Well, calling myself a “chef” is a bit affected, if not down-right pretentious. I’ll rephrase that to “short order cook.” On a beach.
It happened like this. On Boxing Day I was at Smugglers Cove with the family. After a stint at boogie boarding, I started to roam around the beach and succumbed to a common writer’s affliction: people-watching and eavesdropping.
There are three bars set up on the beach. Most sell drinks and whip up BBQ jerk chicken, kabobs, rice & peas and burgers. Some also rent lounge chairs, boogie boards and kayaks.
One guy, Nigel, caught my attention. He seemed to go the extra mile. For example: when two kids ordered Cokes, he gave them each a huge glass of ice cubes, saying “Boomboom. Goes down smooth that way. Boomboomboom.” He also took the time to give a quick lesson to a young guy renting a kayak. “When wave comes—boomboom—lift the nose up high. Water goes under. Get in quick. Boomboomboom.” The guy got it right on the first try. Nigel smiled; his mini-lesson paid off.
Alas, as it was holiday, the woman who usually cooks and helps at the bar decided to go to the races. At one point Nigel was tending equipment rentals as well as serving drinks when a couple came over and ordered chicken burgers and grilled potatoes. He looked panic-stricken but said, “No problem. Boomboom.” But as soon as I saw him start to peel a potato with a knife the size of a machete I figured he was in trouble.
So, yours truly steps in and offers to peel potatoes.
“How many do you want,” says I. Looking at me hopefully, he says, “The whole bag?”
“No problem, but do you have, err, ahem, a smaller knife?” Mercifully, after rummaging around a bit, he found a paring knife and I hunkered down to do some serious peeling. Meanwhile, a man ordered three hamburgers. Nigel put them on the grill and started slicing tomatoes but got sidetracked so I started flipping burgers and casing the makeshift shelves for condiments.
Next thing I’m saying “And what would you like on those burgers, sir? Slice of cheese? Tomato and lettuce? Ketchup, mustard or mayo?” As I’m wrapping up the burgers a woman waltzes up and orders eight. No problem. “Boomboom,” says I with a grin.
Postscript: If you go to Tortola, be sure to spend some time at Smugglers Cove. And as soon as you hit the beach turn right and look for Nigel.
I’ll tell you more about Smugglers in the next post.
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