Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss a question? Go here.
Spills, the occasional fire -- wait, there's no baking soda in this at all? When it comes to cooking mistakes, we've all had our missteps in the kitchen. But when you're a chef, those moments are magnified. I asked Valley chefs and restaurateurs to recount their most epic fails in the kitchen, and they've been kind enough to resurrect some horror stories of their very own (gulp).
Chef Matt Taylor Noca
While cooking at Mary Elaine's, I dumped eight liters of finished and beautiful bordelaise sauce (a pricey red wine sauce finished with bone marrow) all over the chef's table in the kitchen. I had just started and thought I was going to get fired. Chef Brad Thompson did not speak to me for a while, and I almost quit in shame.
Christopher Gross Chef and Owner, Christopher's & Crush Lounge
Chicken-fried foie gras. Looked good, sounded good, not so good.
Justin Beckett Chef and Owner, Beckett's Table
I still remember when I went down in flames on the fish station many, many years ago. The rest of the kitchen had to stop cooking and had to come and bail me out of the weeds -- no wait -- the forest. After that, I was so behind that I'm sure the dining room manager had to buy many, many dinners for very upset guests.
Deborah Schneider Chef and Partner, SOL Mexican Cocina
Exploding a #10 can of dulce de leche. I was called away and the pot boiled dry. When it blew, it coated the entire kitchen with caramel. Smelled better than pink slime, though.
Chef Kurt Jacobsen Hidden Meadow Ranch
The time I put salt instead of sugar in a wedding cake.
Andrew Nam Chef and Co-Owner Stingray, Jimmy Woo's Asian Bistro, Spanish Fly, Geisha A Go Go
I probably won't be making homemade ice cream anytime soon. I'm leaving that to my buddies Ben & Jerry.
James Porter Chef and Owner, Petite Maison
When I was an apprentice at the Greenbrier, I had to make consomme for an event for 5,000 people. They key is to make a "raft" by putting egg whites into the stock and, then, whisk away. As the egg whites heat, they rise to the top and draw in all the other proteins, which makes the consomme clear. A chef there gave me some "advice" on a trick to make it a different way. I served mud to thousands. It was 1996, when there was not a term for verbal abuse or hostile work environment. Wow, I got my ass handed to me. I think my supervising chef blew a blood vessel or two. I'm still traumatized.
Michael Monti Owner, Monti's La Casa Vieja
Back when we were still open on Thanksgiving, we ran out fresh roasted turkey one year. Someone in the kitchen decided to send out slabs of turkey cold cut meat with gravy and all the fixins for fear of telling me. I only learned of it when I saw the sad-looking cold cut sitting on the customer's plate.
Rita French Chef de Cuisine, Province
I fortunately haven't had any epic fails in my career yet. Cooking requires one to always think on their feet, so most things or missteps can be fixed. I do recall once when I was a little girl, that I made potato salad for my dad -- only I forgot to cook the potatoes. He was a champ (and a great dad) and ate all of it. Thank God he didn't get sick!
Justin Micatrotto, Co-Owner Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers in Arizona
While working my first shift ever in a kitchen, a recipe called for whole eggs, and so I tossed them in -- shells and all.
Gary Lasko Proprietor, The Stockyards
Grabbing what I thought was bulk cornstarch to make a slurry to thicken a gallon of buffalo chili. After a couple of minutes, I could tell the chili wasn't getting any thicker. When I checked the baggie of cornstarch, turned out to be bulk powdered sugar! Ate it anyway -- buffalo is expensive! Had to add a lot of salt, though.
Eddie Matney Owner and chef, Eddie's House
Still looking for one.
Devin Walsh Chef and Owner, Calistro California Bistro
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I was in New York City doing a tasting for the owners of a restaurant for a chef de cuisine position. I woke up feeling horrible (head cold) but decided to go ahead with it anyway. Needless to say, the food sucked and I never heard from them again. Moral of the story: Cooking really does have a lot to do with your soul; they reflect each other. When you're balanced and happy, your food will rock. When you're miserable, your food will suffer!
Chef Curly Castaneda Tilted Kilt
It was a very busy day, and for some reason the chef I was working under quit on the spot, and since I was the AKM, or sous chef, I took over that night. I was under a lot of stress and the ticket times were not what we would want. Obviously I had to take responsibility for the wrong things that were happening at that time, but I learned from the experience and have grown as a chef and role model in the kitchen.