Experienced Kitchen Staff Share Their Worst Experiences.
Everything behind the counter at a restaurant might as well be another world for most of us. I know it is for me. So hearing some of the more incredulous stories from back there can make for a very interesting time.
Here are some stories from Reddit users who spent time in the kitchens and got out alive. Maybe they can give you a greater appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes.
Source at the end of the article
Back when i used to work at a pizza shop we had a slicer attachment for our mixer that we used to slice mushrooms onions and green peppers. The thing was pretty hefty as it was made out of aluminum and built pretty solid.
We hired a new guy and I trained him on how to use and clean the slicer. Wouldn't you know it, a few days later he needed to slice some stuff and decided to put it on the mixer, but instead of putting it on assembled he decided to put it on without the cover on it...
And of course since it is somewhat heavy he dropped it and ended up getting about 25 stitches in his hand...
Tonight, we got a little busy, but nothing ridiculous. Sundays are our slow nights. A guest ordered a pepper crusted NY Steak. So I take one out, crust it, sear it, send it out medium as requested. About a HALF HOUR later, the front of house manager (fantastic manager, we've never had a better one) comes back with an annoyed look on his face that can only be caused by a guest.
He's holding a plate with about 2-2.5 oz of NY, broccolini stems, and a few potatoes. This lady sent it back for being dry and cold. I was livid! The steak was friggin sexy when I sent it out, juices were clearly visible when it left, and it was hot.
The manager knows this lady just wants a free steak, but he needs some way to please the guest. I refuse to give someone a whole new steak to make up for the 2 oz she sent back, so I cut one of my raw steaks into about the same size piece that she sent back (we have a beef tip dish on the menu so nothing went to waste because of it) and cooked it up. And made a tiny portion of veg and pot to go with it.
No way in hell someone is getting a free steak like that.
So I was training a new guy today. I took him around the kitchen, showed him all the basic stuff.
'This is the oven, it gets hot. Don't touch it. This is the stove, it gets hot, don't touch it' etc etc
I told him that knives are sharp, and that under NO circumstances should you EVER put a knife in the sink unless your hand is attached to the handle.
I turn around an hour later, just in time to see him throw a knife into a sink full of soapy water.
He is lucky he still has a hand and a job in my kitchen.
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I'm a dishwasher (don't get me started) and I'm standing in my corner of the restaurant waiting for some pots and pans and dishes to come through as dinner time hasn't hit yet. I hear some commotion going on outside and it sounds like Godzilla is giving birth in the parking lot. I open the door and see these two kids trying to break into a car. I go towards them and I quickly realize they're more toasted than the bagels I get every morning. So I tell them to run or I'll call the cops, but one of them seems adamant on picking this lock. His buddy, who seems to be in his own world, tries to get him to stop so he can leave. I go back inside and get the owner and tell him what's going on.
This is where I get confused.
The kids were still there when we got out, and I was walking in front of the owner to lead him to where the foolishness was occurring. I didn't realize the owner was carrying one of those plus sized garbage cans. He yells for them to run away, and again they think it's all good and well until the owner comes and actually throws the garbage can upside down over the kid trying to get in the car.
He starts trying to run away and trips on the curb. The owner says I should go back to work, and leaves him outside with a trash can over his entire body. Trying my best not to laugh, I just walk inside and wonder if they were sober enough to figure out how to get the can off his body.
I work in a very pretentious little coffee shop/cafe. All free trade, all farm to table. We're across from network studios so we get some...interesting customers to say the least. But by far what is much worse than them is how uninformed our staff can be. I overheard one of our most experienced baristas try to explain that our gluten-free/dairy-free chocolate cake "isn't really dairy free because there are eggs in it. Both milk and eggs come from cows so you can never guarantee it 100%."
Also, my chef couldn't fathom how honey isn't vegan. Not in the sense where she thought it was stupid, she genuinely didn't even fucking know. She had been labeling items as vegan without that knowledge for weeks.
We were rather excited to find out a food choice not usually available in our town was opening up and my 17-year-old daughter was really excited to help make the place successful.
