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Share your worst kitchen nightmare......

3662 Views 15 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  greyeaglem
So what is your worst kitchen nightmare.... For me it goes back to 1989. I was working at The Royal Garden Hotel in London, we had a banquet for 500 - roasted duck. At the hotel we would always finish baquets at the last minute and with a new chef running the kitchens every one was out to impress. As we (me the chef and three sous chefs) were sending the banquet we realized we were running short on duck, in fact we were 48 portions short.... After a frantic search I found the ducks - still in the oven so roasted they were nearly falling off the bone, I had net checked that oven nor counted the ducks after taking them out. What made it worse was the chef did not kick my *** - the sous chefs got it. And then it rolled down hill..... It is funny to think back on it but at the time...... I am now a counting freak!
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Small world, Jer. I was a guest there in December 1989/January 1990. Were you in the kitchen at that time?

Before i post my horror story, I would like to ask Ming where he/she works in napa Valley.

I studied with madeiliene Kammen in 1990 at beringars school for american chefs.

and then took my masters last year at greystone.

I just love the whole feeling out there and have very rarely had a meal I didn,t enjoy.
Also welcome to cheftalk
hi ming i don't know you but while i was redaing the posts i saw someone reference you as to working in napa somehwere?i am currently among other propects send my cv all over the valley for a job at a winery/b&b/.... could you tell me somthings i might be interested in about the who is hiring?
would be most grateful.
thanks Ruth
About 15 years ago as a youg executive chef of a country club
I had a banquet planned for a Sunday dinner and award presentation following the clubs biggest golf tournement of the year and the club had requested prime rib medium rare for the dinner . I fired the primes in the cook and hold alto sham around noonish and proceede to give my sous chef directions for the rest of the meal as I would be spending the day out on the golf course cooking from the gazebo . When I returned to the kitchen to prepare fo what I thought would be a cakewalk banquet I found that somebody had cranked the hold temperature on my alto sham up to 180 degrees ( not the 120 I had it on before leaving the kitchen ) and my prime rib was sitting at an almost well done state . I really was flustered and did not know what to do so I called a chef friend of mine who asked me if I had any canned beets in the store room . When I told him yes he advised me to open several cans and drain the juice off and to spoon about a teaspoon of it over each piece of prime before it left the kitchen . The dining room was dimly lit with candles on the tables
so I thought why not , and I followed his advice . The meal was a great success and nobody ever new about my overcooked dilema . Thank you chef Jergen Roscher for saving my butt .:eek:
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That's brilliant. I never would have thought of such a thing. thank you for sharing that!

I used to work for a guy who called himself "The Master of The Rib Disguise." I saw the red liquid trick lots of times except it was pickled crabapple juice. If a rib got sent back as too rare, he would take the grossest side towel he could find and blot the meat.. too medium and he would squeeze it to get the juice to the top. One new year's he opened the oven to get a rib out, and it wasn't on. He put it in the frialator. Same with potatoes (baked) that he needed yesterday. The topper had to be the broiled lobster he got behind on, so he whacked a live lobster down the middle, drizzled butter on it and threw it under the salamander, the poor thing still kicking and it's little flippers going a mile a minute.
What a trip , I guess we learn the good , the bad and the ugly as we grow in this biz???? Glad to give you a tip slavegirl .
lol everybody,

Boy oh boy.

First, Ming we should have a drink? I'm in Vallejo--worked Napa,SF;Larkspur etc.......did some continuing edu at Greystone.

I'm Buying????

hahaha, anyway......if you are looking for work in Napa area go here:

look in the classifieds; search; restaurant or cook or chef or catering etc.

COPIA is currently hiring under the guise of Seasonal Elements, Chef is Mark Dommen do a search on Google for his batting average.

Other Jobs? Martini House in St. Helena--possibly cause it just opened.

best thing to do is to find a job, any job, then work a year and move to where you want to work in the Valley. Cost of living is EXPENSIVE!!! look in Classifieds for romates as well, and apartment rentals to get an idea. I live in Vallejo (20 miles south of Napa) and pay $400/mo.

