Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Restaurant where I am the Maître d' and the Chef is my Unconscious

Jonathan Edwards performs "Restaurant where I am the Maître d' and the Chef is my Unconscious"

Jonathan says, "This poem is written from the point-of-view of one of those suave front-of-house guys in a fancy restaurant – the endlessly professional chap who takes your coat, sells you wine, asks about your day and so on. Meanwhile, in the case of this restaurant, there’s a chef out the back who’s an absolute nutcase, and the maître d’ tries very hard indeed to control him. This is the best way I’ve come up with to describe my endless battles with the silly process of writing poems. I was reading a lot of the wonderful American writer Thomas Lux a few years ago, and simultaneously watching a lot of Masterchef, and the unholy marriage of the two somehow gave rise to this strange beast."

Jonathan Edwards is an English teacher based in South Wales. Speaking about his time at Warwick, Jonathan said, "The most important thing for me was the Writing programme and the people in it. My time there, simply and wonderfully, gave me the vocation of writing poems, which has lived through the decade since university and will continue to do so. I will always remember the great positive encouragement of David Morley, Michael Hulse, the visiting writers and my fellow students of my early efforts, as like some poem-scrawled starter’s flag, it set me going. Workshops of being hypnotised with candles or having bubbles blown at my poems, banging on David’s door at nine o’clock on a Monday morning and getting him to read the opus I’d scrawled over the weekend, reading poems in a lift to bemused undergraduates as part of the experimental poetry project – my time at Warwick, very simply, gave me the great joyous gift of creativity, something which I will never forget."

Restaurant where I am the Maître d' and the Chef is my Unconscious

Jonathan Edwards

I put through an order for spaghetti aglio e olio.
He sends out a soup bowl full of blue emulsion.
A regular asks for lamb shank with rosemary.
Out comes a beetroot served with a corkscrew.
Someone I suspect of being a restaurant reviewer
orders the baked rum and chocolate pudding.
A mermaid rides a horse out of the kitchen.

He locks himself in there for days.
All I get are incoherent mumblings,
often in French. Some nights after closing time,
we sit down together with a glass or two,
get on famously, see eye-to-eye.
Next day he sits in a deck chair all through service,
wearing a paper hat and a tie-dyed surplice.

‘That’s it,’ I say, ‘I’m speaking to the owner.’
That night, he shakes me awake,
takes the lid off a serving dish:
an actual star he’s taken out of the sky
and put on a plate. I know it’s only a dream,
but next evening I’m bright and early at the restaurant,
shouting the orders, shaking the customers’ hands,

picking bits of gold out of my teeth.

Jonathan Edwards' first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014) won the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His poems have won prizes in competitions including the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, the Ledbury Festival International Poetry Competition and the Basil Bunting Award, and appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and The North. He works as a school teacher in South Wales.