18. 1981 Things heat up in the kitchen … until the wind starts to blow

My desire to be a chef was still strong and I looked into apprenticeships within Air new Zealand, the Armed forces and private establishments. The domain of Professional Chefs was a male dominated space and there were very few female apprentices in New Zealand at that time. I was fortunate enough to get a job as a cook at the newly opened Cobb & Co Restaurant at the Masonic Hotel where I learnt many valuable lessons from Chef Rogan Thomas and some of the other senior staff in the establishment.

  • Choux pastry is supposed to go gluggy when you add the flour to he water & butter….its not “mucked up” its what it does
  • There is more than one method of making a bechamel (white) sauce – not all traditional but functional
  • It is hot in the kitchen – in Oh sooo many ways
  • If you burn the scrambled eggs – you clean the pot
  • Your rank in the kitchen is indicated by the height of your hat. Rogan had a tall hat, his sous chef had a shorter hat, the apprentices had caps and all the females had head scarves.
  • Males in the kitchen are known as Chefs – Females are known as Cooks
  • If it gets busy – roll your sleeves up and do whatever needs doing (Thanks Manager Kent for demonstrating this)
  • Ladies do not wear chefs uniforms – they wear smocks
  • Being part of a big kitchen brigade is like having a family – sometimes we fight but mostly we get on, make progress and have a bit of fun
  • Making the Cobb Schnitzels is a messy job – but they are awesome (and still on my menu at home)
  • I will not get either of the apprenticeships on offer because I might get pregnant before I finish – so boys got them both
  • Someone still has to peel the potatoes

I am really pleased to note that since 1980 some balance has come to kitchens of the world and there are many acclaimed female Chefs wearing Chefs uniforms and being treated as equals in their profession – sometimes I wish I had been born 20 years later.

These were the says of the infamous Springbok Tour to New Zealand that saw civil unrest, protests and rioting. We had players and police staying at the Masonic, and across the road at the Criterion Hotel, with security checks to get into work – even Dad had to clear security to pick me up from work late in the evenings. But it was exhilarating there were TV cameras, men in uniforms as well as nightly after work parties with teams, supporters and Red Squad police staff.

I was 18, I had a motorbike, I had money – life was AWESOME. I was living among it….. and I was cooking full-time in a big kitchen with a great team of people.

Rogan and Kent – the lessons you taught me both in and out of the kitchen were such that I have used them as examples of how to handle situations I find myself in…..and in my teaching and mentoring of others – Thank You both for the opportunities you gave me.

Ah but the wind was blowing once more and we all became restless. Mum and Dad moved to Papua New Guinea with my younger brothers and as my sister was already living in Melbourne – I became orphaned in Napier. Lost and alone …. I fell in love with the next fella who happened along….and off we went, a nomad again but this time I had a companion.



RIP Rogan. On May 31 2020 I was devastated to hear that Rogan had passed away. Rogan, I admired, trusted and respected you. The time spent in the kitchen with you has has had a profound influence on my career and life. Rest easy Chef.

6 thoughts on “18. 1981 Things heat up in the kitchen … until the wind starts to blow

  1. Hey love reading your stories, I worked as a full time waitress at Cobb and co in 1980 when it first opened, loved that job, I remember kent and rogan and mac the other chef..btw what was your name?


      1. Hi Janey, no my name was Suzy O’Neill, i was 19 in 1980…. I also worked at the Crown, with my friend Stasia Roach, in the winter of 1980, i think the bosses name was Maurie. I have been in Brisbane for 35 years, kids, grand kids..Wow time flies. I had so much fun back then though i do remember a lot of the people i worked with, Chippie, the bar manager, Jill, the restaurant manageress, Marie who was the house keeper, beautiful kind lady, i used to the breakfast shift, with a girl called Carolyn and Gail who was the head of the morning shift, sorry for the long delay in writing, i just happened to come across your blog…ahhhhh the good old days…lol..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow… Yes his name was Maurice Smith. One of the bartenders was Simon… He had a motorcycle and was very kind to me. The staff and customers had nicknamed me “split-pin” …. I was rather skinny back then. Oh. And I am in Brisbane now also.


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