Good luck all, hope to see you all here soon:)

Oh yeah, a story, hahaha.......I don't wann a tell just yet, cause i still work for the mf's

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Aaah, maybe I haven't seen too many horrible times in my day (just yet) but I remember working nights at this one restaurant (about 5 years back) and the day time prep guy was ... lets just say not very good (it wasn't his career path anyways..).
So anyways, it's mid-dinner service, I'm holding down the grill cooking anywhere from 15-25 steaks at once, close to 45 burgers and a f... load of chicken. As well as pulling chits and calling orders.
When suddenly we run out of pasta and we are sooo swamped in the juice that my pans guy just loses it.
So now not only am I pulling tickets, calling orders, cooking lots of meat I'm also cooking pasta to order and cooking pan items. AND I have to start plates, finish plates and expedite..

The orders from the machine were to the floor and rolled around a couple times. The machine was about 5'5" from the floor...

Very amateur kitchen.. Never again..

I think I am still recovering to this day the energy spent during my time there...
Oh and to add: after seeing me work like that, everyone literally thought I was very much into the cokane! And I don't touch drugs. I don't think I could ever convince them otherwise! Weird stuff .. Haha
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I know where your coming from. Having been in the NY catering business for many years. I ran across this quite a bit. Beet juice mixed with AU JUS is the only remedy for this, as it actually does not stain the meat nor impart any heavy taste. Having tried over the years all other methods this is only one that works. In a dimly lit dining room it works great. I also notified housekeeping that all overhead lighting in all ballrooms be pink as this makes both people and meat look better..:chef:
Christmas Eve, slammed, special menu, horrible case of the flu.
I'm alternating between extreme chills and hot flashes, nose running like Niagara Falls, no energy, get the picture.
I'm working with an FNG (nice guy, just not up to speed) and the Chef; needed that many people to pull it off succesfully.
I'm running saute and finishing meats in the oven, as well as plating, so I'm standing in front of the 6 burner/oven combo, with a salamander in my face and a steam table behind me.
(Oh, and we had an archaic hood system that was grandfathered in. It sat 2 feet above the stove, about chest high, and only came out to cover about half of the hot kitchen).
FNG is staging and firing meats but needs help.
Chef is supposed to be doing app's and veg as well as helping the FNG...instead, he is sitting on a pickle bucket in the corner whining about how the place sucks.
I'm trying to do my job and help the new guy, which ordinarily is no problem, but I feel like death warmed over.
Add to that the fact that I'm dancing past the new guy on a tight line to fire app's and veg, and I'm starting to lose patience.
Chef's still whining, and finally I say "well why don't you just go home?!".
He looked shocked and said "be careful or I just might".
I told him it was fine with me, he wasn't helping anyway.
He got pretty red and angry, but pulled his @$$ off of the bucket and started helping, albeit with much attitude.
At the end of the night I thanked the new guy for hanging in there, went home and died.
Worst night by far.

The thing is I liked the Chef, and was on his side as far as how he felt the company treated him, etc., and had he whined about it while helping me I would've sympatized with him, you know, 'cause we're in this together.
Sitting on his behind while making me do all of the work made me less than sympathetic.
He was butt-hurt for a couple of days, then we cleared the air.
Still like the guy.
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One of the worst was the time the noobie blew up the bbq AT the function.

That summer was a particularily good one and busy, I was looking for on-call cooks for outdoor bbq events. New guy comes in for an interview fits the bill: Cooking for about 15 yrs, G &CC's, hotels, etc. Told him all you had to do was show up, ride with the crew, set up, flip burgers and dogs and smile. Proceeded to show him around the kitchen, showed him the bbq, and was about to give him a demo when he tells me that "Hey, no that's allright, I've been cooking with these things for years, I'll be here tomorrow at 9, O.K.?"

Famous last words....

The BBQ in question was a commerical s/s monster, 5 valves and knobs, one for each 25000 btu burner. The thing could pump out serious heat, and I personally, all by my lonesome, could cook off close to 500 burgers in under 90 minutes with that thing.

