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Your biggest culinary mistake

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
In my short time in the kitchen, I would have to say my biggest so far has been switching sugar and salt...

post yours so I may learn from them, and maybe even laugh.
post #2 of 34
I once trusted a thermometer when everything in my brain, my fingers, and my eyes told me it was wrong. I ended up with rack of lamb so dry you could have used it to blot up spills.

Then there's the time I thought a sauce was supposed to nap when actually it was supposed to be a broth. I spent a lot of time with roux and butter-mounting and so on, and the resulting sauce -- which did nap -- was vile.

My brother once decided to make Julia Child's recipe for French Onion Soup. He didn't caramelize the onions properly, which was significant... but not nearly as significant as mistaking tsp for Tb with the salt. It was like eating an instant bouillon cube.

And then there are my friends who, years ago in Japan, bought bottled premade noodle soup base -- a very common ingredient here. The wife, whose Japanese was rather spottier than she wanted to let on to her husband (who had none), didn't take the time to read the label very carefully, and didn't realize that the stuff comes massively reduced -- you dilute it about 6:1 for udon noodle soup, for example. They used it straight, and as she put it, "we didn't pee for a week."

Oh yeah, and then 15 years ago, I decided to show off to my girlfriend (now my wife) about scrambled eggs. I'd read how you're supposed to cook them super-slow, stirring constantly, for perfect results. I did this, but I whisked more or less as fast as I could. I'm not quite sure what happened in a technical sense, but all of a sudden I had teeny-tiny curds and this pale yellow liquid. It was disgusting. Fortunately she forgave me.
post #3 of 34
I don't know if this was a culinary mistake but I am disappointed by a dinner party I put on in November, can't get it out of my mind. First off I cooked a pork loin that was NOT boneless. After expressing my concern to the butcher about how I would slice it he said he'd help me out by cutting through the bone a bit. Turns out he scored the whole loin into 1 inch slices so I had no choice but to serve it like that. It was dry, and tough.

Second of all, I cooked roasted potatoes with the loin with a balsamic glaze. The potatoes turned out to not be ripe so no amount of cooking could get them to soften. After 2 hours in the oven covered they still had the texture of a raw potato.

I doubt I will be attempting pork loin again any time soon unless it's just to practice. And when I'm having a dinner party I stock up on potatoes and test drive them the day before to make sure I don't fall into an unripe batch.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #4 of 34
Although not directly culinary it is catering related.
I worked for a NY caterer as a banquet manager when he got extremely busy. He did 6 or 7 weddings in the place at one time.. The wedding ceremonies were in our own on premise chapel. The bride would be put under an Austrian curtain that lit up and cast a silouhette of her thru it. then I push button and up the curtain went.
Well I did this one time only to find out I had the wrong bride in there.. I made joke of it and told groom "but she's not bad''.We corrected it and party went on.:lol:
post #5 of 34
I was home alone and cooking for one so I tried to make one serving of rice. I measured precisely and the only error I made was the fact that I forgot to reduce the cooking time. The pot took FOREVER to clean and the house smelled like blackened (past the burnt or cajun style stage) rice for 2 weeks, no matter what we did.
It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
post #6 of 34
I made some biscuits once that turned out rock-hard. My brother (=teenage boy) put shoe polish on them and used them for hockey pucks.
post #7 of 34
I was having a rather emotional day, I mis read a recipe and put 4 quarts of vinegar when it should have been 4 cups ( I was making our house dressing) never emusified.
post #8 of 34
two bad ones back in the 70's when I cooked for a living

A steward switched the sugar and salt bins and I sent out 10 (TEN!) Gran Marnier souffles to a party of big-shots made entirely with salt. Best looking souffles I ever made....

Starting to carve a roast duck for two at tableside, my carving fork slipped and the duck flew off the cart and under the customers' table, landing all greasy and hot on the nice lady's shoe.
post #9 of 34
Let's see. There was the time in the beginning when I made my first croissants and made the detrempe with 1 oz of flour to once ounce of butter instead of 1 ounce of flour to one POUND of butter! They looked fine but when I lifted one up and felt the weight I knew I made a mistake! :rolleyes:

There was the time I was making 50# of Orzo and didn't realize A) how quick they would cook, and B) how difficult they would be to drain quickly due to their shape and size. I ended up with 20# of usable and 100# of mush....

That's just 2.......:D
My latest musical venture!
Also "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
My latest musical venture!
Also "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
post #10 of 34
Not mine, but I've seen potato salad made with uncooked potatoes.
Twice, in two different restaurants.

Me.....I dunno, does stepping into a crowded walk-in, floor covered with buckets, leaning way over to grab something, and then stepping back putting my foot into a bucket of beef stock count?
Happened early in my shift and had to work all day with a soggy foot.
And yes, we discarded the stock.

