Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Move to Melbourne

I can count the times in my life where I’ve been scared shitless, worried, anxious and or bothered things wouldn’t go my way. Those moments have luckily been few and far between and I account for them on a single hand.

It hard to imagine that this is the year I turn twenty-five, yes the big 2-5! It feels like my life has just whirl winded past me sometimes when I say that number aloud. I have loved my life so far, there are times I feel I have seen so much, yet ironically only moments later I realise there is so much to left to see and do. It is only natural living in a world as wide and wondrous as we do, is it not?

As I contemplate what to wear, my cupboard becomes messy and the ground strewn with clothing. Ultimately I become besotted with making a perfect first impression. Five ensembles later, I peer into the mirror and can barely recognise the woman staring back at me. That face – that girl is the same fearless girl that darted to Denmark from Bangalore at age 17 chasing a passion to travel, see the world and live life on her own terms. Yes, I am the same girl that decided to hone her inborn skills and study Journalism and make a career of writing while everyone else seemed to be choosing more lucrative streams – medicine, law or business.

Ah, yes I am that girl, the same girl that came all the way to Adelaide to turn a mere interest in food and cooking into a life-long love affair. But the funny part is travelling, studying, getting out into the world and doing what I loved most was the easy part. The daunting part has been re-entering the world of restaurants and food that I have always loved so much and regarded as a comfort zone.

Now is the time to leave behind the privileged paying customer status with the means to order whatever I fancy, and with this means saying goodbye to the swooning waiters and the charming polite conversation.

It’s funny because I always thought I was different to other Indians – never conscious of caste, creed and social standing. Recently I have realised upon warming up to the idea of gaining restaurant experience both back of house as a cook and front house as a waitress that the service industry is culturally conceived as demeaning from an Indian perspective and its ill effects have obviously sewn their seed in me a long, long time ago.

Armed with copious copies of my resume, I put my black knee-high boot clad foot forward, and marched into the city with a trendy ensemble to match. What says classy-chic better than pinstripes? I opted for a loosely fitted black and white dress shirt with girly ruffled collar paired with sleek, sheer tights set off with a string of pearls around my neck and matching studs. I thought it was efficient, sexy and alluring all at once – well it made me feel confident at least, and that’s half the battle won!

I was accepted graciously at every establishment, but I soon got the feeling I was more appreciated and better welcomed as a guest rather than a woman scouting for a job, trying to sell herself and her lack of experience, come what may.

In all honesty looking for a job can be demoralising, crushing and upsetting. Maybe I am going a little overboard here, but how the hell does anyone expect me to have relevant experience if no one will give me a go?!

So, you’re probably reading this, wondering what the hell is going on. Well, let me bring you up to speed. My time in Adelaide has finally come to an end. Le Cordon Bleu’s Masters of Gastronomy is what brought me to the capital of the South Australian state, and after completion I decided to stay on and do Certificate III in Hospitality - Commercial Cooking at Regency Park. Two and a half years down the line and I was eager and raring for a bigger city with more opportunities, brighter lights, livelier streets, faster pace of life and more than anything else to a place that is home to a multitude of increased eating options! And so without much of a thought it was off to Melbourne for Meagan.

It took me a couple days to sort out my stuff, tie up loose ends, pack up my life into boxes – well truthfully – several large, heavy boxes and send them over by professional movers interstate and well get my butt to Victoria. I have been lucky enough to have oodles of extended family and friends living here in marvellous Melbourne so the shift was totally stress free. As for accommodation – I could not be luckier living in gorgeous hilly Heidelberg that offers spectacular views with my Uncle who has generously given me the spare room at his place to use. A twenty minute drive by car to the city and a forty minute train ride on the Hurtsbridge line, the efficient Melbourne Metro Transport System make my life so easy! The suburb is wonderfully located affording peace, quiet, tucked away from the cities hustle and bustle, yet it takes almost no time to shoot down into the throttle of it all. I am most thankful to be rid of dealing with Adelaide’s dysfunctional and archaic transport that leaves much to be desired.

