Onion soup for vichyssoiseMost of the times great mistakes (and thus, stories) come from human error, or omission. What happened to a very dear friend of mine, though, was pure, plain, "Murphy's law" bad luck. Its a little long, but I think its worth a read - after all, like they said in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, the good story lies in the details.
My friend's name is Andrew. He was pretty young, around 25, when he got his first job at a restaurant, as a line cook. The hours were long, the pay not so great, but however tiring and demanding the job was, he really enjoyed it.
The one thing that he didn't enjoy in the line of work, was the Chef. He was one of those chefs that are convinced they are nothing less than a God in their kitchen. And while it is true that, like the captain of the ship, the Chef needs to pull rank more often than not to maintain the control in the kitchen and make sure everything is perfect - after all, good food is his sole responsibility - this guy was the rudest misanthrope of a man anyone could imagine. He would shout, and curse, and throw objects to all of his stuff for the slightest mistakes. But the one person he seemed to dislike most of all was the young, inexperienced Andrew.
One day, a really important guest came to the restaurant: one of the Chef's teachers from his culinary school in France (I think he graduated from "Le Cordon Bleu"). As one could imagine, the chef wanted to make the best possible impression to his former teacher, and show him how far he had managed to get in the culinary arts.
What the teacher ordered for the first course was a vichyssoise soup (also known as potato leak soup), the trademark of which is that it is served cold. Normally, the Chef would have made the soup himself, but he was so eager to chat with his former tutor and tell him about all his great culinary achievements, that he decided to let his staff address the soup order, guessing that they would manage to make a more than a half-decent potato soup without his personal help. As for the main course, he would give his greatest effort to make something really spectacular.
Mind you, it was one of the slow hours of the restaurant, with very few customers, and so it allowed the Chef some chatting time before the dinner rush. And, since the chef was out of the kitchen, the kitchen and most of the frond staff would sit and chat themselves. They knew about the distinguished French guest (Chef wouldn't let them forget how important he was), and, naturally, their main topic of discussion was France. The talk started at French haute cuisine, but soon it escalated to politics, in particular how chauvinist some french people are. The chief waiter, when young, had worked in France, and told a story about a particular customer, that was such a chauvinist, that when he suggested him the vichyssoise soup for first course, the customer would look him as if he personally offended him, tell him that vichyssoise is a soup created in New York (which is actually true, in spite of the french name) and ask for a genuine french soup, like the traditional onion soup.
If you think that Andrew was thrown off track with the discussion and created an onion soup instead of the vichyssoise, you would be mistaken. Andrew was inexperienced, but he tried as hard as he could to be professional.
What happened was that another customer indeed ordered an onion soup. Andrew prepared both of soups, which, as fate wanted it to be, looked very much alike in color and texture - the main thing that would distinguish them was that the onion soup was steamy hot, whereas the vichyssoise was properly chilled.
So far, so good, Andrew prepared both soups, and they were both ready to serve. However, the waiter that would serve the soups was more than a bit influenced by the chief waiter's story. He himself was pretty new to the job, and was terrified of the concept that he could so something so wrong that a customer would give him an ice cold stare, let alone complain about the service.
So, when the waiter had to serve the French guest, who was so incredibly and terrifyingly important for the head chef, his mind went blank and he served the Onion soup instead of the vichyssoise.
But the catastrophe wasn't concluded at that point. Of course, the teacher spotted right away that he was served a hot soup instead of the cold one he requested. What he thought, though, was that he was served a Potage Parmentier, which is the Vichyssoise's warm cousin. The chef was furious with the mistake, but the teacher said that potage parmentier was one of his favourite soups too, so he needen't make a fuss over such a small mistake. So, as they kept chatting, the teacher had his first spoonful of this soup.
What happened after that was borderline chaos. The teacher, since he was a little child, had a violent allergic reaction to any form of onions. Soon after the first spoon, his face and neck were swollen, and he started having trouble breathing. His condition only got worse, so the paramedics were summoned and took him to the hospital for epinephrine shots.
As it was expected, the waiter was fired after being called enough names for a lifetime. But the Chef also fired Andrew, who honestly had nothing to do with that terrible mess up - the Chef mostly fired him cause he needed more people to blame to let out his steam.
Well, Andrew didn't complain for the unfair layoff. He left with dignity, got a job at an other restaurant, and today he is the owner of his own little bistro.
What I know for sure, though, is that he never EVER made an onion soup or a vichyssoise again...
Who would blame him?