Great Chef Stories

Great Chef Stories

Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Today we bring you stories about those most batshit fucking locoeven-keeled and calm individuals: chefs. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.

Erica Tenley:

“My husband spent the second half of his childhood on an island that is a popular and gorgeous vacation spot. When he was about fourteen, his mother got him a part-time job working as a minion for her friend, Old School French Chef, whose Old School French Restaurant was THE place to eat. One night, this guy kept sending his food back. After the third or fourth time, Chef got peeved and asked the waiter WTF. “Dunno, Chef,” the waiter said. “This guy is being kind of a loud asshole, though. And he’s asking for you.” 

So Chef went out into the dining room and there was this loud asshole — later revealed to be a muckety-muck in the mob out on the mainland — holding forth about how this food is shit, this restaurant is shit, who the hell cooked this shit. He spied Chef and said, “Hey! Did you cook this shit? Do you know who I am? You think you can serve me and my friends this shitty food?”

Backstory: Chef grew up in Normandy during the war. He got his Old School French Apprenticeship with Charles Barrier because his father spent time in a concentration camp with a priest who knew Barrier, and was able to work that connection. His father was in a camp because he had helped downed British pilots escape occupied France. Chef came home from school one day when he was about five to find Gestapo officers sitting in his house, waiting for his father to come home. When they spoke kindly to him and he replied, not knowing any better, his mother pulled him into the kitchen and struck him across the face before building a fire so she could burn incriminating papers. Given that kind of past, he was not exactly struck with fear to be confronted by a loud asshole of a mob boss.

Chef pulled a bottle of Champagne from its bucket on another table and, holding it by the neck, broke it off on the mob guy’s table, drenching him. He brandished the bottle at the mob guy. “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY RESTAURANT!” he shouted. When the mob guy hesitated, somewhat surprised at this turn of events, Chef grabbed him by his collar and pulled him from his chair, shoving him across the floor. He turned to the mob guy’s remaining guests. “ALL OF YOU! GET THE FUCK OUT! GET OUT OF HERE!” They complied. 

I believe he comped the other people a replacement bottle of Champagne. My husband watched the whole thing, saucer-eyed, from the kitchen door. The waiters barely took notice. They had been with Chef for decades, and they all knew how he rolled.”

Have you got any great chef stories to tell. Share them with us at The Chef House.

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