Monday, 31 August 2009

Don't Try This At Home edited by Kimberley Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman

A little bit of Bank Holiday fun: Don’t Try This At Home is a collection of anecdotes from some of the biggest names in professional cooking, detailing what the blurb calls ‘culinary catastrophes’ from setting fire the kitchen to accidentally destroying the food. Naturally, there is at least one disaster involving alcohol, hence its inclusion in 120 Units.

New York chef Jimmy Bradley’s contribution to the book tells of a drunken debacle that occurred while he was working as a sous chef in a seaside restaurant on Rhode Island:

This story would never happen today. It probably could only have taken place in the 1980s, when drug and alcohol abuse in the restaurant industry were at their zenith.

Having spent four months setting up a new restaurant for their owner, Bradley and his chef Fernando (names have apparently been changed...) were looking forward to the opening night, only to find that they weren’t invited. Back at the other restaurant, resentment boiled over and Fernando decided that action had to be taken:

He began barking orders to the kitchen staff: ‘You, go get me a bucket. You, go get me three bottles of vodka and two bottles of triple sec... I’m gonna stand here and make five gallons worth of shots.’ Shots? So he was going to get hammered? Big deal. If only that were the case.

Bradley admits that ‘much of that evening is a blur to me’ after Fernando makes the entire staff knock back shot after shot. The finale occurrs when the theme tune to Hawaii Five-O comes onto the radio:

Fernando came over to my station and turned the radio up full blast. He took the wand out of my hand and started paddling an imaginary canoe... One by one, the entire staff joined in, grabbing paddles, and when those ran out, tongs, spatulas, wooden spoons...

Like a drunken conga line, the entire restaurant staff are paddling an invisible boat across the kitchen floor when the owner makes an unexpected appearance. Oddly enough Bradley and Fernando were looking for a new job the next day.

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