Nobody Faint in My Kitchen, a Thanksgiving tale

If there are any terms in here that may be a little puzzling, you can go here and they might be listed Glossary of Restaurant Lingo and Terms

One of the funniest things that ever happened to me was when I worked in a very large kitchen (many moons ago) that had an average of 7 cooks on the line on an average night, and when it was busy, we had about a dozen.

The Chef at the time, was an old Frenchman who taught me an awful lot, but also had an atrocious temper when he got riled up. He didn’t cook much anymore at that time, only wrote up menus and oversaw the line when he felt like giving some people some what for.

I worked the sauté station most of the time I was there, and at the beginning of every shift I started out with a fairly full bottle of Pernod, ½ the bottle went toward sautéed spinach with butter and Pernod for one of the dishes I was in charge of, and the other half went to Chef as he made his rounds about 6 times a night through the line. He did love his Pernod.

Every Thanksgiving, Chef got on the line to carve turkey, it was his “thing”. On this particular Thanksgiving we had about 6 bus tours booked and expected to do over 700 covers that night. The waitstaff that night didn’t have a chance to eat family meal, (a meal that the kitchen cooks for the staff), which was usually put out about an hour before service.

That night, of all nights, we had a brand new front of the house manager. Everything was going smoothly until about half way through the night when the new guy runs up to the other side of the line and says to Chef (who was standing directly to my right) “Chef, Chef, you have to feed the waitstaff, they feel like they are going to faint”

An appalled moment of silence fell throughout the kitchen. You could have heard a fork drop.

Chef’s face turned beat red and then he started to scream (please for a moment imagine a very thick French accent, think Inspector Clouseau crossed with Bocuse) “Faint? Faint? NOBODY FAINT IN MY KITCHOOOON!”

Chef then proceeded to slice up turkey maniacally (screaming all the while) and started throwing sliced turkey on plates and then chucking them onto and over the metal shelf that served as the pickup line, where they then went crashing down onto the other side.

At that point, most of the cooks on the line where laughing hysterically and rolling on the floor, there were about 20 waitstaff on the front side of the line frozen in petrified horror.

The front of the house manager belatedly realized he had screwed up and said in a pitiful voice, “I’m sorry Chef but none of them got to eat Family meal and they are really, really hungry” If he had had a little more experience there at the restaurant, he would have known that you went down to the end of the line and snagged the Garde Manger person instead of bothering Chef,  and they would put together some tidbits for the staff, but this poor chap was too new to know that.

This just made matters worse and Chef who at that point had swung around to the stoves to light a burner up, to heat up more food, so he could throw it over the line a the DR manager, swung back around with a lighted faggot in his hand (to the general public, a faggot or fagot is a twist of longer paper that is frequently used in kitchens to light up burners transfering the flame from other burners that are pesky lighting up from scratch when you turn the gas dial on)

At this facility we had two large circular racks which were used to hold the order tickets, it could fit approximately 40 tickets each and depending on the night about 200-300 covers (or people ordering).

Chef swung around with his twist of paper and screaming obscenities at the front of the house manager caught all of our current tickets on fire. All of them proceeded to go up in a rush of flame.

At that very moment who should walk into the kitchen but the current manager and part owner of the place, seeing dozens of petrified waitstaff, a cowering front of the house manager, a floor littered with broken china and turkey pieces, a line full of cooks holding their stomachs dying with laughter and a screaming ballistic chef with several thousand dollars worth of order tickets going up in flames.

The end result of the night was we ended up comping about 150 diners for really late food. All the orders put into the kitchen had to be sorted out and the front of the house manager was told not so politely at the end of the night to take a hike.

But I will never forget as long as I live the sight of Chef screaming redfaced. “Faint? Faint? NOBODY FAINT IN MY KITCHOOOON!” Never had a Thanksgiving like it quite like that since.


About Chef Forfeng

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