I was considering taking a few shifts (winter is slow for the food business here) but after I interviewed with the owner I had a feeling they didn't know what they were getting into (I have gone to culinary school and cooked professionally). My daughter applied and was working there cleaning and getting the place ready to open, including a party for the owners' relatives and friends.
She put in a total of 25 hours and they decided to "wait and see" if she was hired. After 2 weeks no shifts were offered to her. I find out that at least 8 other young people had also put in at least 20 hours, once again cleaning and training, because the place had not opened yet.
My daughter decided to take another job and was just going to put it behind her as a big mistake until the owner demanded she come in. I waited outside the kitchen and listened and he and his partner decided to bully these kids into taking no pay until I couldn't take it anymore. I presented him with a copy of the labor laws and he tried every excuse in the book to not pay over 160 hours at minimum wage because he was doing them a favor by training them. I then demanded to know what gave him the authorization to certify training without an educational certificate?
I told him the ministries of labor and education will be very interested in his practices. Of the 5 kids that were there, all of them received full pay within the week. I don't see this place surviving a small town in winter.... too many people know each other here, especially the food service industry.
So, I was a line cook at this small restaurant. It's a busy night and it's me, and the HC for the night. We're sitting there I'm three tickets in on Steak Fingers, BLT's, and Salads.
My Head Chef is stuck on a well-done steak, making some waffles and a breakfast order. Then we hear it. "I'm Hungry!" we turn to face each other with the "Are you kidding me?" looks. The voice turns the corner and walks into the kitchen - The Owners Son.
"Hey guys, I want a Jalapeno Popper. And Mozzarella Sticks." Barring we're about six tickets deep, and only have one fryer which all slots are being used I turn up to face him and coldly state: "No." He looks at me like I slapped his mother and replies "I wasn't talking to YOU. I was talking to my brother, your boss! So, Bro-" the HC without looking away from his grill: "No. Get outta' my kitchen."
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I show up to work the other day (at a modern Korean/Sushi restaurant) to my boss freaking out because two of the five or so chefs weren't going to be there.
This was on a Saturday which is usually the busiest night of the week. I later find out from one of the servers that these two guys drank an entire handle of Jack Daniels and a 24 pack of beer, beat each other up and proceeded to take an $800 cab ride to NYC from the Boston Area. They didn't have enough money to get back, and neither speaks English, so my boss had to drive to NYC to get them.
One time we were quiet, everything was clean and the kitchenhands were chatting so the boss ordered one of the kitchenhands to Label everything in the chiller. This is something we never do, because the turnover in there is basically day-to-day and the dates get written on the lid by the chef who made it.
So the kitchenhand labelled everything, door, vent, shelf, floor, handle, bucket, bucket-lid. Gradually the labels disappeared as the head chef found them, but I remember on my last day there, the 'ceiling' label was still there in the chiller, having slipped the head chef's notice.
So this restaurant has this famous chicken sandwich that celebs come in for on a regular basis. They have a special baker create the buns for said sandwich and those get delivered every morning. Well there was a mess up on the baker's end and a very limited number of buns were delivered. So by the time my friend came in for dinner service they were only able to make 25 more sandwiches. Also, nearing the end of service their rib dish ran out.
So a group of diners who came specifically for those two dishes found out that neither items were available anymore. They proceeded to order other things and have dinner. When they paid and left (very quickly) they left a note on the merchant copy of the credit card receipt.
"NO TIP. We were very disappointed that you were out of the chicken sandwich and ribs that we came here specifically for and the kitchen forcing us to get dishes we didn't want."
I don't recall the kitchen staff shoving food down their throats.
I worked as a line cook in a college restaurant for a year, and one day an order came through that said "Chicken Caesar Wrap, no chicken or bacon" which is basically lettuce, croutons and dressing with a little cheese inside a wrap.
Now I immediately think "Vegetarian" and know that Caesar dressing is not, in fact, vegetarian. So I call over the server that placed the order and she informed me of her lovely exchange. S for Server, V for Vegetarian
V - I'll have the Chicken Caesar Wrap combo with no chicken or bacon
S - Are you a vegetarian? If so, I just want to let you know the Caesar dressing has anchovies in it.