I arrived in Melbourne the Sunday afternoon before Easter and decided to give myself a week of downtime, sleeping in till two and three p.m. everyday, eating take-out food, catching up with old friends, chowing down on some good grub, exploring bits and pieces of Heidelberg and the city, investigating the local transport system and drawing up a list of restaurants to hit up around the cities various busy restaurant and cafe precincts. I also called a number of prestigious, well established, iconic Melbourne restaurants enquiring about jobs, telling them about myself and even emailed out my resumes to them, with my plan being to follow this up the week after with personal walk-ins and resume handouts.

As Easter weekend was around the corner my plan was to wait till mid-week after Easter ensuring all the holiday fever would have blown over and then my plan was to attack ruthlessly, restaurant after restaurant and secure a job ASAP since my visa is valid only up to September 2 (coincidentally my birthday) and I was/ am eager to make the most of my time in Melbourne by working and gaining valuable industry experience.

Having proofed, tweaked and perfected my resume I printed out a stack of them and was ready to start making the rounds. On Tuesday I went down to Burgundy Street that is Heidelberg’s busiest hub with a number of cafes and restaurants located along its length sparing no establishment with more presence, my resume and my eagerness to work. On Wednesday I spruced up and decided to give the daunting Crown Casino with all its fancy-pancy restaurants a go (the account I begin with is of this experience). I must have given out at least 20 resume that evening. Thursday, although I wanted so much to burry my head in the sand and stop breathing, I trudged on, and hit up the Italian restaurant quarter of Melbourne: Lygon Street.

And the result was ironic. It was just the day before that I had almost given up looking, almost given up on a dream. I was hanging on the verge of it all. Walking down Lygon Street was a breathe of fresh air. It was invigorating to be enveloped in street culture that is so alive and eclectic as opposed to the walled in constraints of a multi-storeyed building no matter how grand its facade or furnishings may be. For me The Crown’s upmarket restaurants with all its ‘glory’ represents a world where I have formerly enjoyed being pampered and looked after. Stepping into that world the notion of being part of the service staff seemed beneath me – and I realise how pompous that sounds! Lygon teaming with its many Italian and Euro inspired restaurants, lively chatter and strapping men calling out to me immediately set me at ease. No, it’s not that I enjoy being propositioned in any way, but rather the festive, friendly atmosphere blends the lines of service staff and customers, made me feel welcomed instead of patronised. It’s funny – in 24 hours I feel elated suddenly – lighter and I have a reason to smile again. Why wouldn’t I when I managed to bag two trials for work as a cook in the kitchen of Italian restaurants?

As they say, good things come to those who wait. For now, I am employed at Copperwood – 318 Lygon Street – taking each day as it comes, loving all the learning and experience!


Sameer said...

lovely read!! you always had a way with words! all the best for everything thats gonna come your way!!!!! :)

Technofun said...

First of all, Congrats..

Although you might not know me..your blog is added to my feed reader and have read all your recent posts with great interest..

It really takes lot of courage,dedication.. to stand up for what u like and then to get first foot in industry..After this its your hard work that counts..

All the best for future..keep writing and posting recipes

MEGalomaniac said...

@ Sameer: Glad you took the time to read! Appreciate the encouragement!

@ Technofun: There is nothing like motivation and support. Thanks for yout feedback and positive remarks! Was wondering if I had bared a little too much!

Sangita Padiyar said...

This post reminded me of the restaurant review you'd written for our journo assignment in college. It was this 'lil place on Loafers Street, I think it was a Chinese dine in. From then till now, you are the same Meg. Your passion for food and writing blare aloud with each sentence.

Congratulations doll! Good luck with all else. Muah!

Cari said...

Wow girlfriend you are on quite the adventure! Interesting to see you are feeling more comfortable on the homey, boisterous, unpretentious side of the industry. I keep remembering the Amy vs. Cari philosophy of food and cooking and can't wait to see where you end up on the spectrum!!!