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This is a question Restaurants, Kitchens and Bars... Oh my!

Many years ago, I went out with a chef. Kitchens are merely vice dens with food. You couldn't move for people bonking and snorting coke in the store room. And the things they did with the food...

My personal vice was chocolate mousse - I remember it being very calming in all the chaos around me. I think they put things in it.

Tell us your stories of working in kitchens, bars and the rest of the nightmare that is the catering trade.

(, Fri 21 Jul 2006, 9:58)
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This question is now closed.

Every Little Helps
I worked for a year in the Hot Chicken part of a well known supermarket for shit pay. My food hygiene training was minimal (read: none) and it really was a crap job that I couldn't give a shit about.

One of my meanial tasks was emptying out the ovens of vast quantities of oil and fat from the days cooking. This involved sliding out a 3x4ftx8inch tray, undoing the tap that was on the bottom of it in the oil (how I was supposed to open it without putting my hand in 6inches of scalding hot oil was never explained) and drain it into a massive bucket which I then had to drag to the other end of the shop to dispose of. Inevitably, one day, I spilled 40litres of warm, foul-smelling chicken fat all over the shop floor. "Fuck that, I cannot be bothered to clean that. I don't get paid enough", I thought, clocked out early and went home leaving the chicken equivalent of the Exxon Valdez for some other poor sod to clear up.

Me and a mate did run and slide through the mess first mind, that was fun.
(, Fri 28 Jul 2006, 1:48, Reply)
Oh, I forgot about this one! (Take-away related)
I had been telling my obstetrical nursing students the day before about how some cultures ate placenta and not to be surprised if the parents asked to take theirs home.

The next day, I came in and someone had brought in Chicken Something from the Orient Gardens carry-out covered in that violently Chinese-red slop. I hatched a brilliant plan: I put it in a styrofoam coffee cup and took it into the student's room.

"Hey, you guys, remember when I said some people liked to eat their placentas? Well, the lady in room 39 had her mom cook hers up and brought it in. I asked her if I could have a little to share with my students." They see the bright crimson, gooey chunks on the end of my fork and turn white.

"Does anyone want to try it? I'm going to see what it tastes like.." and I raise the drippy thing to my lips. Before I can laugh and say, "Just kidding!", Kevin turns and hurls into the wastebasket and Belinda's eyes roll back in her head and she has to sit down fast.

I do feel remorse over Kevin's losing his breakfast. Sorry, guy.
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 20:02, Reply)
A word to the wise on food contamination and unsafe food-handling practices:
It's not just common, it is universal. Not only do restaurants contain a significant number of people who work there because it's the only class of business that hasn't learned better than to hire them, and who thus will take any opportunity to foul food production through ignorance or malice... but the food itself is generally universally-contaminated.

The grand majority of food production is automated - in harvesting giant machines are used, in slaughtering there are vast assembly-lines of dead animals, and anything processed has giant swaths of crap going out over a factory floor. At any point contamination can enter when there is either no person supervising the production or the person who is watching doesn't care.

As a result, no food regularly emerges from that mess to the consumer uncontaminated. Even the U.S. government, quite possibly the most ludicrously over-protective entity in the first world when it comes to food safety (they won't even let us have good cheeses made from raw milk over here - it's illegal), recognizes a percentage of contamination that it deems "unavoidable."

Acceptable Food Defect Levels (Opens in new window)

Insect bits in veggies, mold and rot in fruits, rat droppings in grains. All are common to the point of being ubiquitous.

Beyond this, every kitchen in existence fails very important bits of the health code. In culinary school we are taught two procedures for pretty much everything - how we are supposed to do things, and how everyone in the real world actually does them. This is because the health codes in themselves are rather over-extended, and cover things that most people would consider ludicrous because they were shown to be a vector for one incident of foodborne contamination. As a result, for those of you saying you'll only eat at home for the rest of your lives - your home kitchen would fail inspection for nearly every aspect of the commercial health and safety inspection.

For instance, how often do you wash your can opener? Health regulations say it must be washed every three hours when used, because every time you open a can you are transferring food particles to the blade of the opener... to then rot in open air, before being transferred back into anything else opened. Or how often do you clean out your ice machine? Restaurants are supposed to do so every other week in some areas to prevent contamination or the buildup of the cold-tolerant intestinal-bug listeria on old ice. And I'll bet there are cleaning products stored somewhere in the kitchen at your home as well - a clear violation of health codes due to a number of instances where people were served fried chicken battered with oven cleaner instead of flour due to their remarkable similarity in appearance.

