Andy Harmer, chef at QT Melbourne's Pascale Bar & Grill, was 16 when he left home to work at the Imperial Hotel in Devon, England in 1996. On day one he was given a five-kilogram bag of shallots to peel.
"I cried my eyes out for an hour but as I did it, I realised how the layers work, how the root holds it together," he says.
Next, he had to cut them. "That meant more tears, stabbing myself a few times and another hour," he says.
"When I finished, I showed chef proudly. He put them straight in the stock pot. Clearly they weren't good enough."
The next five kilograms – and every onion since – has been spot on.
See his step-by-step guide in the gallery above.