New guy shows up, loads up with the crew and off they go on site, I'm in the kitchen, getting ready for that night's function. About an hour later I get a phone call from my lead girl: "Get down here now, and bring the back-up bbq"

Back-up was a Home Despot $99. special that we used on occasion.

I get there and the new guy is standing around the bbq surrounding by a little pile of brass springs and washers and valve knobs--ALL 5 knobs ....

"I dunno, the things won't turn. I've worked with every kind of range there is, Moffat, Garland, Blodgett, never had any problems. This thing is spooked man."

Well, dip-wad, you never used a bbq, you gotta push in and then turn the knob.

My face must have been the colour of a rotten strawberry, but there were people around, so I kept my voice low:

"Look, you have to push and turn the knob. So you break the first one, O.K., it happens, you can still get by with 4 burners, I've done it many a time. But you break the second knob, large learning curve, eh? Still you could get by with 3 burners, you'd be slow, but you can still do it. Burners 3, 4 and 5 are hooped now too. I can't use you. Finish your shift with the back up and then pick up your cheque. I've got another function to get ready for."

Cost me $60 a burner to get it fixed. I photocopied the invoice and stapled it to his paycheque.....
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bloody **** food pump?!?!?

That is ridiculous, I knew to push and turn the knobs at age 6 when I used to help my dad cook on the barbie. and i am certainly no expert lol. But seriously I love the part where your telling about the 1st and 2nd knob learning curves. friggin hilarious is the fact when you turned up he had all five knobs broken. I know I shouldn't laugh but that is one slow learning fella. Sorry about the cost to fix though, pump
Yeah, in Catering you get to meet all types. By now I should be a mono-buttocked psychiatrist, what with all the people I've dealt with.

Still, the day I decided to sell the biz was the day the new girl --one we had used for 3 previous functions--decides to go off on a joy-ride with my catering van. My regular girl calls me up and tells me get a rental van, borrow the d/w's rusty Honda--anything, but just get the lunch delivered on time.

New girl arrives back 2 hrs later, my face does it's rotten strawberry thing again. Then it hits me, it's the end of the month. I ask:

"So, did you get all the big stuff moved?"

She starts to smile, then her face clouds over and she gets very angry. Her, angry... To top it off she wanted o/t for her driving time......

I sold the biz 6 mths later.
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I'll get a twofer from you on this one Pump. I worked for a catering place for a while and loved it. I had never really cooked on a grill as it's like the remote control in that someone else always has control of it. So I would go out and grill all the time, and somewhere in my mind I recalled hearing it's dangerous when flames come out of the burners by the knobs. I mentioned it to the manager a few times, and he'd just say to turn it out of the wind. He assured me it couldn't blow up, and could only burn down but I didn't have to worry about that either. So one time we went out on a job together and he was running the grill. All of a sudden, he goes into panic mode, shuts it off and jumps back like something bit him. I asked what was wrong and he said flames were coming out of the ports by the knobs. I said yeah, so? Turn it out of the wind. He screamed "Are you nuts? It could blow up!" I assured him it could only burn down, it couldn't blow up... it never did in the 6 months he made me work with it. Then the joyride thing reminded me of the time I was supposed to deliver some food to a VFW in a nearby rural town and then come back and work another job. I left way early, but took a wrong turn and wound up in the back of nowhere on some dirt road where I couldn't turn around. I could hear the theme from Deliverance, I swear. I finally reached civilization in the form of a paved road, and eventually made it to the VFW. I never made it to the next gig, but the poor manager had arranged a rare night off with his wife and had to come to the shop because he thought he had to remake and deliver all the food for the VFW . Someone else had enough sense to work the other job when they realized I wasn't coming back. He was plenty mad but didn't say anything because you can't really accomplish anything by pointing out that I was stupid. I was already aware of that. They had the sheriff and highway patrol out looking for me... I wasn't too embarassed. That was my joy-riding in a catering van adventure. Ever notice how whenever you have a van full of stuff everybody and their uncle has to pull out in front of you so you have to jam on the brakes and everything goes flying? Gee I miss it. And I think instead of jazzing up grills with stainless and side burners, they should design one with an exhaust fan.
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