V (dripping with attitude) - I said vegetarian, not vegan.
It was all the server could do to not facepalm right in front of the customer. I also imagine this is how today's cooks feel when someone orders gluten free pasta with garlic bread on the side.
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I worked with a young man with Downs Syndrome at this restaurant. He did little tasks, and he was fine at them. He called everyone there his best buddy. Lets call him Mark.
So the in this moment, the kitchen is pretty slow, and Mark's parents dropped him off early because of a family emergency. Suddenly the Ice cream window is slammed, so I step in with Mark and help scoop, Mark puts on a clean food service glove and hands it to the customer. So things are going smoothly and Mark's loving interacting with customers and people are slipping him some decent tips in a cup we set up for him. He was so excited.
Then, of course, some jerk steps up to the window and tries to order through Mark. I notice this, Mark looks thrown off, he's trying to tell him to wait for his buddy (me or the girl working the window) but he insists, and asks why he's not getting it over and over while me and the girl are trying to complete the last big party. Mark has pretty much shut down, I try to give him a pat on the back and redirect him to another task, but he just wants to go home now.
So I take this guy's order and I get it for him, and he's about 2 dollars short on his order. Now, I'm already straining to be civil with him but then instead of taking out a card he reaches into the tip cup I set up for Mark. That was it, he hands me the two dollars and expects me to take it. I say just loud enough for people to hear
Me: I'm sorry that's Mark's money, not yours, I can't accept this.
He quickly drops the smug smile and sneers back
Customer: Well I'm not putting a frappe on my card...
Remember when I said the window was slammed? Well people heard this going on and a couple of the regulars stepped in. They surround the guy and start grilling him over it, mothers, fathers, even a few kids I was going to high school with. The entire crowd was scowling at him, and until someone told him he needed to leave he seemed completely oblivious to peoples outrage. He ends up just throwing the money at me and leaving. Everyone there chipped in a little and thanked Mark, telling him he did a good job, and very quickly he was back to himself.
I was working a Carvery in a hotel, it was my first kitchen job and Id been there about a year. The restaurant closed at 2pm after lunch. At 1.55 in walks Crazy Lady with her teenage son in tow. Ok, no problem, its a Carvery so not like Ill have to stay later.
The first sign she wasn't quite all there was when she ordered a child's Carvery for her, clearly, 16 year old son, claiming he was in fact 11 years old. Whatever, I don't care. So I carve the delicious beef that I so lovingly prepared and headed back into the solace of the prep area. For 30 seconds...
The waitress came into the kitchen... "The lady would like you to go to see her at her table"
WHAT?! That's never happened before. So I put on my best customer loving grin and head out. She's bright red, more steam coming out of her ears than the hot water canteen. She lifts up her meat with her fork...
"WHAT IS THIS!!!!!" she whispers... "I COULD HAVE CHOKED TO DEATH!!!"
Normally this reaction would lead to panic, but alas, as I saw what was on the plate I was calm and actually chuckled. There were about ten pieces of perfectly scuare cut rubber band.
"Sorry, but you have put those there." I said.
"HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME, YOU SCUMBAG, YOU TRIED TO KILL ME I WANT (insert long list of compensation demands) AND I WANT YOU FIRED!" her angelic voice echoed around the empty seating area.
I calmly informed her that we had absolutely NO rubber bands in the kitchen, and that I had just cut the meat and put it on a clean white plate right in front of her face. She was about to erupt into delightfulness again but I spun around and pointed to the Security camera pointed directly at the Carvery...
She went white, pushed her chair back, grabbed her son by the paw and literally RAN out of the restaurant, never to be seen again.
And that is how I learned that people will do ANYTHING to make a quick buck if they think they can get away with it.
I've been recently promoted to a managerial position in a commercial kitchen.
This kitchen produces ready-to-eat meals, entrees, sides, meal kits, roasted chickens, soups, cut fruit, parfaits, juices, and buffet with a constantly rotating menu. We also produce those same items for several other locations using a spoke-and-wheel system.
