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Insane Chef Stories Go Here


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Tonight I drew the short straw and got to clock out early. Go Me! I don't mind closing the place most nights. I kind of like the ritual involved in breaking down and scrubbing up; it gives me a better idea of what I'll need the next day. Plus, I figure, I got my station dirty, I'll clean it. But every Friday, both as a labor-saving measure and a little morale boost, one person gets to go home a little early, so tonight that lucky punter was me. Just as well. I was about to sink a tourner into Chef's head.

He's a good boss, as these things go; he's fair; he's got chops, too--he can take over anybody's station and work it just as hard and just as fast as the person he's replacing. Where he falls short, though, is that commodity not every cook has but all need: A level head.

Put plainly, he's a choke artist. More than about 6 tables, and he starts losing his place. We weren't too terribly busy tonight--220 or so covers, spread out from 5:30-8:30--but he just could not keep the orders straight. He burned two of the specials, yelled at me for not reminding him, and then yelled at me again when he OK'd a comp on another table who got two bottles of corked wine in a row (how he could possibly lay that at my feet, I'lll never know). I think part of it is the Napoleon complex-- I'm 6'3" and I stand a full foot taller than he does, and he just hates having to ask me to reach him down more plates. So when it gets really busy, I become his whipping boy. And like the soulless bastards I know they all are, my fellow line-cooks aren't above goading him a little so he really starts to lose it.

Good times. Good times.

Still and all, for pure unadulterated whackadoo insanity, I'd have to nominate this cat I worked with back in the late '80s. Jairo, his name was, and he was a Basque separatist we all suspected was on the run from Interpol. Looked like something from out of the bilges of a pilchard netter--about five and half feet tall, the same around; tremendous hair farm going on and always had exactly four days' worth of beard. The only knife he ever used was an old carbon-steel scimitar--everthing from fluting mushrooms to boning pheasants got done with that toadstabber. He always wanted to see every surface absolutely shining, no matter how deep in the weeds we were, but we never got issued more than 3 towels a night each(I eventually went out and bought a stack just for myself). Always had a cigarette on the go which was always half-smoked and always had a tag of ash on the end of it. The owner was so cowed by him, she'd never say anything about it--one baleful glare from him and she'd scurry off on her high heels to ask the maitre d' to deal with him. HA! Like that was gonna work. Just to show the depths of the man's insanity, he wouldn't let me use the Robocoupe the first 6 months I worked with him--mortar and pestle, baby.

I showed up to work after a long weekend to find the restaurant closed and all the furniture gone. Turned out he'd been embezzling the whole time. But goodness me, what that man didn't know about lamb wasn't worth knowing. Learned a lot.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Years ago, worked in a big kitchen at a sports ground with a reasonably high insanity level. The chef was a big fat bald dude who coincidentally sang for a band called 'Festers Fanatics' and the dude was an excellent mix of evil and entertaining.

My two highlights are when he came into the kitchen one time, ripped on everyone before finally telling the wait-staff: "Don't smile. It makes me angry when I see you smile"

The other would be when he'd call orders to the deaf chef without moving his lips, something he was totally talented at. Great days.

*sits in the corner of the shower giggling*

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My first job as a prep-cook working the brunch rush on weekend mornings during highschool. The owners were a married couple consisting of a lazy pothead in his mid to late forties and his troll of a wife who was one of those people known for their temper.

The restaurant wasn't all that great, but I just wanted to get my foot in the door working at any restaurant.

Most of the cooking was sone in an open kitchen. However I was in the back kitchen to baking biscuits, cooking off mass loads of sausage and bacon, and doing whatever I was told.

All of the mishaps that I encountered were due to the owners inability to work any problem out for themselves. Their message delivery system to tell me they were running out of something like craked eggs or fruit salad was to yell through the half opened door between the kitchens. Of course, while they did this they never payed attention if I was even in the kitchen at the time. Often an order was yelled out while I was fetching something from storage, which they never bothered to repeat once I came back. The troll had one hell of a temper and her brainless husband was too busy watching nascar in his office to tell her it wasn't my fault.

I didn't learn much about cooking at that job, but I did learn how to take unconstructive criticism very well. :biggrin:

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Wow, I've got so many, from the drug addled to the manic deppressive, and then my own stories about my head chef catastrohies early in my career. The classic being a psychotic sous who made lethal marajuanna brownies(thc infused oil)unbeknownest to me, of which I ate 3-4. At the rush, I was literally out of my mind, laying on the floor, alternating between throwing up and laying half inside the refrigerator to try to bring myself back. There are others.......

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The classic being a psychotic sous who made lethal marajuanna brownies(thc infused oil)unbeknownest to me, of which I ate 3-4.

I don't remember you ever working for me...

My first sous position, the owner was a retired cop. I'll never forget the time he buttonholed me on the line to tell me that he thought that one of the dishwashers was selling reefer, and I should just can his ass on the spot if I ever saw him acting even remotely suspiciously. I just smiled and nodded like a trained horse, tending my double boiler of melted butter and marijuana I'd just bought from the dish dog in question.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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My 17 y.o. son came home from his kitchen for a 2 day break and I noticed immediately that he had a huge black eye.

When I asked him WTF happened he laughed and said that the sous schef had been drunk at an after work wind down and accidentally punched him, so he had punched him back, but the sous chef couldn't remember that bit and had been saying sorry to him every 5 mins for the last week, and had also been the one to do his personal report :laugh::laugh:

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I'm sure there's a damn good book in there, guys.

