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The worst thing, bar none, that you ever did or that ever happened to you in a kitchen"

I have a friend in the culinary business who spent three days making, reducing and clarifying a shellfish stock as well as a veal stock. When the time came to use it, he dumped the shellfish stock into the recipe for the veal, and vice versa. He left the line - and the restaurant - out of pure fear. Myself, I was cooking for a private party, and one thing I'd learned without fail is to turn the oven ON when you get into the kitchen. Which I did do, but did not check inside first. Man of the house was an airline pilot who bought much liquor and wine duty free. Guess where they stored it? In the oven that nobody ever used. The explosions and fires started not long after. There was nothing to do for it but use a chemical extinguisher and start picking glass out of....everything. Their gourmet dinner that evening was Thai takeout. What's your horrendous story?

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  1. I was making a soup that featured shrimp for a large family gathering a few days before Christmas. This must have been around 1991. Anyway, I was running late as I peeled the shrimp. The guests were to arrive at any moment. In my haste I accidentally tossed the peeled shrimp into the trash instead of the shrimp scraps. As I prepared to add the shrimp to the pot, I realized my mistake. I mentioned my awful situation to a cousin who was hanging around in the kitchen. About that time my grandparents rang the doorbell. My cousin said, "Quick, dig the shrimp out of the trashcan and put them in the soup! Nobody will know!"

    That is exactly what I did, and nobody DID know, although my grandparents, pretty shrewd observers of their fellow human beings, asked if everything was alright when they entered the kitchen. I suspect we were unable to conceal our guilt entirely.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Perilagu Khan

      Classic. That's the kind of situation where you just "kiss the food up to G-d" and hope for the best. I bet the soup tasted good, though.

      1. re: mamachef

        Nobody complained.

        But the entire family went down with botulism. ;)

        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          ha! :)

          we once had to send about 30 holiday guests to the hospital to get tested for Hepatitis A when we found out that our housekeeper who had set the table and handled everyone's dishes, drinkware, and cutlery was infected...fortunately everyone was fine.

            1. re: Perilagu Khan

              that's why *i* personally choose to do it all myself ;)

      2. re: Perilagu Khan

        This experience doesn't contain any pain, food poisoning or fire, but...

        not too long ago, I went to grab for a box of Quaker's quick-cooking grits kept in a cabinet up above the microwave (which is above my range) and yes, I dropped it. Grits and grits dust everywhere you can possible imagine. This is stuff nightmare's are made of. Luckily, I have a partner who calmed me down and cleaned up most of it for me while I stood there in shock (and grits).

        1. re: ttoommyy

          i've got a better one for you...potato starch. ugh.

      3. My second worst, and I still get cold chills when I think about it, was when I was brand, spankin' new on the line, like my 2nd day at my first in-house job. I was in the habit of stashing a lighter, a couple of cigarettes, and a roll of certs in my (buttoned) jacket pocket so that I wouldn't have to make a mad dash upstairs first when the opportunity presented itself. Breaktime rolled around, and I headed out to the alley alongside the restaurant and grabbed for my smoking materials, which magically were not there. I went dashing back into the house and proceeded to tear my station apart looking for the missing items. Did NOT find them. Had no idea what to do. Proceeded with the night, cleaned up, broke it down and went home.
        The next day I showed up for my shift, and was met at the kitchen door by Chef, who was wearing a very grim expression and holding a pan of romaine that I'd prepped out the day before. He thrust it into my hands and told me to dig around. I knew what was coming. I knew what was in there. I pulled out a......nonworking lighter, two shredded smokes, and a roll of melty, decomposing certs.
        No words for this one. I just looked at him miserably and said, I'm soooooo.......I'm sooooooo.
        to which he said, yes, you're sooooooo witless. Didn't fire me. Let me go with a very stern warning. Everafter, I stored nothing in my jacket but air. I think this scenario would've turned out differently if something had actually gotten served. Thank goodness: small miracles.