I was promised a staff of at least 60. I was given 40. On top of all of the ordering, scheduling, and other admin duties myself and three other managers have had to train the majority of the staff. Most of these staff could not tell me difference between a dice and a julienne, or the difference between saut and simmer.
I just had my first walk out. Kid just left and never said a word. That was immediately after I had to let a half dozen people go because their production and time management was abhorrent.
Some of them have taken to calling me Chef Ramsey when they think I'm out of earshot.
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David has a very...relaxed attitude about cooking, so much in fact, that I have yet to see him finish a task despite having worked at my place for a couple of months. He'd prep a few ingredients, then jump out back for a smoke, then a few more, then wander off for a cuppa, rinse and repeat. This led the rest of our team doing his work, since obviously the work couldn't wait, but complaining to the head chef did nothing - he'd seek David out and threaten him with overtime, which would work for a couple of hours before the cycle would start anew.
I soon learned that David couldn't be fired - all our contracts were drafted so that anything else than gross negligence (aka property damage) or criminal action couldn't get you sacked. Renewing his contract would be a different thing all together, but as far as I know, he still has another 6 months to go on his current one.
Last Friday, however, I witnessed something that elevated David's laziness to a whole different level. I was working at my station when I happened to see David cut his finger - a clean cut, easily handled with a band aid and a pair of gloves. He deals with it, cleans up any blood, and then marches to the head chef, dropping this:
"My finger hurts, I'm going home"
Now, HC didn't think anything about it, since he thought it to be an obvious joke. I did too, at first, since David didn't make a move to clean his station (the few, rare things he actually follows through from the beginning to the end). So, he drops out the back door, and I assume he's going out for a smoke.
Fifteen minutes pass. Then thirty.
At 90 minute mark, HC comes to ask if tomorrow's soup has been prepped, which leads me to realize that David has, indeed, gone home, without cleaning any of his stuff, including the half-done chicken soup that's been sitting at room temp for an hour and a half, and has to thrown out and made again because of health regulations.
So yea, thanks, David.
I work solo in a one-man kitchen at a gas station. I spend an hour every day cutting veggies. I mostly make pizzas but occasionally make other gas-station-kitchen fare like burgers, chicken, sandwiches, etc.
It's Saturday night. My glutes have become rock hard from the tension of the night. I've been running back and forth slinging pizzas like they are made of gold. I am more flour than man.
Closing time approaches. It's 9:50, 10 minutes to shutting down. I can see the end. I can see the light. I can see home. I'm almost there.
And that's when it happens. Through the din of the ovens and fans, a siren screams out into the night.
OH GOD NO
I limp to the phone, whisper a quick prayer to the god of the pizza paddles, and answer.
Me - "Hello and thank you for calling Floobiedoo Pizza, how can I help you?"
Customer - "What time do y'all close?"
Me (feeling my soul slowly escaping my body) - "10 pm, in just about 8 minutes."
Customer - "Good, then I'm just in time. I'd like to order 5 pizzas please."
My face contorts into a hellish grin of absolute terror. Far away, a mournful soprano weeps the lyrics to Ave Maria. I muster every ounce of life force I have to say in my sweetest, happiest, most customer service friendly voice, "Yes ma'am, I'd love to make those pizzas for you."
Hours later, after finally getting closed up, and getting home I am heavily re-thinking my career choice.
I've been working at this large corporate business in college town for the past 3 months. I have plenty of kitchen experience when it comes to being a short-order cook. I'm used to seeing practically everything that is thrown my way.
Go back two weeks, we get this new guy named Tyrone. I don't think he has ever cooked a day in his life, but he manages to get hired. Good for him. The day that I come in for the closing shift, Tyrone was working prep in the morning.
My boss pulls me aside and tells me that we have no meatloaf. He dragged me to the dish room and pointed at the meatloaf asking me what is wrong with it. I couldn't see anything wrong with it other than it looks old, not rounded, and looks disgusting. When I said all of that, he just gave me a big, NOPE! It had egg shells in it. Why does it have egg shells?
The recipe called for "3 whole shelled eggs"
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There is a guy, holding a demi-chef position but worked 3 months at another restaurant prior. That's the sum of his experience. No culinary school, no part time experience in the kitchen.
