We've all experienced some ups and downs while pursuing what a career we love or a calling we're passionate about, right? Every profession has opportunities for blunders, danger, and "oops" moments, big and small.
I know this very well myself. I feel like I've experienced them all. Being a chef in a kitchen, needless to say, definitely has its fair share of disasters. Here are my five worst.
The Olive Oil Brownies
OK, before you jump to conclusions, this wasn't recent. Way before I became a chef, I was an amateur, especially in the baking world. (I'm still not the best baker, but huge improvements have been made.)
At the time, I was a teenager spending a lot of time hanging out with my friends. One night, we decided to have a last-minute get-together, which meant I needed to quickly make something to eat. Since I didn't have time to run to the store, the only thing I could make in a snap was brownies. Already stocked with the ingredients in the kitchen, I got to work.
When I opened the cupboard to grab some vegetable oil, there was none left. I'd forgotten I ran out. There was a bottle of olive oil, though.
Hey, oil is oil, right?
I dumped some olive oil in the batter, stirred it, and poured it into a pan. In the oven it went, and I started getting ready to head out the door.
Once I opened the oven door, it smelled like the usual chocolatey smell I knew and loved, so I didn't think anything of it. But since I'm one of those "taste before you serve" kind of people (or taste a few times before you serve), I cut a warm corner piece to try.
"AAAGGHHHHHHHH," I yelled, while spitting out my half-chewed brownie. It was disgusting.
Needless to say, I showed up at my friend's place empty-handed, and with a promise to make something better next time. I definitely learned my lesson: No, oil is NOT oil, especially when it comes to baking.
The Sprained Ankle at a Wedding
Years ago, I was working for a catering company, and one weekend, I was at a wedding event. It was crunch time, and I had already set up my prep station for cocktail hour. We had to get hors d'oeuvres out immediately following the ceremonial "I do's," so we were all hustling and bustling to get everything we could ready.
I was working on garnishes when I realized I'd forgotten to grab a lemon. I scooted across the kitchen to the refrigerator and grabbed one. Next thing I know I'm slipping, and my ankle went one way, while the rest of me the other. Screaming with pain, I curled up in fetal position on the floor, not being able to move, lemon still clenched in my fist.
Luckily, one of my coworkers knew first aid and ran over. The first thing he asked was if I could move my ankle — I didn't know. He lifted my ankle and had me move it slightly from right to left, then up and down. Apparently, that was a good thing; he said that it probably wasn't broken, since I could move it.
Another coworker said, "See, hon, you're going to be OK. Now let the lemon go."
Not realizing it, I still had the lemon in my hand. In a way, it seemed to help me get through the pain. (almost like holding a stress ball?)
Turns out I had slipped on a wet floor, where chunks of ice had previously melted and hadn't been mopped up. In the meantime, an ambulance had arrived, and I was placed on a stretcher. And yes, this was all happening while the bride and groom were exchanging their vows. I was beyond embarrassed, but grateful, since the kitchen had a back entrance. The ambulance was able to come in and out unnoticed.
The Farewell Thumb Injury
My last day working at the aforementioned catering company was a pretty laid-back. I had just finished chopping a few veggies with a chef's knife, when WHACK!
Looking down, I realized I had sliced a small chunk of my thumb and was bleeding quite a bit. The same coworker who knew first aid had me wrap paper towels around it and apply pressure. He told the boss he'd take me to the ER, and we were off.
I was nervous, as I knew I'd probably need stitches, which made me shudder just to think of it. As the doc looked it over, he said, "Oh, yeah, this was a good one. You're going to need stitches." Before I could say anything, he added, "Oh, don't worry, no needles for you."
He told me that he would be "stitching" it up with a skin glue that works like stitches, but without the pain. Once I was glued, I was out the door.
What a way to leave a job, huh?
As a high school freshman, I attended a vocational school, where I ended up studying culinary arts as my trade. We had just been taught the art of sautéing and had to practice doing some pan flipping with peas in a bit of oil. Once they finished cooking, I transferred the peas to a dish.
I didn't realize there was a bit of oil that had dribbled down the side of the pan and ended up underneath it until I saw a flame catch on.
"FIRE"! I yelled.
Since this was a gas stove, the flame got a bit bigger in a matter of seconds. Of course I was panicking, frozen as to what to do, but luckily, our chef ran over and smothered the fire with a large pan cover. I'm so glad I didn't try using water to stop a grease fire.
The Surprise Food Allergy
Out of all my worst disasters, this one was the most recent. Two months ago, I was teaching a cooking class that was centered around veggies, which were incorporated into simple, delicious recipes.
In all my years of trying new foods, I've never had any food issues. No allergies, no acid reflux — nothing. That night, we were making a new dessert, chocolate quinoa pudding with sweet potato, maple syrup, honey, and natural cocoa powder. I've never been allergic to any of those components, so I didn't think anything of it.
We made the pudding, and all had a taste. Within a half hour or so, I started rubbing my eyes quite a bit and thought it was just from cooking the other dishes beforehand and my face getting oily. Class was over at this point, so I started packing up to leave. By the time I got home, my face felt tingly and my ears felt itchy. The sides of my mouth felt irritated. Before I knew it, my eyes got really puffy, too. When I looked in the mirror, my ears looked like Dumbo and I looked like a blowfish.
I barely slept that night and called my doctor's office the next morning. The nurse that answered asked if my throat was closing up or if I had trouble breathing (thankfully, no). She said it was an allergic reaction, but to what exactly, I didn't know. All I could think of was maybe there was some kind of reaction when all those ingredients were combined somehow, since I had no problems with them individually. After two weeks of Benadryl, I was finally back to normal.
I have no plans to change careers any time soon, so hopefully, things will go more smoothly in the future. With everything that can go wrong in a kitchen, however, you never know.