        1. mamachef, you're in good company. check out the following thread (my first reply within it contains links to a bunch of others as well):

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/703594

          BTW, most cooks who have ever lived in a tiny NYC apartment with a barely-serviceable kitchen, have, at some point, turned on the oven forgetting to remove whatever (books, sweaters, shoes) they had stored in there. fortunately for me, it was just extra pans, and i remembered when i heard the loud *bang!* when one of the sheet trays began to warp from the heat ;)

          1. I suppose the worst thing you can do in your kitchen is what Hunter S. Thompson did.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              Is that where the venerable man, ah......"offed" himself? I'd have a real hard time getting past the association, if I had to cook in that kitchen I'm not sure I could. Kinda like buying a house where a mass murder occurred.
              Baby sister claims that the worst thing that ever happened in the kitchen was her walking into it with an eye towards doing some cookin'. Never happened; she broke down halfway through reading the recipe. They order out a lot. She scrambles many eggs and they make do.

              1. re: mamachef

                I just happen to live four houses down from a house where two sweet older people were brutally murdered by their son... the house actually sold six months later. I couldn't believe it.

            2. Worst thing that happened to me was trying to save a large Sicilian pizza that a novice coworker was pulling out of the oven. Instead of pulling the peel on the level with one hand supporting the handle near the pizza, he pulled it with both hands on the back of the handle. It twisted in his grip, the pizza started sliding, and I caught it, hot melty cheese side down on the inside of both forearms. The burns were nasty but healed with little scarring. Lessons learned: (1)Splatted pizza is much cheaper in the long run than ER charges, follow up, and lengthy down time. (2) If it's hot or pointy let it go and get out of the way.

              9 Replies
              1. re: morwen

                Word, Morwen!! "If it's hot or pointy let it go and get out of the way." Truer words never spoken.

                1. re: morwen

                  Mamachef, great story. Similar experience happened to me when I worked in the salad station of a supper club as the owner came back with one of my salads with an earring in it! I was ashamed. I forgot about my past restaurant stories. LOL.

                  From my home kitchen, I can remember in college in the 1980's when I didn't eat meat. At the time, there wasn't any mass-market style veggie Boca burgers available. So I was going to make lentil burgers en mass and freeze them.

                  You had to put batches of cooked lentils in the blender and it was such a time-consuming process of shutting the blender off, stirring, putting the top back on, hitting the power and so forth, that I decided to just carefully poke my wooden spoon into the blender with the top off while the motor was running. I had thought I was getting good at this when I stuck the wooden spoon too far into the blades and all hell broke loose.

                  Probably a two cups of the lentil mud/mess shot out of the blender and up into my face and long hair and up onto the ceiling and all over my kitchen cupboards.

                  I have NO idea how that splattered so badly. Needless to say, the lentil burgers were awful and didn't stay together. Sigh.

                  1. re: natewrites

                    There really is just something about a wooden spoon handle and blender-blades, isn't there? Creates an astounding mess. This brought to mind the one time my mom, the un-cook, tried a pressure cooker to do tomato sauce. This was in the old days. I remember hearing that whistle. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I ran out to find her poised at the kitchen entryway, looking at that pot, afraid to enter.
                    Next scene: Kaboom. Picture mom, for the next three months, using a toothpick to clean out the holes in her (for whatever reason) acoustic ceiling and the letters in the stove.....

                    1. re: natewrites

                      I did the same thing, only the implement was a knife and the food was tuna. Had to wash my hair several times to get the smell out. The cabinets stank for weeks in spite of thorough cleaning.

                    2. re: morwen

                      I bet that took the wind out of your sails.

                      1. re: morwen

                        A big amen to #2. Learned that the hard way with a saran wrap dispenser blade. Fortunately no scar, but it sucked.

                        1. re: morwen

                          saved a tray of bread in tins in a bakery when I was about 22 years old, they slid as I was taking them out of the oven and I caught the tray on the inside of my right arm!! Still have the scar too 30 years later.

                          1. re: morwen

                            not a cooking catastrophe per se, but in college i was heating up some hot water for tea in my microwave. put tea bag in, then nuked to release the tea. pulling it out, i dropped the cup on my foot... which was in a sock... which pulled the hot water right in. the skin was charred off my foot. took 3-4 months to heal, during which time i would send my mother pictures via email. they were horrendous, and she eventually said, "stop. i can't eat lunch." i did however run through the entire recovery, bandaging the foot really well. and shockingly, there's no scar... i don't know how i got so lucky. now, i am always wary of tea, with everyone, esp on a rickety shaky table.

                            1. re: Emme

                              owowowowow. Emme, i drink tea all day long, and i'm now going to think of you every time i even make a tiny splash when pouring...though i always use an electric kettle because i can't stand nuked water :)