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What Was Your MMM (Most Mortifying Moment) as a Cook/Chef When Cooking For Guests?

My MMM occurred when my fiance's friends came to visit all the way from Alaska. All they had heard from my fiance was what a fantastic chef/cook I was and he couldn't wait for me to cook for them. A little background...my husband was living in an antebellum estate where the home had partially burned. He lived there as a favor to the owners, who were friends of the family. They made one section of the house into a make-shift apartment for him (so he could live on-site and guard precious family heirlooms) and furnished him with an ancient stove. It was a cold night, so I made a beef stew. I didn't realize that one eye of the stove had one setting...HIGH. Long story short, in the midst of our "visiting" with friends, I didn't notice that when I turned the eye down to simmer and left the room, that it stayed on High. The entire pot started burning, setting off smoke alarms, and we had to throw away a piece of my fiance's expensive cookware! We ended up ordered out for pizza. I've since then redeemed myself many times over, but I was truly mortified that I didn't live up to the expectations my fiance (now husband) had set.

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  1. Being asked to make seafood crepes, when crepes were something not in my repertoire. After having provided the list of ingredients to make the crepe batter, to arrive in the kitchen to come face to face with… a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix. Because as they reasoned, pancakes, crepes, same concept and the box was premixed and cheaper than buying individual components.

    Oh - and no nonstick cookware of any type.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wattacetti

      Oh, my, I bet those were sweeet! Nothing like sugary pancakes with seafood filling.

    2. When I had the whole family over for grill-roasted leg of lamb, and while it was resting, my recently-adopted German Shepherd (who, as it turns out, was clearly a coyote or dingo in a previous life) grabbed it off the platter and ran for the back door. I ended up in the middle of the group wrestling this evil cow for the roast. I won, but she'd gotten a big chunk chewed off, which somehow I managed to also pry out of her mouth and threw it away (she was NOT gonna win that one). Had to rinse the lamb off and regrill it for a while to "cauterize" and I had to also cut around the big old bite mark. She did the same thing with half a meatloaf about a year later- in front of the same crowd.

      She turned out to be the best dog we ever had, but she never did stop stealing food, she was totally shameless about it. I have so many stories about her food-stealing. And she was big and had really long legs so we couldn't safely keep ANYTHING edible on the counter. I should have named her Dammit.

      7 Replies
      1. re: EWSflash

        a few years back my daughter had her about to be 16 year old friend visit who had just lost her mom to cancer. I really wanted to make something nice for her birthday and made her a birthday cake in the shape of a huge heart which I then spent ages frosting and decorating while the teens were out shopping.

        I put the decorated cake on the island in my kitchen and went to make some calls. A few minutes later I heard a bang and found our German shepherd pup who was now about 9 months old had managed to reach the cake and slide it down. I found both dogs standing in the ruins of cake having themselves quite a feast.

        1. re: smartie

          Another dog-related incident. We always have a party for New Year's Eve and I always make a big spread. I was about to put two pizzas in the oven but the doorbell rang so I left them on the kitchen table. When my friend and I walked in, the toppings were gone from half of each pizza (the half closest to the edge of the table) and a very guilty-looking dog was hiding under the table. Luckily, she didn't get sick -- and I was able to make some back-up food.

          1. re: piccola

            We had a dinner party. The guests were "city people" and thought coming to the suburbs for dinner was a step beneath them. We had a lovely dinner. We went into the living room to talk while my husband assembled the crepes suzette for dessert. He put the dessert on the table and then called us in to eat. We walked in and our dog was sitting at the table working his way through the plates. The guests took it well, they had two dogs.

        2. re: EWSflash

          Yup, mine relates to my beloved black labrador, Harvey. Being a typical greedy lab he felt quite taken aback that he wasn't invited to join the table for our dinner party. So he just decided to jump up on the dining table and help himself. I just about died with embarrassment, but thankfully my guests were well aquainted with joys of dogs themselves and were able to laugh it off. He was lucky he was so beautiful and charming. I would give happily give up functional dinner parties to have him back in my life.

          1. re: EWSflash

            I always joke that I should rename my dog Hoover, given the way he sucks down any and all food.

            1. re: Terrieltr

              that's a running joke around our house, too.