Only real mistake I can think of was when I was the bread maker, and when I showed up the Lead Cook told me the first batch of bread was ready to go.
So I loaded it up, set the timer....and 10 minutes later had large pans of smoking briquets. I had to dump them out back so I could free up the pans and get another batch going.
It seems the graveyard janitors liked to turn the ovens up to 500 and leave the doors open so they could stay warm.
I assumed since the bread was panned and ready to go, and the ovens were hot, all was fine.
I ALWAYS check my ovens now, even if I set them myself 15 minutes ago.
You never know who will come behind you and change things.

Pretty funny to see a pile of large smoking briquets on the back slab though.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #11 of 34
Was making tea biscuits on a busy day at the shop. Halfway through the bake time I noticed they weren't fact they looked like one huge tea biscuit mass! It was then that I realized that I forgot to put in the baking powder. So out went that batch. On to batch #2.

Batch #2 didn't look quite right either......hmmmm.....I KNEW I wouldn't forget the baking powder a second time. And I didn't. This time I forgot the BUTTER.

That was the end of my tea biscuit making for that day.

Then there was the very first time my chef allowed me to make croissant dough by myself. He was cooking us lunch and I had just thrown all the ingredients in the Hobart. Last ingredient? Two quarts of cold water on top of all of my dry ingredients and fresh yeast. Went to turn the mixer on and it spit up a HUGE chunk of wet dough all over me. It was in my hair, down my face, all down my clothes. I was a mess. I had forgotten to check what setting the mixer was on and started it up on 3rd speed. NICE.
post #12 of 34
I had a 6 month, twice a week order for sandwiches and muffins for 30. Forgot the sugar in the muffins week 1 - lost the wonder
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #13 of 34
Once I was cooking a romantic type meal for my girlfriend. After spending a couple hours making, among other things, a scratch tomato sauce, I pulled some homemade gnocchi I had in the freezer. Unfortunately, I grabbed the wrong bag. Pumpkin gnocchi with tomato sauce is just plain awful. We ended up ordering a pizza.

I've trusted a thermometer I shouldn't have trusted a few times as well. I don't even bother with them anymore for proteins, I go by my gut and haven't had a dish go out wrong since.

post #14 of 34
Not my mistake, but an old collegue of mine. We were both sous at the same place. One day he asked a dishwasher to strain the lobster stock. By the time he went to check on the guy, he had strained the stock all right, and tossed away the "dirty water" and had saved all the bodies!!!!!! I had warned him not leave that task unsupervised, but he didn't listen. Chef was p**sed!!!!!
post #15 of 34
The thing thats important to learn early in the Food business is, there is no excuess for anything, you only have one time to do it right. the customer doesn't care about your problems. Get it right or move over to someone who could. Things I have learned along the way are>>>>>>>>> You are replaceable, you don't know everything, Everything I make isn't good, just because I made it. being a Chef is more than looking good in a Chefs coat. After the Bull story you will have to show what you could do. A good sense of humor does go along way. You will never get rich working for someone else. If someone tells you, you can't do it, tell them to screw off and follow your dream. Most people want to rain on your parade. You can't teach passion. you can't ask someone to smile. Girls arn't made of sugar, spice and everything nice when they are sitting next to you in divorce court. The last thing is "always isn't forever".....I wish I read the book of life earler, but then again the scares you get from life make you the person you become....................Bill
post #16 of 34
wearing shorts in a kitchen, bending over and burning my butt.....19 years old in a 2 man classic french kitchen.

Pouring 10 gl of hot onion soup down the front of me.....same kitchen.

Steam scalds, I can remember burning the poop out of my hand and cooking with one hand in ice water then putting bags of frozen peas with a rubber band around it to drive.....

high school, making chocolate cherries and using way way too much paraffin....stem on they were like little best friend and I gave them to teachers for gifts, we still passed sophomore year.

There are the not having calibrated oven stories.....

One memorable dish I made very early on was the only one I can remember throwing out.....tuna, tomato sauce, pasta, olives......really exceptionally bad.

If you are not making mistakes you are not stretching your culinary muscles......but after a while you get good at fixin' um.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #17 of 34
In addition to all the usual mistakes, and a few of my own invention ...

On the "don't jump in 'til you know how deep the water is front:" A few years after I'd stopped catering, my services to prepare and serve a meal for eight were sold in a Temple auction. It turned out they were sold to someone entertaining one of the most famous chefs in the world at the time, Michel Guerard. PRESSURE. Of course, I didn't discover it was for Guerard until the day of. It went alright, I guess. But it sure as heck wasn't any fun -- at least not for me. My nerves, pass the bourbon, bong too please, are still recovering.

