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Chefs Tell All: What You Maybe Didn’t Want to Know About Kitchens

For our January issue, we asked 24 chefs to give their candid—and anonymous—opinions on overrated colleagues, underappreciated restaurants, embarrassing ingredients, and nightmare customers. We’re posting the results throughout the month.

Does that knife do double duty as a fingernail cleaner and a vegetable chopper? Gross.

Do you taste food with fingers or spoons?

50 percent: spoons.

50 percent: both (“I’m not above sticking my fingers into a thing of mashed potatoes.”)

What’s the dirtiest thing you’ve seen in a local kitchen?

“I went to a Chinese restaurant and one of the cooks had made a bed in the kitchen underneath the table, right by the stove. It had pillows and the works.”

“I saw one of my prep cooks cleaning under her fingers with a paring knife that she was using to cut her vegetables with.”

“I saw a chef put his cigarette out in his stock pot.”

What was your biggest kitchen disaster?

“Our hood system went down, and the restaurant refused to stop service. It must have been 130 degrees in the kitchen. I sweated through my chef jacket and apron. On the way home, I ran out of gas because I was so delirious. I had thrown my socks away because they were soaking, so I had to walk along the highway with no socks.”

“I once stuck a knife through my left hand while trying to separate burger patties.”

“A chef made me work in my boxers for a night because I came to work without my chef uniform and knives.”

What are you most uptight about in the kitchen? 

Cleanliness: “I can’t stand to see a stained jacket, apron, or towels.”

The refrigerator: “I hate half-assed plastic wrapping.”

Respect: “You can’t run a kitchen if your cooks are howling at the waitresses.”

Related:

Chefs Tell All: What They Think of Critics 

Chefs Tell All: Smoking, Vices, and Hangover Cures

Chefs Tell All: Embarrassing Kitchen Ingredients and Fast-Food Choices

This article appears in the January issue of The Washingtonian.

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