              1. re: Terrieltr

                Someone I worked with had a dog named Dustbuster. Their floors were spotless.

            2. Discovering that I was carving a turkey that was not fully cooked. It had to go back in the oven after I started attempting to serve T-day dinner. Learned to use instant read thermometers after that.

              1. I was making dinner for my boyfriends' family--beef stroganoff--and the pan slipped and I dumped it on the floor. It was all I had for dinner so I quietly scrapped it up and served it....I wonder if that was why we eventually split up. (I was alone in the ktichen so no one else saw it.)

                1. I had relocated after a divorce and was living in a modest apartment (which was cozy if we are being kind).

                  A fellow who had become a close friend had his best friend visiting. The best friend was a pretty well known chef, very well known within the South. My friend had convinced me to host dinner for them. I was still at that stage of cooking where sometimes your meal has courses 'cos your timing is less than perfect.

                  My apps were well received and the liqueur and conversation were both smooth and flowing. Salad had been enjoyed. We were seated at my dining room table which was in full view of the oven 3 feet away.

                  I had plated the sides and went to remove the fish from under the broiler. The rack stuck. And stuck. Then it became unstuck - resulting in the fish flying off the pan and onto the open oven door.

                  I was mortified. And stunned. And frozen with no idea what to do.

                  The chef kept talking, slipped out of his chair and picked up the spatula. He deftly lifted the (perfectly prepared) fish from the oven door, placed it on a platter and tried a bite. Gave me an enormous smile, finished the plating and brought the plates to the table.

                  He pulled out my chair, had me sit down and poured everyone more wine.
                  Then he said " 5 second rule!" gave a grin and a wink and started eating.

                  6 Replies
                    1. re: AnneMarieDear

                      +1! of course now i'm dying to know the identity of that charming & gracious well-known Southern chef...

                    2. re: meatn3

                      Good for the chef. Now THAT is a sign of someone with class.

                        1. re: meatn3

                          Great story! Made me smile and laugh out loud, thank you!

                          1. re: meatn3

                            That is an awesome story! what a great guy!!

                          2. We were hosting a "heavy appetizer" Christmas party for about 15 people and I was doing all the cooking. I was quite occupied with crab cakes at the stove and didn't notice the 20+ year old toaster oven catch fire after failing to shut off after the "medium" setting. A guest who happened to be in the kitchen at the time very calmly but playfully started throwing flour onto the toaster oven to put it out. I didn't get to serve any bruschetta...

                            1. [knocks wood] i've somehow managed to escape true disaster or mortification in front of guests all these years...but the fear that it will happen one day is alive & well in my subconscious, as evidenced by the recurring nightmares i have about it!

                              no joke - at least once every couple of weeks in my dreams i fail spectacularly in the kitchen in front of someone impressive or important...last Tuesday it was a dinner party at which Gordon Ramsay, Ming Tsai, and Stephen Starr were among the guests. yikes.

                              1. Thanksgiving dinner for my mother and brother, back when I was in my twenties. I had a miniscule kitchen--tiny oven, 18 by 12 inch counter space, shallow sink. I bought the smallest bird I could find, and was assured by the butcher that it was fresh, not frozen. Full dinner out of that tiny oven was a real trick, and when we were ready to eat, we discovered that about an inch deep the turkey was utterly frozen and raw. I did get a refund, but we had a vegetarian meal that year. Not happy.

                                1. Eighteen year old male. Cooking for Mom, aunts, and other matrons.

                                  What the hell is a meat thermometer?

                                  Came out pretty rare, and it turned out that everyone at the table liked it well done.

                                  Carved it to steaks and stuck them under the broiler.

                                  Lesson: Meat thermometer.
                                  Lesson: So many beef leftovers that I diced up some taters and learned to make hash.
                                  Lesson: Aunt loves you so much she buys you a Magnalite roaster.

                                  1. I'd been married (and cooking) only a month or two and my husband was so encouraging of my fledgling efforts that we started having weekly dinner parties in our apartment. The tiny kitchen was in full view of dining table and guests. I was trying Julia's Fish Fliets Poached in White WIne from Mastering 1, and the instructions said to fold the filets up in triangles, pour in cold wine to barely cover, and bring almost to a simmer on top of the stove (mine was electric) before placing in the oven to poach for 8 -12 minutes. OK; not too difficult. I'd turned my back on the stove to slice up french bread when with a tremendous crack my cooking pan shattered, flinging fish and wine all over the stove top and floor. My novice self hadn't realized that "fireproof baking and serving dish" did NOT mean a glass Pyrex pan which was then set onto of an electric burner!

