Fig & Olive – The SRP

Fig & Olive
151 Upper Street
London, N1 1RA

Pretty classic Sunday Roast as far as the menu items go: veg, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, meat. Everything was nearly perfectly seasoned though, which is becoming a joy to experience here in the UK where so much food is under-seasoned. I had the beef roast, which was just a little too rare, but the Yorshire pudding was one of the best I’ve had to date – it was fresh, crispy, and flavorful. The gravy was pretty fantastic, too; I wish there had been more on the plate! It was thickened by cornstarch, I’m sure, but just enough to give it body without turning it into some nasty brown gel. And since it was a beautiful autumn day, we also decided to order a Pimms cup!

We’ve eaten dinner here before (it’s very close to our home) and were very happy with their offerings; the portions were generous, prices low, and the food was delicious. For Sunday Roast, the portions weren’t so big, but still a very good deal. The price for each roast was by far the cheapest we’ve had yet, even without a voucher or other discount.

I’ll definitely eat here again, but maybe not for Sunday Roast unless I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to go too far from home. There are just so many other places to try in London!

My current employment situation

Since I left O* back in August, my work life has been much more enjoyable. I’ve got a lot of leads going on:

  • M*: A catering company about 10 minutes away from where I live
  • CC*: A placement agency for chefs
  • AC*: A high-end cooking school offering classes to the public as well as corporate events
  • Private dining events, partnering with a former colleague from O*
  • BA*: Another placement agency for chefs
  • OA*: A major arena with a VIP lounge

That’s a lot of stuff going on! As always, the names of the employers/businesses aren’t to prevent people from guessing where I work, it’s just so that my postings don’t get picked up by any automated search bots.

I walked past this place shortly after arriving in London. I sent my resume in and they called me back one day after I accepted the position at O*. So when I quit O*, this catering company was at the top of my list. Since then, I’ve done a work-trial there that went well and we’re working on a baking cooking class modeled on The Great British Bake Off.

I was introduced to this placement agency through the catering company, M*. Met with the owner, got on her staff list, and have gone out on two jobs, both of which I enjoyed. The first job was quite notable, I was sent out to Lords Cricket Grounds for one of their cricket test matches. While it’s a stadium, about the size of a soccer field, the entire day was a study in British culture. I didn’t spend time flipping burgers, I spent time plating desserts for lunch and getting together Afternoon Tea. Quite different from your low-class cuisine at American stadiums for sure! I am looking forward to more work through CC*.

This business is a high-end cooking school, a franchise of a very successful French cooking school. I met them through M* as well. I’ve done a couple classes with them now, and it’s a natural fit. The clientele is very familiar given how many cooking classes I’ve done in my time. And the pay is really good, nearly double what I was making at O*, with half the drama and triple the enjoyment.

Private dining
Nothing yet on this front, but paired with a fellow chef, also from the ridiculously popular O*, how can we go wrong? We’re still in the development phase on this one: Marketing, planning, networking. Our next major step will be to register as a duo with the various London websites like KitchenSurfing back in the US. Margins for this type of work might not be stellar, but as an occasional thing, this would be a fun way to really try my hand as an independent pastry chef. Kinda like the chef’s version of a garage band!

My chef buddy and I contacted this other placement agency together. It’s more of a turn-and-burn chop-shop with a lower bar for talent than CC*, but they do have consistent work. With these guys, I could be working 100+ hours per week (which some chefs do this time of year), but I’m not going to! Plus, so far, they seem to have a hard time finding me exclusively pastry work; each contract seems to be about 30% pastry, 70% catering production which I HATE.

One of the jobs my buddy and I found through BA*: This is a major, world-renowned arena where all the top acts perform while they’re in London. Our specific contact here runs the VIP lounge. Again, not so much pastry work there for me yet, but I do like the team of chefs in place, which makes the savory prep mostly tolerable for me. Work is always so much easier when you’re hanging out with fun people.

