Restaurant Tales

And Now: Some Truly Terrible Kitchen Horror Stories

Blood! Bruises! Burns! Anyone who has spent time in professional kitchens knows they are scary, dangerous places. In honor of Halloween, we called every chef, cook, and commis we know and asked them for their worst tales of blood and gore — and they didn’t disappoint. What lies beyond the jump are the ten most cringe-inducing tales we heard. Think of it as torture porn for the chef set — you’ll never look at a pot of chicken stock the same way again. Click through to read them all … if you dare.

Instrument of Injury
Horror Story

#10Mary Sue Milliken:Border Grill, Los Angeles
Susan Feniger’s knife
“In 1981, I’d only just moved here, and Susan [Feniger] and I were racing to see who could cut out a leg of lamb faster. All of a sudden, her knife and my knuckle met. There’s no padding on the knuckle. So my index finger on my left hand was just hanging there.”

#9Scott Schroeder:South Philadelphia Tap Room, Philadelphia
“I was working a busy brunch once and the guy at the sandwich station was slammed. He grabbed a bagel, lined his knife up, put his hand over it, put his weight on it, and rips the knife. But the blade was upside-down. There was blood everywhere and the guy had to get like a hundred stitches. I can’t even think about it without getting the chills.”

#8Al Tangora:Vie, Western Springs, Illinois
Walk-in refrigerator
“Once, at Vie, a guy jumped up to look on top of the walk-in, but he hit his head on the corner of the range hood. Blood just started pouring down his head.”

#7Brendan Collins:Waterloo & City, Los Angeles
Wild game bird, bacteria
“While I was working at Quo Vadis, Marco Pierre White himself and his cronies would shoot all the game birds for us. Every morning we would pick out the birds we were going to use for the day, pluck the features, and take out the insides. I managed to cut myself multiple times with the bird rib cages, thus creating the worst infection I’ve ever seen. My hands blew up to about three times their normal size and green pus was seeping from the tiny cuts. It required three injections and a suppository the size of an egg.”

#6Josh Capon:Lure Fishbar, Burger & Barrel, New York
Hot chicken stock
“When I was working at the Lenox Room fifteen years ago, a line cook literally stepped into a scalding hot pot of chicken stock that was cooling. This hulking dishwasher picked him up and dropped his lower half in the ice bath that was ready for the stock pot. After hitting the hot stick then the ice bath, his skin came off almost in one piece, like a skin graft.”

#5Chris Jacobson:the Yard, Los Angeles
Hot oil
“I was cooking for Keanu Reeves’s family. [Editor’s note: This is already awesome … ] I was frying a turkey and as I was pulling it out, there’s a juice pocket between the thigh and the breast which shot hot oil over me. I dropped the turkey back in the hot oil, which splashed all over my face, my jacket, my arms. Everyone was scared to death. My face was bubbling underneath my lip, and my hand swelled around the knife while I carved everything up and got it out. I had to go see a dermatologist and the whole deal … but I made that shit happen.”

#4Michael Schulson:Izakaya, Atlantic City; Sampan, Philadelphia
Modified food processor
“When I was working at Le Bec-Fin we used a skewer to override the safety mechanism on the Robot Coupe so we could use it without the top being on. So you’d be standing there with the top off and the blade would be spinning around. One night Georges Perrier was yelling at everyone and running around and stuck his finger in it. He just wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing. There was blood everywhere — it was really nasty.”

#3Michael Fiorello:Mercat à la Planxa, Chicago
Dough mixer
“It happened during my first real job as a sous-chef at a restaurant in Philly called Bianca. I was mixing pasta dough in an electric extruding machine that had a mixing compartment on the top that used steel rods welded to a crankshaft. As I opened the top of the mixer, I didn’t allow enough time for the kill switch to engage and I thrust my hand in to try and grab some dough. One of the rods caught the second knuckle of my left ring finger and pinned it against the side wall of the compartment. The steel sheared through my knuckle, blood spurted into the dough and onto my coat. I screamed like a little girl. I ran to the sink but was afraid to look. I thought my finger was going to fall off in the sink.”

#2Suzanne Griswold:Chicks With Knives, Los Angeles
Hot oil
“I was working at a restaurant in San Francisco. One of the delivery people came in wearing shorts and work boots. He didn’t see where he was walking and he stepped in a pot of burning hot oil that had been left on the floor to cool. I heard the screams. His skin was bloody and bubbling and it slipped down into his boot, which was filled with even more oil. He couldn’t get it off fast enough to prevent his entire foot from cooking in the oil.”

#1Phillip Walters:the Bristol, Chicago
Meat slicer
“When I was a young cook, I had one hour left before line check and service, and had to hurry my prep for a dish. To expedite the process, I used the meat slicer to thinly slice onions. Upon reaching underneath to catch the slices, I heard a ‘ping’ and my hand went numb, and I saw a three-foot spray of red on the back wall. The slicer rendered a two-inch gash that slit a tendon and bounced off of the bone between my thumb and forefinger.”

And Now: Some Truly Terrible Kitchen Horror Stories