                                    Conversation stopped completely and everyone stared at me so I couldn't even scoop up the filets, rinse them off of any glass shards, and start over! We had steamed rice, green beans, and lots of bread for dinner. Plenty of wine helped!

                                    The other part I remember so well is that my kitchen had an unpleasant fishy smell for weeks afterwards and I kept finding pieces of (very old) filets of sole in various places around the kitchen.

                                    It brings a smile to my face now to remember what a kitchen innocent I was in those days.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Haha! I haven't thought about this for years. Thanks fir the memory poke!

                                      When my husband and I were first dating, he was really looking forward to the night I'd cook dinner for him. We'd talked about cooking a lot and I'd recently done the food for a major event at my showroom, so he had some high expectations. I was making a nice fool-proof (HA) pot if slow-cooked red sauce and, well, we got ... umm ... distracted during all the downtime. After a while, the smell of the sauce in the final phases of irreversible ruin made us finally come up for air.

                                      Even with all we did to try fixing it, that sauce was a wreck, but we both ate it with grins from ear to ear.

                                      1. I had a few of my friends over for dinner and the wine was flowing... I completely forget about the escargot's I put in the oven until a cloud of smoke came rolling into the liviing room. I quickly ran into the kitchen open the oven up and pulled out the offenders. They were all smokey and hot and popping like popcorn leaving grease marks all over my kitchen walls. My friends, thinking they were being helpful, opened the door of my condo and all the smoke got sucked out into the hallway and then the firealarms for the building go off! Fireman showed up and put out the "fire". They then suggested that if I had wanted to invite them over for dinner I should have just called them! truly a mortifying experience.

                                        one good out come was that I got to redecorate my kitchen.

                                        1. I was hosting a Halloween party where I planned to propose to my girlfriend in front of all of our friends and even her parents. Luckily, a lot of the food was going to be catered by Sonny's Barbecue (big in Florida), but I was making some vegetarian-friendly dolmades too, my first-ever attempt. They turned out to be extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive, as it took hours to unroll, stuff, and wrap the grape leaves perfectly.

                                          Anyway, I put them in the oven in a big Pyrex baking dish, started to vacuum my apartment, and then I heard an explosion. The Pyrex shattered in the oven, creating a literal hot mess of rice and grape leaves and olive oil and lemon juice and jagged shards of glass. You wouldn't believe the profanity that followed! But luckily, I cleaned everything up without injury, the catered food was delivered on schedule that evening, the proposal was successful, and the party was legendary.

                                          1. I served the appetizer -- **served** it -- with a hair in it. (One of mine)

                                            One of the guests spotted it and pulled it out at the table. I was speechless with embarrassment.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: AverageJo

                                              Oh, no. I have long red hair and I'm TERRIFIED of that happening! It would be obvious where it came from and they might have to pull for a while... seriously freaks me out. I feel for you.

                                              1. re: elysabeth

                                                AND one of the guests was pregnant and feeling queasy...I was amazed the hair didn't push her over the edge, so to speak.

                                              2. re: AverageJo

                                                could have been worse, you might have had to explain who's hair it had been if it wasn't yours.

                                              3. When i was a grad student, many years ago, the house I shared with four friends had a tradition of Sunday dinner with guests. One particular Sunday, it was my turn. i can't recall either the meal or the guests but I believe it was a fine meal with good conversation. What I do recall was the convivial post dinner conversation being interrupted by a crash. In the sink, two mice were swimming in the dish water having fallen from a precariously balanced box of spaghetti, into the sink. Mortified was indeed the perfect word.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: gourmaniac

                                                  I lived in an apartment with really huge gross waterbugs. I was making a dinner for friends and I put on an oven mitt felt something and screamed - out flew a waterbug. Gross, really gross.

                                                  1. re: pitagirl

                                                    Eeeuuuw, I just looked up "waterbugs" on the internet and I can see why you screamed! I'm looking at my oven-mitts with a whole new caution! ;-)

                                                    1. re: pitagirl

                                                      ha, waterbug. such a genteel woman you are.

