Illustration by Alix Ayoub

Cooking with Fire

Kitchens, be they fancy-schmancy five-star set-ups, shotgun diner torpedoes, or hustle-bustle catering operations, run like a national championship football team. The order gets hiked to the expeditor, thrown over to the sous chef, and hustled to the finish line by a crew for whom each movement is imprinted on their muscles so their minds are free to problem solve on the fly.

Sometimes, however, the team breaks down—someone slips, gets information wrong, or an unforeseen wrench in hurdled into the huddle. Kitchen nightmares can result in panic, frenzied action, or even a trip to the hospital. Stock & Barrel gathers just a few scenarios that are enough to make any chef sweat…

Brooke Kinsey

Bleu & Fig • bleuandfig.com

Like last summer when we arrived to the reception venue and no rentals—meaning tables, chairs, linens, China, glassware, etc.—had shown up. Guests were walking in the front door as the tables were being dressed in the back of the room!

We also had the time that the fire alarm went off in the middle of the wedding reception. Who would have thought searing 200 scallops in a small room would have done that!?!? Thankfully, the couple embraced the moment and took their photo with the fire department!

Fortunately, the water sprinklers didn’t go off. But it was the most obnoxious alarm with blinking red lights for about 10 minutes. The guests seriously laughed and kept partying! Some continued to eat, others were dancing! The bride and groom had their picture taken with the fire fighters and outside with the truck. Watching these big muscular firefighters walk through the delicately decorated wedding space with all their big sturdy equipment was priceless.

Del Sroufe

Wellness Forum Foods • chefdelsroufe.com

I once catered a vegan wedding reception to be held at the North Pointe Pavilion. The bride- to-be and I talked by email for several months, working out the menu. It was to be a breakfast. I was to make homemade vegan croissants, sushi, tofu scramble, spring rolls, oven-fried potatoes, a pancake bar, fruit salad, and more.

I had staff ready; I had food ordered, the griddle on order. The wedding was to be on a Sunday, and all was going as it should … except that it wasn’t.

To serve alcohol at City Parks and Recreation facilities, you had to be registered with the city to do so. I had my paperwork turned in and all was well … except that it wasn’t. The Friday before the event I called the city parks’ office to make sure my paperwork was in good order, saying something like, “I’m just checking to make sure everything is good for the event on Sunday.” The voice on the other end of the line said, “yes, it is fine except that your event is Saturday.” After a few minutes back and forth I hung up the phone, called the bride and asked her to verify the day for me. It was indeed Saturday.

I had less than 24 hours to do all the food prep for this wedding: 300 homemade croissants, 200 spring rolls, 50 pounds of potatoes, peeled and diced, fruit cut for fruit salad, and on, and on.

To make matters worse, none of the staff I had set up for Sunday was available for Saturday, so I had to find bodies, any bodies to help me pull this off. And then I had to do a 20-hour marathon prep shift, which I did. After working into the night, and getting about 15 minutes of sleep, we showed up on time, me and my ragtag crew–one guy was wearing a greasy mechanics shirt. The event went of without a hitch. The bride had no idea until I told her a year later—after learning of her divorce—about what had a happened.

Dan Varga

Double Comfort Restaurant • doublecomfortrestaurant.com

Which one do you want? Both?

In the ’90s, I was working at Oscar’s in Dublin and I was carrying a big pot of boiling potatoes—50 pounds of potatoes—to make mash. The floor was linoleum in the dish tank area and I slipped. All this starchy boiling water went on my chest, back, butt, foot—I tried to get up, but fell again on the potatoes. I stripped down to my boxers in the kitchen, I mean, they were wet with boiling water. A server and I hopped into a car, he was driving like crazy, running red lights, and got me to Urgent Care. But Urgent Care wouldn’t treat me because more than 15% of my body was burned. So we waited for an ambulance to take me to the OSU burn unit where I got a morphine drip. I was back at work 11 days later.

When I working at Metropolitan in Worthington, I was prepping for lunch service. I was slicing poblanos, and some seeds were on the cutting board. Well, the knife hit one of the seeds and jumped, cutting off the top of my first finger. The blood squirted three feet in the air like a geyser. I wrapped a towel around my finger and then had to find the tip among the peppers and put it on ice. I went to the hospital and they were able to reattach it. Twelve stitches. There’s still a little chunk missing. I am usually pretty calm in these situations, I’m like, calm, and telling people to find my finger. But when I got to the doctor and he took the towel off, the blood squirted out, all over the doctor’s goggles. I got a little queasy then.

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