I love reading about chefs, cooking, and food almost as much as I enjoy cooking myself. When I came across a book – written by chefs – about mishaps in the kitchen, I knew it would be a great read. Don’t Try This at Home: Culinary Catastrophes by the World’s Greatest Chefs (edited by Kimberly WItherspoon and Andrew Friedman) left me laughing out loud and wanting more.
In my long and checkered career I have been witness to, party to, and even singularly responsible for any number of screw-ups, missteps, and over-reaches. Busboy stabbing busboy, customer beating up customer, waiters duking it out on the dining room floor – I’ve seen it all. (Anthony Bourdain, “New Year’s Meltdown”)
Some were funny – Anthony Bourdain’s tale of an overzealous, over-inebriated crowd of customers on New Year’s Eve with a kitchen short on time and ingredients (“New Year’s Meltdown”); Scott Conant’s unfortunate encounter with dozens of live, slimy eels on his kitchen floor (“This Whole Place is Slithering”); and Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s unintended “butter” fashion statement (“Our Big Brake”). Others were downright sad – Michel Richard’s wedding cake fiasco and coverup (“Alibi”); Hubert Keller’s weather-induced wedding hysteria (“Just Add Water’); and Tom Douglas’s experience being snowed-in on the most important night at his new restaurant (“Hope for Snow”). Other chefs – well – they should stick to cooking and let the writers handle the writing 🙂
Don’t Try This at Home is an easy read, and I loved being able to hear – straight from the chef’s mouths – what worked and what didn’t. It helps you to realize that even celebrities like Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, and Tom Colicchio aren’t perfect, even though they try just as hard as the rest of us.
The travel stories are endless, but at the end of the day I guess all of these experiences have taught me that if I’m lucky enough to get invited to see the world one kitchen at a time, then ultimately it’s my job to get it right – whatever that takes. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s nerve-wracking, but the rewards always outweigh the inconveniences and mishaps. It’s a job I wouldn’t trade for any other in the world. Except maybe rock star. (Tom Colicchio, “The Traveling Chef”)