                                                      oh cucaracha, la cucaracha.....

                                                      made me remember my own MMM. Friends were sitting around the table, I was ready to serve, and I pulled down the hot pad that hung on the wall to put the pot of spaghetti on. 4 friends just stared as about 5 or 6 rather small cockroaches scampered away from where they had been hiding behind the hot pad.

                                                  2. I made gefilte fish for my then-boyfriends friends and family for Passover… well not just the gefilte fish, I made EVERYTHING, roasted the lamb bone, home made charoset… followed all the rules in the book for the cleaning… (I’m a shiksa, from what did I know about any of this?)

                                                    Well, I’ll tell you what I didn’t know… that gefilte fish is supposed to be eaten cold, that’s what I didn’t know!

                                                    I was so proud of myself, that I made HOME MADE gefilte fish, and then I served it steaming hot in broth and everyone looked at me like “???” so I announced “I made gefilte fish from scratch” and they all burst out laughing and my boyfriend explained that it’s meant to be eaten cold, with the broth jellied…

                                                    Man… that was embarrassing!!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: cgarner

                                                      I have had, "I'm sorry" moments. That's what happens when you look at cooking as experiments. Especially if you've been drinking too much. (I'm not the only one here!)

                                                      I've made some awesome stuff. For great MEALS, I have to conscript family members, and tell them what to do, for my recipes, or let them do their own recipes. When they do their own recipes, I just back away. They suck up to me for tools they need. "Oh you want my instruments? Okay, but I'm not cleaning them, you have to clean up your mess."

                                                      Cooking is FUN.

                                                    2. I've mostly dodged the MMM bullet but I do have a habit of being a little concrete when I read instructions. The first time I ever made a friend's lemon pavlova recipe, I interpreted "form the meringue into a ring" a bit too literally, even though I'd eaten this dessert at her place more than once and should have known better. Results: a circle of meringue with lemon curd in the middle and no way to serve it at all elegantly. Hello, ice cream bowls. Luckily, it still tasted fantastic but zero points for plating.

                                                      1. I made bechemel sauce with powdered sugar and not flour and was too stupid to taste it.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                                          That might have been a nice sauce for some bitter chocolate dessert.

                                                        2. The "tuna bath" incident. I was cooking for my former ILs, making vitello tonnato, only with chicken because that was what we could afford. As I was pureeing the sauce, the blender jammed, so i stuck a fork in there, forgetting that the motor was on. The thing started grinding up the fork, spewing tuna all over the cabinets, counters, floor and me. I had to wash my hair with Dawn dishwashing liquid to get the oil-packed tuna smell out.

                                                          I also roasted a chicken upside down with the bag of offal still in it for a colleague of my husband's; served a different colleague who was Muslim sausages made with a pork casing; and served a recovering alcoholic neighbor my mother's boozy pecan pie.

                                                          But no one has died (or gone back to drinking), and once in a while, I make a good meal.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                            I served chocolate cherry bourbon balls for Christmas at our house one time and my BIL is an active AA-meeting-goer... Oh I was so embarrassed,... he took one bite and spit the thing out into a napkin. (they're REALLY boozy, nothing gets cooked off)

                                                            Oh, and breaking religous food rules!

                                                            Jewish boyfriends house... he kept what I would call "conveniently kosher" (meaning that he didn't follow all Kosher rules ALL the time, just when it was convenient for him)

                                                            His Dad and siblings flew in from Israel to visit and my mother was helping me cook Thanksgiving dinner for the large family...the boyfriend had two sets of everything, which completely confused my mother... then out of the corner of my eye, I saw her taking butter out of the fridge and adding it to stuffing for the turkey

                                                            I never told a soul... and told my Mom to keep her trap shut and quit cross-contaminating the meat stuff with dairy stuff

                                                            (am I going burn in Hell for that?)

                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                              bless you Isolda, I needed that laugh this morning!

                                                            2. Hi! New here! This is a fun thread, I had to join in. I had friends over & was chatting away with them in the kitchen while making fresh cranberry sauce. After simmering everything, I wanted to pulse it up in the food processor to make some of the fruit bits a little smaller. I forgot to place the white food-pusher piece in the top of my Cuisinart. I hit "pulse" & a stream of hot cranberry sauce shot out straight up & hit the ceiling. How embarrassing, and it left a nice stain on the ceiling! We all had a good laugh.