With all these opportunities going on, I could probably work seven days a week if I wanted/needed to. But all these contacts actually afford me one of the things I was missing most at O*: Schedule control and flexibility. I absolutely control my work availability and don’t work when I don’t want to; I can book any vacation, at any time! And, interestingly, I’m actually making more money doing this sort of work than I was at O*, hour for hour.

So I’m back. I’m in control, enjoying the opportunities I’ve got, meeting a lot of other professionals, networking, learning (I did two new things today, I’ve never done before: Used carrageenan as a stabilizer for a mousse and used this automatic funnel to portion custard), and making some money. I can’t imagine I’d want to stay on this track for the entire time I’m in London, but working this way is going to open a lot more doors than working in one single place.

London is a trashy town

Garbage in London

London is not a clean city, even Londoners would say this. I usually take this sort of declaration with a grain of salt. But now that I’ve lived here, I can see why they say this, and I agree.

On a cursory examination of the streets and sidewalks, it seems that everyone here litters whenever and wherever possible. While this is true for the smokers in the city (they just don’t seem to have any respect for their home), in general it’s not as if people here are littering like it’s 1974. I think the big problem comes primarily in how they dispose of their garbage. London garbage in all its aspects has been quite an eye-opener for me, coming from Seattle where recycling is a religion and excommunication comes swiftly if you don’t separate your compost.

Britishers love to point out to Americans that they invented English and it’s called “English” not “American”. Fine. I would argue then that the words “reduce”, “reuse”, and “recycle” must be German or French or Italian, because these words just don’t seem to exist in the local London vocabulary. Even the most staunch gun-toting American conservative who loves Big Oil and would be ok chopping down redwood trees to cook their spotted owl or blue whale might actually be appalled by common practice here regarding garbage and recycling.

It doesn’t happen here, and rarely is even lip-service paid towards the idea of recycling. Sure, even at home once in a great while I’ll fess up that I have not recycled a can or bottle. But here in London, very little effort is made to do the right thing. Glass, metal, cardboard, wood, food; all into the same garbage can. No sorting whatsoever!

Americans are often (correctly so, I believe) critized for over-packaging consumer goods. However, these critics have clearly never worked in a London restaurant. Here in London, ingredients arrive in the restaurant in some of the most over-done packaging solutions I’ve seen in the industry. We’re talking, for example, salmon that shows up on ice in bags, packed into clean new Styrofoam (!), cradled with actual wooden crates. And once the salmon is removed, all the packaging ends up in the garbage! Not even washed out and reused by the restaurant much less given back to the vendor. Think of how much money could be saved by just the vendor and the restaurant by giving these things back? And this is just one example. Some produce shows up in large cases like in Seattle, but in London much of it arrives in the same sort of retail-sized packaging you’d find at a retail grocery store. For a restaurant going through tons of raspberries a day (for example) that’s a lot of excess packaging and garbage.

Check out the pic above. This is how all the garbage is collected here. There are no dumpsters at all in the entire city that I’ve ever seen. All generated garbage goes into plastic bags and gets tossed curb-side for pickup. No alleyways, no receptacles, no animal-proof solutions. And I believe this is what ultimately causes London to look like it’s populated solely by litterbugs. Animals can easily get into these weak plastic bags, tear them apart, and strew all the garbage and food waste throughout the street. When you’re walking along and see a random food wrapper in the gutter, it’s more likely because of poor garbage collection than someone tossing it out a car window.

So, what’s up London? You know it doesn’t have to be this way, right? We’ve solved this problem already and the solution awaits!

Pate au choux


2 parts Liquid
1 part Butter
2 parts Flour
1 part Eggs

1. Boil liquid, butter, salt. Add flour, stir over heat.

2. Remove from heat and beat in eggs in three additions.



1 parts Egg whites
1.5 parts Sugar
Vanilla extract

1. Whip whites to soft peaks. Slowly drizzle in sugar. Whip to stiff peaks.

1. Combine whites and sugar, whip over a bain to 120F. Remove from heat and whip until cool.

1. Moisten sugar with water, cook to 240F. Whip whites to soft peaks, drizzle in syrup and whip until cool.