The truth of the matter is, most cases of foodborne contamination occurs in private residences thanks to people who have a misguided belief that their food is safer if they or a friend cook it. These same people often have a frightening lack of understanding regarding proper cooking times or holding temperatures, and will generally cross-contaminate like mad between bacterial harbors and foods about to be served. Compared to what I have seen some of my own relatives do with their home cooking (namely, cooking a mass of food for lunch on holidays and then leaving it to sit out on the table at room temperature for eight hours before then coming back and eating the rest of it for dinner)... some guy getting his kicks by stirring urine into a giant pot of soup is nothing. Urine is sterile 90% of the time anyways, and in a large enough pot the actual contamination is miniscule.

You do have recourse should you fall ill after eating at a restaurant, though. It is commonly accepted in restaurant health and sanitation that more than two people independently coming forward with the same symptoms after eating at the same restaurant or supermarket constitutes a "foodborne illness outbreak." In my neck of the woods at least, that means the restaurant in question gets shut down for a week at minimum while the entire place is run over with a fine-toothed comb looking for what caused the illness to its patrons. It makes the news, costs the place business, may very well shut it down permanently, and if intentional contamination is found it will likely result in a criminal charge against the individuals involved. But the grand majority of the things talked about here are petty revenge. They won't convey illness, they won't even change the taste of the food, and so they have as much an impact on your day-to-day life as the 10 beetle bits per gram in your breakfast cereal.

Take solace in the fact that you're not the guy who feels so powerless and abused that he decides to add saliva to someone's burger as a measure of revenge - despite the fact that 99 times out of 100 it'll do absolutely nothing to anyone and that 1 anomaly could easily cost him his job. It's the culinary equivalent of swearing under your breath - it isn't even a confrontation with the people causing you grief, and in the long run it has absolutely no impact on anything other than giving you a bit of "revenge" for obviously having to do something you detest - make food for people.

Myself, the only bodily fluid I've ever added to an item of food to be served was blood. And since it was meat anyways, it was just more flavor in the dish - "long pig" was a delicacy in some parts of the world for ages, after all. But then, I got into culinary because I like cooking for people. Why people would bother getting into the profession when they don't is an eternal mystery to me - it's hot, humid, and dangerous with incredibly long hours to work and lots of chances to accidentally kill yourself or someone else in a dozen different ways. Which goes no small way towards explaining why most people in culinary will take any chance they get to break away and have a little fun.

Apologies for length and breadth of the culinarian rant.
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 19:40, Reply)
Don't have the ice
I used to work in a Wine Lodge in a certain Lancashire seaside town.I was a glass collector.One of the finest,but that is neither modest or germane to the question.One of our tasks,when we had time,was to fill the ice bins at the bar.What did we use to accomplish this?White plastic buckets.The very same ones that the bar staff used to clean the bar at the end of the night.Slops were regularly served,or put back into the barrel.
The manager was apparently fired after I left for paying cleaning staff that didn't exist.He also employed a 16 year old lass.Absolutely fucking gorgeous and just as useless and lazy.One time,she wandered out on a weekend night to get glasses,only to show up an hour later,with 2 glasses and a bottle,complaining that she'd broken a nail.It made me reconsider the rule about not hitting women. Ooh,what else.There was one bouncer who looked just like a steroid abusing Pat Sharpe.Really nice bloke,unlike the totally mental one who once allegedly nearly killed a drunk in the beer garden.
On another ocasion,my mate had to trawl the ball pit with a dishwasher basket,looking for a wayward poo.Luckily,it was in the child's pants.
That I think,is all
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 19:12, Reply)
:(
I couldn't finish my chicken and mushroom pie this afternoon because as soon as I saw the white sauce filling all I could think about was this QOTW

shame on you for getting between a man and his pie!!!!11111one
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 18:57, Reply)
In a pub a long time ago ...
I was working in a pub as a waiter, crap pay, poor conditions, and not a whole lot of fun (except on line cleaning night).

Anyway, one of the problem customers complained that their food was cold, so we took it back into the kitchen, cooked them a now meal, slightly warmer than the last one, then took it back.

They were still unhappy, but started eating at some other place.

The moral of this story is that some people are just arseholes - there's no need to act like them and make this world even shitier than it already is!

Just remember, next time you spit in some-one's food; you're helping to increase the probability that it happens to you ...
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 17:27, Reply)
B3TA customers/ patrons/ parasites
If you want food that doesn't contain any additional extras -
1. Grow your own vegetables.
2. Tend your own livestock, then kill it (may not apply to veggies)
3. Cook it in your own immaculate kitchen, following careful food hygiene practises.

