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.
“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.”
“I was working for a highly rated farm to table restaurant in Atlanta when this guy from Asheville came in with his wife. He proceeded to complain about every dish, it’s too salty, the menu description was different than what he expected, etc. He ordered tempura fried soft shell crab and then demanded to know why it was fried. He then demanded a menu to show me how wrong I was. When he noticed the word “fried” was the first word in the dish FRIED soft shell crab he blamed me for not telling him it was fried. He wife sat there in silent compliance the whole time.
After speaking with the guy, my manager told me, “He’s an asshole. If he keeps it up let me know. I comped his entire check.”
I went back to the table and he was practically foaming at the mouth over some new imagined injustice, his face bright red, practically bouncing in his seat. He let off with another abusive tirade and declared that he was going to walk out without paying the bill. I responded very passive-aggressively and sweetly, “Sir, your bill has already been taken care of. We hope you find another dining option that is more accommodating to your tastes.”
He stomped off and started in on the hostess. Our fat, stoned, jolly chef/owner had fielded all the food complaints and happened to amble up in time to catch him yelling at her. He instantly went into protective mode and told the guy to get the fuck out of his restaurant. “No one talks to my employees like that. If you like Asheville so much go the fuck home.”
The guy started walking down the stairs to valet, stopped halfway, and turned around to look at Chef. Without missing a beat, Chef yelled down to the guy, “If you come up these stairs I’m going to slap the shit out of you!” The guy slunk off into his Ritz car and we promptly got a call from their concierge.
Yeah, it cost us some business, but in the end, it was awesome.” (Editor’s Note: Yes, I know this chef isn’t crazy, but he’s badass)
“The summer after I graduated from high school, I worked at a mom and pop place by the interstate in my extremely small, backwoods hometown. The owner was an eccentric former truck driver and greyhound racer who was about as classy as those careers would suggest.
The cook there was a scruffy, wiry dude in his late forties. One day, he came up to me and said, “I kept having a girl’s face stuck in my head, so I drew her and I think she’s you.” He then presented me with a poor sketch of a woman with a heart-shaped face and long hair who (I flattered myself) looked nothing like me. He wouldn’t let me have it (I wanted to burn it); he insisted on keeping it.
Call me paranoid, but after that, I lived in terror the guy would kill me and wear my skin. I quit not long after that so I could go on vacation with my family. Oh, to be eighteen again.”
“I was working at a fancy steakhouse. The chef was a little crazy, but a good guy and a fantastic chef.
One busy Saturday night, I served prime rib to a woman. She sent it back, saying she wanted the bones. Chef arranged the bones on the plate artfully and sent it back out. She sent it back again, saying “No, I want it attached to the bone!” I dreaded facing the chef because I knew this was the kind of thing that would set him off, but even I was shocked by his reaction.
He grabbed a bucket of bones, kicked open the swinging doors, and started hurling bones into the crowded dining room, screaming “You want bones? Here are your fucking bones!”
People were screaming and diving under the tables. It took the bartender and the manager to wrestle him into submission and out of the dining room.”