WEDNESDAY 3 MAY LITCHFIELD
John was to start work at 7.30am. His first task every morning would be to clean the toilets. The first step of this involved taking the lid off the cistern and removing all the little frogs that had congregated in there during the night. These were to be put into a bucket, walked down to the creek and released there. I wondered how many people had a job description that began in this way?
I started at 8am, in the kitchen.
We would get one day off each week, although it might be more, depending on how busy they were, and who else was around to work. We were to enter our start and finish times each day in a record book. Broadly, we were to work until 5pm, with a half hour off for lunch. But finishing times might vary, depending on what needed to be done. All fine by us.
Under the instruction of Boss 1, I had a day of much learning – and of making notes in a little pocket notebook. There was a lot to take in all at once, about making the cafe’s salads, and the short order cooking to be done each day.
The business of the cafe was two-fold. Firstly, there was catering of lunches by prior arrangements with several bus companies. A number of these brought day trip tourists out from Darwin to the Park, and brought their clientele here for lunch as part of the deal. The regular ones phoned through, about 8.30am, with their numbers for that day’s lunch. The catering was then set up accordingly, in the bus group lunch area outside, which was delineated from the general public’s eating area by a thick rope barrier. Occasionally, there were other bus groups too – part of extended coach tours.
The bus groups lunches consisted of cold meats and salads, bread and butter, sliced watermelon. Sometimes, by special arrangement, a BBQ lunch would be cooked for a large tour group. to replace the cold meats. There was a BBQ structure built outside, for these.
The other main business was short-order meals – mostly lunches – for independent travellers. Numbers here were unpredictable, of course. The menu featured a variety of burgers, sandwiches plain or toasted, quiches, poached barra and salad.
I was to quickly learn that there would always be some sort of sweet offering available, displayed in the chilled cabinet at the counter. More on that later.
Reflecting the above division of trade, as mentioned, there were separate dining areas. The general public could choose tables inside the cafe, out on the veranda, or out on the lawns at the front. The bus group dining area was on the creek side of the cafe. Some of it was roofed. The buffet meals of meats and salads, and sliced watermelon, were set out on counters under the roofed part. Coffee and tea were served for them out there too. The dishes were washed in a sink area out there, thus kept separate from the dishes generated by the cafe trade and the cooking – for which I was grateful!
If bus people wanted to purchase dessert offerings, wines or soft drinks, they had to line up in the cafe, like anyone else.
The business also ran a small tented accommodation facility, and guests staying there could purchase breakfast and dinner, if required, as could the general public. Some trade in these meals came from the caravan park and campground that was next door. The breakfast and dinner trade was fairly small.
I was to do breakfasts, if needed after opening at 8am. But whichever boss was on duty would do dinners. That suited me fine. I had enough to learn without getting on top of those menu offerings too!
Basically my role would be preparing the food for the bus group lunches, in advance, and doing the cooking of the short order lunches. If it was really busy, the duty boss would help with that.
The cafe made a feature of its coffee – made and served in plungers, and iced coffee. They also served milkshakes and iced chocolate. The coffee beans were specially sourced in Darwin and ground in the cafe as needed. B would help with making drinks if we were busy.
Another special feature of the cafe offerings was their mango cheesecake, which was apparently recently favourably mentioned in a Lonely Planet guide book. Making that would be another of my jobs!
It was probably no wonder that my brain was rather reeling at the end of this day!
John learned about the garden and lawn watering he was to do, daily. A special project, to start with, was to help Boss 1 build a structure by the entrance gate that would be a little gallery to show local aboriginal art works, and maybe have one or two local artists working in there. The bosses seemed to have various close links to local aboriginal communities.
There was another staff member – a lady who helped part time with washing up, cleaning and the like. She was the wife of the teacher at the local aboriginal community school, a few kms away.
I tentatively sounded out Boss 1 about whether there might be work for friend M, but he could not see a role for her – as yet. Maybe when the season really heated up?
Boss 2 returned from Darwin, we met him and completed some paperwork for him.
I had made us sandwiches in the cafe, for lunch, but again cooked our tea at the van, from my own stocks.