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Kitchen NightmaresThe kitchen can some times be a dark place! Inanimate objects can come alive and unimaginable things can go wrong. Disaster can strike at any time making any chef or enthusiastic cook go weak at the knees . . . enough to make a strong man use the F word or need a stiff drink to steady the nerves.

Below are stories of some of those kitchen nightmares! Many thanks to all who have contributed.

Kitchen Nightmares of Gemma Driver:

Tip - don't cut corners when preparing snails. Thinking that most of the procedures I had read seemed overcomplicated (purging, starving, initial boiling, gutting, salt and vinegaring, boiling in stock for hours), I followed a recipe that cut out several stages of the snail preparation process. The resulting gristle-in-copious-slime effect was inedible. I still tried to eat it of course, (unsuccessfully) but the experience put me off snails for a few months!

Gemma Driver ~ Food Writer

Kitchen Nightmares of Alan Spedding:

I took part in a prime time television cookery show. Part of the fly on the wall documentary involved me spending the day training at one of the countries top restaurant kitchens, shadowing the head chef and second chef around all day.

To cut a long story short, during dinner service, my job was to help plate up the starters of Tuna Tartare surrounded by a ring of lambs lettuce petals. Anyway, I was only managing to plate up one portion as opposed to the second chef's three portions. My lambs lettuce just wouldn't lay flat on the plate. They kept curling up and looking untidy. Only when I was about to give up did I notice the chef's special technique for getting them to lie flat on the plate . . . a little spread of saliva on each one! Just like licking a stamp! I watched, mouth open, speechless and amazed . . . and it worked too! It was horrific and needless to say I didn't add this to my list of kitchen techniques.

The next day I shadowed the head chef (name withheld to protect my life). It was canapé time and crab samosas were the highlight of the menu. The tip must have been catching on! If you have ever seen anyone rolling their own cigarettes and licking the paper - top tip of the day this - that's how the head chef got the crab samosas to seal well . . . a quick lick of the tongue . . . I never returned for a meal!

Alan Spedding

Kitchen Nightmares of Alan Coxon:

As the head chef responsible for one of the largest four star hotels in Europe, looking after 1,098 rooms and around 3,000 guests on full occupancy, not forgetting the non residential guests that increased figures to around 4,000 customers per day, I was constantly faced with challenges.

The main reason for these challenges was the fact that there were only 480 seats available in the main dinning room, all the food was cooked fresh on the a la carte menu, and needless to say everyone preferred to dine around 7:30pm to 8:00pm for dinner.

The shortage of seating led to hundreds of people queuing for hours!

If this was not bad enough I was permanently operating twelve chefs short of my full compliment due to challenges within the personnel dept and their recruitment processes. As the restaurant was bursting and the queue backing up as far as the eye could see, most frustrated guests would opt to return to their rooms and order room service.

Logical to many people but unfortunately the kitchen that looked after the main dining room also looked after room service as well. If this was not bad enough, room service was equally short staffed having only three waiters to look after the 1,098 rooms. The hotel was so big that once a waiter was dispatched with the food it would take them 15 minutes to reach the average room followed by a 15 min return journey with no satellite kitchen en-route. Needless to say room service needed to be booked days in advance for any hope of obtaining any service whatsoever!

If this was not bad enough the new high-tech kitchen had the latest safety sensors, ensuring that a complete gas cut off switch was triggered at the slightest draft! When the gas cut off it naturally needed a specialist to reconnect the system and to return the kitchen back to full scale action. The whole process taking around thirty minutes.

A one off gas outage could be understandable but this sensitive pipe would leave us stranded three to four times an evening, causing all the imaginable upsets in the process. With 4,000 customers begging to be served, no staff and then no gas, life could not get any worse.

With food orders pumping out of the points of sale system, rolling out like toilet roll, I as management had added responsibilities such as being a member of the first response team, who in case of emergency was called out to investigate with immediate action any potential fire risk.

As I left my gasless kitchen and screaming guests I would race fanatically towards the room to assess the situation, all of these I am pleased to say turned out to be false alarms, sadly the battles encountered within my own domain were real and can only be described as none other than real Kitchen Nightmares!

Alan Coxon ~ food archaeologist and celebrity chef

Kitchen Nightmares of Gayle Hartley:

BBQ flamesI love baked potatoes, especially cooked on the fire until the skin is crispy and the insides are perfectly squashy. Combined with butter and cheese it is heaven for me.

Not long ago we were barbecuing and I was sick of boiled potatoes or potato salad so I thought I'd do baked potatoes. The coals were too hot to cook them from scratch so I started them off in the oven to be finished off in the hot BBQ coals.

When the potatoes were almost done, I wrapped them in foil and put them under the BBQ grill to crisp off while we were cooking the meat. The meat took slightly longer than expected but it didn't matter as I like my potato skins crispy. After about half an hour of cooking we served up the meat and I got out the potatoes, took them into the kitchen and unwrapped them . . . there in front of me were six little black tennis balls! The potatoes had shrunk a little and burnt but I thought I could just scrape off the black bits! I wish! When I tried to cut one in half the whole thing just disintegrated in my hands. They were all the same so we had tomatoes instead!

Traditional Spanish paella - no problem! Humble baked potato . . .

Gayle Hartley

. . . there are more to come!

If you have a kitchen nightmare to contribute then email info@hub-uk.com

Published 19 July 2007

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com