Yeah, you could call it "Kitchen Confidential" or something.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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A few years back before I really knew anything about cooking I got a job at an irish pub. At this point it was a summer job to pay for the comming school year. I had abit of experience on garde mangier at an italian place when I was in highschool. The chef at the pub was this short irish man who spoke this broken form of english. I only really understood that I had been hired because he led me to the change room and then to the kitchen. There he left me. A few minutes later these two really burnt out looking guys came in, one was balding and I suspect drunk, the other was this tall thin dude, I deduced that he was stoned. I didnt really know what to make of it, they didnt really talk to me so much as talk at me about drugs, money and juvie. Weird I thought. Soon the chit machine started comming in, the twop guys started looking at me and asking me where things were. It seems they were new as well and supposed that I was in charge. I asked a waitress where the chef was. She said she didnt know but was nice enugh to get me a menu so I could figure out what things were. This is when things got bad. An order for chicken would come up. I read that it was stuffed with brie and prosciutto. So I ran to the fridge and tried to find that stuff. Something would come up that came with a roasted pepper dip, soId have to make that. It went on like this for an hour or so, I was totally in the weeds, the two guys were freaking out, waitresses were yelling at me asking for wings, nachos, pizzas. Finally the chef came in not in hiw whites or anything but looking like he was ready to call it a day. He saw what was happening and started to freak out at me for not being able to handle the pace, not being able to coordinate the other guys. He begrdugingly came behind the line and started "cooking" with us. Mostly he would call out a chit that was already on the go and then demand it came faster, sometime calling out the same chit twice. At this point I know I wasnt going to show up the next day. And I didnt. Happily I got a nice job as an entremetier the next day. That pub is still open and still packed everynight. Strange.

Edited by Michaeltheonion (log)
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I've been pretty lucky to have mostly normal experiences (although some quirky ones) with the chefs I've been around.

HOWEVER, I had a humorous one with a part owner who THOUGHT he was the chef. I worked at a really nice restaurant/wine bar in a city in Upstate NY in the early 90s. Fine dining had just started taking off, so we were pretty hot. One of the "silent" partners was a rotund short guy with an out of control beard and a French accent. His name was Etienne and he was always coming through the kitchen telling us that we were shoemakers and he wanted superstars in his kitchen. The real chef, who was a great guy, had to put up with it because Etienne had a 1/3 share of the joint. He made our lives fucking miserable. Anyway, after I had left to take my first Chef position at another place, I happened to be talking to my banquet Chef about Etienne and he just started laughing. "That guy is a fraud, dude. His name isn't Etienne and he's not French, he's from Brooklyn and his name is Earl. I used to play poker with him and he hates when people know his real deal". Of course I had to go down to my old place that night after work for a drink and say "How's it going back there, EARL??" The mortified look on his face made all the hell he put me through worth it.

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My best story comes from my first line cooking job in Colorado(before I knew it would turn into a career) when I worked for a guy who after working with him two days asked me if I liked speed(which I did at the time) and chopped some lines up right on the cans of tomatoe sauce in the pantry. But that isn't the weird part. After working for the guy a whole summer I knew he was a little off. He moved to the resort we were working at and brought a cast of characters with him who claimed to be ex-navy seals and Hells Angels among other things. But basically they were a bunch of drifters and ex-cons. Well we had a great and strange summer, we worked, drank and fought the whole time, but scheduled a love fest employee party at the end of the season. We were all apparently having a great time at the party, when all of a sudden someone comes running in with a very big gun and hands it to me and says to hide it. Never having held a gun before I damnn near shit my pants, the thing was cocked and I had no idea how to uncock it (I have since learned) so I ran out of our bar area and hid the thing in a cabinet. So the story goes the "chef" had an arguement with one of his "hells angels" and put the gun to his head(cocked and loaded). Taking offense to his actions, his buddy knocked the gun out of his hand and proceded to kick the crap out of him, bustin him up pretty good even cracking his false teeth. Well that ended the party. The next day he showed up while I was working, showed me some of his recipes, loaded up his truck and took his family back to Arizona. Hell as I write this I might just write a book about that whole crazy summer.

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My best story comes from my first line cooking job in Colorado(before I knew it would turn into a career) when I worked for a guy who after working with him two days asked me if I liked speed(which I did at the time) and chopped some lines up right on the cans of tomatoe sauce in the pantry. But that isn't the weird part. After working for the guy a whole summer I knew he was a little off. He moved to the resort we were working at and brought a cast of characters with him who claimed to be ex-navy seals and Hells Angels among other things. But basically they were a bunch of drifters and ex-cons. Well  we had a great and strange summer, we worked, drank and fought the whole time, but scheduled a love fest employee party at the end of the season. We were all apparently having a great time at the party, when all of a sudden someone comes running in with a very big gun and hands it to me and says to hide it. Never having held a gun before I damnn near shit my pants, the thing was cocked and I had no idea how to uncock it (I have since learned) so I ran out of our bar area and hid the thing in a cabinet. So the story goes the "chef" had an arguement with one of his "hells angels" and put the gun to his head(cocked and loaded). Taking offense to his actions, his buddy knocked the gun out of his hand and proceded to kick the crap out of him, bustin him up pretty good even cracking his false teeth. Well that ended the party. The next day he showed up while I was working, showed me some of his recipes, loaded up his truck and took his family back to Arizona. Hell as I write this I might just write a book about that whole crazy summer.

I worked at places where we called that a "slow Tuesday."

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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