                                                              1. This might not fit the rules because I was serving, not the cook, but it's far more embarrassing than anything else I've done. Sorry, it's long for full embarrassing effect. I worked for a hotel as a banquet server when I was in high school, and in the summer we had weddings booked nearly every weekend. We carried the plates out on large serving trays on our shoulders, a table at a time. I had been working there a few years and on this night I was responsible for serving the newlyweds' in-laws and close family, who were seated directly in front of the head table in the middle of the hall.

                                                                I had built up enough experience and muscle by that time to carry up to 12 dinners, stacked 3 layers high with plate covers on a serving tray. We were serving prime rib, which was a very heavy plate, and the seating arrangement had 10 guests at the family table instead of the usual 8. I carefully loaded my tray of 10 prime rib dinners. It was very heavy but manageable and I had done it many times before, so I set out into the room to serve the honoured guests behind the head table server.

                                                                Just as I was passing the family table on the way to set my tray down, an inebriated woman who was chatting and laughing with her partner and hurrying back to the bar didn't notice me coming out with a full tray of dinners. I said "excuse me," very loudly but politely to get her attention, but I must have been invisible! I had to move quickly to avoid her running right into me. I missed her, but I felt a lone plate fly off the top of the tray and watched, horrified, as it hit the Father of the Bride in the shoulder and spilled hot prime rib and gravy all over the back of his tuxedo jacket!

                                                                As soon as I got the tray down I ran back to the table, apologizing and asked him if he was alright. He was standing to remove his jacket and I knelt down to pick up the fallen plate, and he said angrily, "I'm ok, but your knees are a good place for you to be right now," and everyone started laughing hysterically! I turned beet red, still apologizing over and over, and wanted to die.

                                                                I sent one of the other servers running for my manager. Luckily a few of the guests who had seen me nearly knocked over by the drunk woman explained what happened to the manager and Father of the Bride. He was very understanding, declined her offer to pay his dry cleaning costs, apologized for the rude guest and at the end of the night he even made sure I personally received a large tip for my service. I'm still indebted to that man for handling the situation so graciously.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. Last year, I hosted Christmas dinner for my French-Canadian soon-to-be father-in-law. Brought up in a Jewish household, I had still attended a few Christmas dinners before, so I figured I wouldn't be completely lost. Still, he comes from a traditional, rural background, and has eaten pretty much exactly the same meal on December 24th for about the last 50 or so years. He's a great guy, and has done a lot for myself and my fiancée, so I tried my best to emulate what he likes (and is used to).

                                                                  Dishes served:
                                                                  Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and double smoked bacon
                                                                  Roasted acorn squash with wild rice stuffing
                                                                  Turkey and stuffing

                                                                  First mistake: the bacon I got wasn't smoked. It wasn't double smoked. It was QUADRUPLE smoked. A sliver of it was delicious. The quarter pound of the slab that I cut completely overwhelmed everything else in the dish, to the point that it was left pretty much untouched - and I love just about anything smoked, so this is saying something.

                                                                  After that, the wild rice/acorn squash, instead of being steamy, savoury, and, more to the point, at least somewhat cohesive, was so dry that when the squash was cut open, the rice spilled across the plate like sand.

                                                                  The meatballs were a cherished recipe from my own childhood, in a lemony tomato sauce, that my mom usually made around Passover. However, he's had the same "Ragoût de boulettes" for the last half-century. In the end, though, this was one of the few success stories of the meal; once he got over the two surprises ("There's tomato in this!" and "It's not pork!"), he really enjoyed them.

                                                                  The turkey, stuffing and tourtiere (meat pie) were all provided by the in-laws, mainly because we don't have a big enough oven. No problems there.

                                                                  However, the crowning failure of the evening: in all the confusion, running around, and checking on everything cooking, I completely forgot to make the mashed potatoes, which he (half) jokingly told me was unforgivable where he grew up.

                                                                  I'm able to look back on all this and laugh, but that was one tense Christmas dinner...

                                                                  Screw it all, next time, we're doing hannukah. Latkes, donuts and the like are so much easier.