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The 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 some of those kitchen nightmares! Many thanks to Tallyrand who contributed these.

Kitchen Nightmares of Tallyrand:

Place: Germany
Date : 1977

I was a fresh faced apprentice straight out of Hotel School. A seventeen year old away from home for the fist time, in a strange land, with a strange language . . . that I did not speak. My college Chef had organised a two year apprenticeship for me and sent me away to his homeland. He had made sure my first year was in a small spa hotel in a small village, so I could become gently acclimatised and learn the culture, the food and the language.

I was three months into my apprenticeship and had picked up some basic language, enough to get me by. The kitchen was run by a colossus of a man, Herr Otto, who I always fondly remember for his huge hands and stubby fingers which always seem to get waved at me for doing something wrong! His hand and wiggling finger always reminded me of a cows udder, it was that big, that chubby and those fingers that stubby.

The rest of the brigade were made up of, a German Sous Chef, a German Saucier, a French Entremetier, an Indian Patisserie Chef, a Fraulein dietician and a splattering of German lehrlings (apprentices). An eclectic, international bunch if ever there was one. They taught me a lot . . . about food and about life

Kitchen nightmares were two a penny to me back then. I seemingly was always in the wrong and screwing up. Like fetching my chef a loaf of bread instead of a chopping board . . . well he did always talk to me half in German and half in English and the German for board is brett!

This kitchen nightmare is not of the usual sort. But as a seventeen year old away from home in a foreign land, longing for some company, it was a kitchen nightmare for me. I had been trying to chat up and ask out a young waitress, whose name long escapes me. During services, I chatted and flirted and seemed to be doing well. The clincher I thought would be to buy her something nice. So one day, during the four hour break we got in the middle of our split shift, I went out shopping.

I bought her a nice little ornament as I knew she was into glass cats of all things. With it nicely gift wrapped I started evening service with it safely tucked away, ready for the right moment if it presented itself. To my surprise towards the end of service she came to chat to me, the signals were right and the timing seemed right. I retrieved the package and was in mid sentence, when I realised I didn't know the German for 'present'. Thinking quickly I substituted the English word . . . in my head I was saying "I have a present for you".

"Ich habe eine gift for dir."

She turned and almost ran back to the restaurant. How very strange! Meanwhile my fellow German trainees were in side-splitting laughter, just what I needed when I had been spurned and humiliated.

How was I supposed to know that the Germans also used the word GIFT and that it means POISON!

I never did get that date and I still have that cat!

Tallyrand ~ chef

Kitchen Nightmares of Tallyrand:

Same country, same time, same kitchen . . . it was discovered that a light sprinkling of chilli powder on the hotplate (we had the typical gas stoves with solid tops) would not only light up like sparklers when sprinkled, but also caused invisible fumes that got into the lungs and made you cough like an old coal miner.

A common trick when things were quiet and we got bored. As these things do, it started to get too frequent and out of hand, with sprinklings becoming heavier and heavier . . . just how much could be used?

We found out when an over the top dose was used and the coughing got REALLY uncomfortable and caused eyes to burn. No problem, we would just whack up the extractor unit and clear the air before Herr Otto, the Head Chef, and the team arrived and caught us.

What was not realised was that the extraction unit was connected throughout the Hotel. End result? Total evacuation . . . guests coughing, spluttering and lots of burning eyes. Oh, and a bunch of innocent, angelic trainee chefs, asking "What's happening?"

Tallyrand ~ chef

. . . 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