A very special time

Words: Fergus Henderson   Photography by Steve Ryan

A very special time

Hours of entertainment


I used to work in the kitchen of a dodgy nightclub, under an old rogue called Charles Campbell. I learned a lot from his roguishness – but perhaps I should clarify that I looked on and learned what not to do (you will be relieved when you read of his tricks).
Charles would sit at his station preparing Boudin Blanc. There was probably too much of him to stand up for a whole shift and there was certainly much too much of him to risk falling over. This was a serious concern as, throughout service, he drank vodka out of the bottle like a cartoon. “Glug, glug, glug!” The chef’s nightly beer ration was too much for me, even without the bottle of Cossack Sword or Imperial Horse Pee on top.
“Chop up a field mushroom and throw it in – we’ll call it Boudin Blanc à Truffe!” “Undrinkable, eh? Throw it into the terrine, we’ll say it’s Jambon Persil à Chablis”. A seasoning disaster? “Fuck it! We’ll call it Sea Salt and Cucumber Soup”. All this while he used his old hankie to mop his board, his plates - and his brow. From the undrinkable to the unthinkable. But he kept us entertained for hours with stories of Elizabeth David. It was a very special time.