Otherwise, stop fecking whinging!
We don't care about you punters that come in, you're stopping the kitchens from being a place to skive in and it means we have to clean them after we've made your food.
We still get paid if we make 1 or 100 dishes, you're not special, you're just another gaping mouth to feed. Yes, you can lose your job, but there's loads more jobs, as there's always drunken fools wanting fed.
Having said that, I'm glad I don't do it anymore. IT does tend to involve less bodily fluids.

PS - Oh, you'll want a story. Ok, here goes.
Was working in BK in Bristol, having a lovely day. In comes some snobby girl with her mum, dressed up to the nines, and giving my staff a load of grief. She asks for a burger with extra ketchup. I send it out, it comes back with a complaint that there's not enough ketchup on it.
Cue 1/2 bottle of ketchup in the burger. We all peered over the shake machine and watched as she bit into this burger, which promptly exploded over her lovely white blouse. Strangely she didn't complain.
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 16:32, Reply)
Currying Favour
There was a nasty, mean spirited, offensive local (called Neil) that regularly (every day from lunchtime until closing) sat at the bar drinking pint after pint of cheap, nasty, brewery's own, pilsner. Neil would normally drink well into double figures of pints and still be reasonably coherant. Coherant enough to annoy staff and customers alike. So dislikeable was this chap that someone once undid the quick release on the front wheel of his bike. He lost teeth, but that's another Story.

We'd just finished a very busy lunchtime, and the chef was about to close the kitchen when Neil came in and asked for a pint and a curry, finishing his order with "...and ask the chef to spice it up a bit."

Which chef did.

When I went to collect the order chef told me to try some of the curry sauce. Knowing that it would be comparable to Satan's Saturday morning kebab shit, I tried the tiniest bit. It nearly blew my head off.

So I happily delivered it to Neil.

Neil had drunk about 1/2 a pint by the time he started tucking into his curry. With each mouthful he seemed to be getting more and more drunk. Drunk on curry... new one on me.

After a couple of minutes I heard a crash and looked round only to see Neils plate upside down on the carpet, and the man himself making a swift but wobbly exit, hitting both sides of the door frame on his way out.

I never saw him again.

Sometimes I cry myself to sleep.

Sometimes I shit my pants in my sleep because I asked someone to spice a curry up... will I ever learn?
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 16:30, Reply)
Cellar loving
At a pub I used to work at my manageress was caught quite literally over a barrel by her husband as she got a good seeing to from behind in the cellar. Rather than him losing his cool and belting seven shades out of the barman providing a different kind of service (canít blame him as he was a huge squaddie) he simply calmly went back upstairs, locked the cellar from the out side and then parked his car over the top of the delivery hatch so that the pair of them were stuck downstairs. After emptying the till and giving the keys over to the regulars he walked out never to be seen again.

The regulars nearly drank the whole place dry and even had the balls to shout down to the lovebirds in the cellar to change barrels when they ran out.
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 16:26, Reply)
Wasn't going to post but...
...there's so many depressing stories here that I think I ought redress the balance with a comparatively happy story :)

During my entire 1 nights experience working as a caterer at a posh hotel I was basically waitering and glass collecting in the function room, when on my way back through the bar to get to the kitchen I was stopped by a hail from some guy asking for 'two cokes please'.
After pretending not to hear once ( i was dead nervous) he asked again so I had to a) find the coke b) find the glasses c) find the ice. Then I tried to charge for them when it was a free bar. He was very understanding though which was nice of him.

Then at the end of the night me and my mate were washing champagne glasses in the dishwasher when a supervisor came in, looked at the load we'd just done and said: 'this won't do boys, this is a FIVE STAR hotel!' and told us to start again. I'm glad to say we simply knuckled down and cleaned all the sodding glasses properly, then went home, never to return. Altho presumably what we should have done was uncontrollably pissed and shat and spunked and gozzed all over them, put them in the dishwasher then ran away whooping with glee...or something ;)

sorry for length, I'm still new !
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 15:04, Reply)
Yum
A youth spent working in kitchens has taught me two great lessons - deep fried bacon is damn tasty and deep fried eggs don't work.
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 14:31, Reply)
B3ta Waiters, Barmen and Chefs
Fed up with having to serve customers who may be rude/want something off the menu/don't buy enough drinks/didn't tip much last time/look a bit 'funny'?

Then go find a better fucking job, instead of stuffing your potential health hazard genital and bodily excretions in to food ffs.
(, Thu 27 Jul 2006, 14:12, Reply)

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