they cook and serve steaks, wonderful cuts of meat fried to a grey leathery texture; chicken grilled to desiccation; tender fish fried in half an inch of oil, crispier and twice as deadly as high fat crisps; soggy chips served cold and clammy; sauces, grudgingly made consisting only of boiled up tinned skinned tomatoes and sliced onions.
The Angolan palate is becoming as sophisticated as that of the many expatriates working here so if Fat Hippo’s is to be a success, the menu has to be a little more inspiring than stews or everything else served dry or greasy without any sauces or gravies. To be a hit here, I don’t need Haute Cuisine and especially not Nouvelle Bloody Cuisine, I need well prepared classics. Venison medallions with wild mushroom sauce, spätzle and red cabbage; Pepper steak with salad and crispy chips; Chicken Ragout with steamed rice; GrilledTuna steak with watercress and yoghurt salad and boiled new potatoes; Lasagne; an exotic curry; a selection of desserts. Cro Magnon has just posted showing how easy it is to make paté. As clients arrived we could put out a plate of petiscos for them to munch on while they slaked their thirst from the bar and made their selections. With a decent chef, Fat Hippo’s could become famous for venison dishes as I can shoot as many bush buck and other game as I have rounds in the rifle.
But for this to work, I need to import a chef.
Yesterday, a mate of mine came to visit so I made up a load of lobster and a dill cream sauce. He was outraged that I would build this restaurant and then not employ a local. He said it was my duty to support the local community by employing as many of them as I could. All well and good, my old German friend, but it won’t pay the bills if I go bust because the food is no better, just as crap, as everywhere else. We got onto the subject of his coffee plantation which isn’t doing so well (he was visiting me to pay back, thankfully, the last load of money I lent him so he could pay his workforce until his harvest came in).
‘They are all thieving, ungrateful Schweine,’ he said. ‘Every time I come up into town they steal everything and, and, DO NO WORK!’
‘Gosh’ I said pouring him another whisky and mixing it with Coca-Cola Zero (he is diabetic so has to be careful what he stuffs or pours down his throat).
‘I got back there this time’ he frothed, ‘and they have dug a Lavra (a smallholding) right across my perimeter road and into MY land!’
I could see he was outraged. I felt for him, I really did. I have a bit of a Land War going on as well.
‘You should buy a Gaz’ I said.
‘Yes. You know, one of those big old Russian trucks weighing a million tonnes with six wheel drive. Then all you have to do is drive straight through the Lavra’. It was wishful thinking on my part. I’d love to do the same to these bastards here so I was surprised when he took me seriously.
‘I have a friend with a Gaz truck, I’ll do that as soon as I get back’.
‘Is he Angolan?’ I asked.
‘Best let him do the driving, me Alte Kumpel, or you as a white man will be in heaps of shit.’
This man is in his sixties and is surviving by the skin of his teeth and the Grace of God.
‘What I really need,’ he continued, ‘is a decent farm manager’
‘I agree’ I said, and I meant it. A decent farm manager is exactly what he needs. Two thousand hectares is more than enough for a young, fit man. Clearly it was far too much for an old man who, through his lifestyle choice, had no sons to help him shoulder the burden or to whom he could leave the not inconsiderable fruits of a lifetime of struggle. I have heard stories of old men, happily married all their lives, losing their soul mates only to die themselves within months. If this man lost his farm, I would be burying him just as quick. I have known him almost as long as I have been in Angola. Longer than I have known any woman. A year short of two decades.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘a percentage of something is better than 100% of nothing. Why don’t you get one of the farmers that Mugabe tossed out and do a deal with him? These guys carved successful farms out of nothing, vacant bush, a bloke like that would be ideal and you could let them live in the villa’. His house is magnificent. It was comprehensively trashed during the war but he has steadily rebuilt it over the last ten years. He was born there.
‘It was just a thought,’ I pointed out, ‘but you are not getting anywhere at the moment, why not offer a share to someone who can really turn the farm around? Otherwise you had better sell it and retire to Germany’.
‘Can you help me find someone?’ he asked.
‘Sure,’ I said, ‘can you help me find a Chef?’
The whole of Europe is in a massive depression as the Eurozone goes into meltdown. Great minds struggle to balance books but unemployment continues to rise, 25% in some countries, and unpleasant cuts to social welfare are recommended. Those who are in gainful employment in Europe lose over 60% of their salaries in direct and indirect taxation. There is talk of debt, mortgages in particular, being passed on to offspring. Legalized usury.
I need a decent chef. My old friend needs a decent farm manager. If the countries of the Eurozone really want to reduce the social welfare burden, why is it impossible for me to log onto a DHSS website and offer these vacancies? I travelled to find gainful employment rather than go on the dole, I can’t be unique. I am sure that if others realized these opportunities existed, they would leap at the chance. The UK Prime Minister has stated that he will maintain aid to some very dodgy regimes. Funding that will arrive at the top and never filter down to where it is needed. Aid agencies, with the exception of those providing immediate disaster relief, are generally a complete and utter waste of time and, of course, money.
Neither I nor my old German friend is asking for an EU handout. All we are asking for is access to a generally skilled and willing workforce. We will pay their salaries. We will arrange their visas. We will arrange their flights and accommodation. OK, between the two of us we will only take two people off the European social welfare bill but if my restaurant works, and Hermann the German’s farm kicks off, we can employ dozens of unemployed Angolans far more effectively and sustainably than any ‘aid’ project dreamt up by some Eurocrat with brains bulging out of his forehead. By providing a freely accessible data base of available workforce, the EU could, at no cost, reduce their social welfare costs and provide the skills required for sustainable development in places like Africa all funded by small, expatriate business. Sure, we will take a share of the profits. But like I said to my mate, a percentage of something is a damn sight better than 100% of nothing, and guess where the rest goes, yup, local salaries and sustainable development.
So I need a chef. If you are the kind of person I need and have read this far, you know what I want and clearly have the patience to work in Angola so get in touch with me. I will pay a decent tax free basic salary and the usual, plus, after a three month probationary period assuming we are still getting along, a share in the restaurant profits. If you are rugged looking, energetic AND can do Patisserie, my wife will hire you regardless of any objection my intense hatred for you could conceive. If you are like the charming, sweet and obviously intelligent young lady pictured at the top of this post and can only boil an egg, I will do my best but don’t hold your breath.