So yesterday, he was on opening shift with me. I was cooking up tomato sauce with my back facing the pass. He, instead of doing the usual opening routine, decided to feed out a length of paper from the docket machine.
Our docket paper is those kind with 3 copies, white pink and yellow. He was wondering if the pink and yellow slip printed based on pressure (carbon copy) or heat.
So he took the blow torch and proceeded to burn the paper, next thing I know, I hear him scream in shock, ashes that where still on fire flying all over the place landing onto my garnishes and whatnot. The docket machine started to catch fire.
I rushed over to throw a wet cloth over the fire and this guy flailed, with the blow torch still in his hand red hot and flaming, burned my arm with the glowing red nozzle.
So it's a quiet night and I'm talking to the server and messing around with a new menu idea when this large family checks in. Next thing I know there's a group of 14 sitting down and the guy at the head of the table is in a wheelchair with oxygen tanks strapped to the back. First thought to run through my mind was "This guy looks half dead".
The server comes up a minute later with drink and app orders when she drops this bomb on me. The family is driving up to New York for a last ditch medical treatment for his condition and he might not make the trip, much less through the treatment. They wanted to make sure that this meal was special as it could be his last. The waitress had told them confidently that I could cook anything they wanted for him as it was a special situation. (No pressure right?)
He ended up ordering completely off the menu and we had to send the maintenance guy to a nearby grocery store to quickly get the stuff for him. While that's happening I'm trying to belt out the 10 steak and chicken orders with all the fixings. I manage to get everything out and I send off the sickly guys food cooked and plated the absolute best I could muster.
At the end of the meal, the guy wheeled up and thanked me for going out of my way to treat him like a king. He said he'd put in a great review for me and my server. After that, I had a few more tables randomly, closed shop and went home completely preoccupied with that event and thinking about life and death.
A few hours after I got home the front desk person sent me a text about the old man. He didn't make it to the next morning. He never did get to finish filling out that comment card, but I really hope that he meant what he said to me that night.
I had a trial shift at a fine dining Restaurant a few years ago. As part of my trial I was asked to make the soup of the day.
I was told I could use anything I could find from the dry-store and back fridge to make my soup.
I went out the back to see what they had, and there was literally nothing. No onions, no garlic, no carrots, no soup suitable meats, not even any dry stock powder. The only things I could find were 6 old shallots, some fresh chilli, and 4kg Fresh vine tomatoes. "Right" I thought, "tomato soup it is!"
So I cook the soup, but when I go to taste it, it has literally no flavor at all. It was a bad mix of watery and way too spicy. So I chuck some cream into it to cut the chilli, and try desperately to find some tomato paste, or a tin of tomatoes, or anything to give it some tomato flavor. The only thing I could find? A big bottle of tomato sauce.
So I think to my self "This cannot get any worse. This soup is so pooched I cannot do anything to make it worse" so in goes a hearty splash of tomato sauce.
I cook it out and the sous comes over to taste it. He frowns:
"Did you put tomato sauce in this?"
"No chef" I reply, "Just a little vinegar!"
"Wow" he exclaims, "That's really good" The head chef comes over to taste it, and they were both really impressed with the novel idea of adding a little vinegar to the soup.
That's how I got a job in fine dining with a Tomato Sauce Soup.
My god. New batch of trainees came in. One was asked to arrange the seafood on ice. 20 min later came in to tell me he dunno how to differentiate between crabs and lobsters.
One asked me if he could use the reach-in under-table chiller as a food warmer. I was confused. Went to his station to find the chiller temp reading at 41C.
Pasta station; pasta blancher temp was luke warm. Asked them why? "I just need to warm the pasta up before cooking it in the sauce because trainee X overcooked the pasta. (Precooked pasta to half cooked)"
Tried teaching them the names of the pasta they are serving, week 3 and they are still calling fusilli as "screwed spaghetti"
Breaking up is hard to do.
And when you get the law involved, it's even worse. But sometimes people don't need the law's help to make things overcomplicated, they just have a grand ole time making that happen themselves.
People on the front lines of human cruelty include divorce lawyers. These are their stories.