About mistakes, more generally: Fortunately there are a lot of good take out places in the world. There's no meal so mangled it can't be repaired by dumping it and making a run.

God bless Chinese food,
post #18 of 34
making roasted chicken in a honey mustard sauce i made.
only, it didn't occur to me how quickly the honey would carmalize, and bascily i ended up with some chicken that was cooked nicely on the inside, but pretty ugly dark, basicly burnt on the skin.
...that was one of my first times making staff meal, so people weren't too happy with me.

most of my culinary mistakes don't actually involve cooking so much as getting killed durring a rush, in my early days, due to poor preperation or orginization.
that and being accident prone.
like not realizeing the gas had been on for several hours when i went to light the piolet on the broiler. WOOOOSH, there goes my half my eye lashes, and all the hair on my forarm. luckily the only person who witnessed this embarassing incident was the executive chef :lol:
post #19 of 34
I probably would've fainted if I found out I was cooking for Michel Guerard.

(Sorry, I made a mistake... ugh, I can't tell one French name from another :blush:)
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #20 of 34
:confused: When did he die? I didn't see anything.
My latest musical venture!
Also "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
My latest musical venture!
Also "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
post #21 of 34
Well, apparently that was one of my biggest culinary mistakes... I think I'll commence the eye-rolling on myself now.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #22 of 34
Mistake recovery, quick thinking and impromptu changes are something I pride myself one, everyone make mistakes -it's the recovery that is the real lesson .I think I seriously have made all of the obvious mistakes one can make, and most of the not-so-obvious ones
-just typing that is temping fate.

But the mistake that weighs most heavily on my mind is one weekend when I lost sight of what it's all about.
A friend (an acquaintance) of mine who had been featured briefly in a Food Network segment, (let's call him Bob) he had a few connections and decided he was going to shoot a pilot episode for FN. Bob's idea was pretty solid, local Chefs, farm to table, ect. Bob wanted me to do a piece on pig butchering, breaking down the pig, and ultimately prepare a dish. When the weekend came, I ordered the pig and got everything set up, foolishly agreeing to "shoot" on a Friday afternoon. We were scheduled for noon, the first call came in at 1:30
Bob: "we're running late, we need a few more scenes -can we shoot at four?" ..(on a FRIDAY!)
ME: "sure no problem I'll get someone to cover the first few hours of service"

I put the pig back into the fridge and re-set up at four. At 5, the same phone call.
--8 o'clock? sure, I can just have a cook cover service, who cares if he has plans tonight.

At 9:30
Bob: "we better shoot for tomorrow"
...And so goes the ENTIRE weekend!

On Monday morning my heart sank as I heaved a 220 lb pig into the dumpster, -in and out of the fridge 6 times, it had spoiled over Sunday night. I totally screwed up two of my cooks weekends covering for the shifts I normally do, and the dinner specials that weekend, having no direction, kinda sucked.

I shirked my responsibilities as Chef for what I thought would be a quick spot in the limelight, I felt my cooks loose a little respect for me that weekend, and it took a little while to "right the ship".

A well placed "NO" could of saved the whole weekend. -But I was being selfish.

-The best lessons are learned hard.
nel maiale, tutto e buono!
nel maiale, tutto e buono!
post #23 of 34
Once had a Prep Cook assisting my Pastry Chef on his a Day off that made a batch of carrot cakes (5 cakes) using salt instead of sugar. Talk about a mistake! I can still taste that and it's been 10 years. Needless to say, the salt bin was stored far away from the sugar from that point forward.
Also had a prep cook mistake the fry filter powder for flour too.:eek: Separate restaurant and luckily a different cook. Glad I caught the person before anything was finished let alone served. That was early in my career and probably would have been an ender as a Chef had I not caught it. Actually the best one was just a few years ago. On my day off, my sous decided to fore-go my rule on Roux only to thicken and decided to do a cornstarch slurry. He grabbed a box of baking powder instead and......well let's say they were cleaning the steam kettle and area surrounding (including ceiling) for a week.:lol:
post #24 of 34
Thread Starter 
thats a winner
post #25 of 34
Splitting Hollandaise, twice... during the busiest breakfast of the year (mother's day).
post #26 of 34
Sheesh that's not a mistake.
post #27 of 34
using salt-pork instead of just plain fatback in sausages
post #28 of 34
Without blanching? Ouch ouch ouch....
post #29 of 34
I was conscious of what i was doing, and did rinse best i could the salt pork, and didn't add any other salt....the mistake i made was mixing all 5lbs of it up, before making a smaller mix and testing it. It was still too salty. Not much though, but enough.
post #30 of 34
Thought I was being clever stealing some of the line cook's room temp butter to make buttercream frosting. Frosted all of the cinnamon rolls before realizing that the butter on line was actually garlic butter.
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