East End Chefs Roundtable: Funny, Unforgettable Kitchen Incidents

Peter Van Der Mije, Taylor Knapp, Tom Schaudel, Photos: Courtesy Osteria Leana, Barbara Lassen, Daniel Gonzalez
Peter Van Der Mije, Taylor Knapp, Tom Schaudel, Photos: Courtesy Osteria Leana, Barbara Lassen, Daniel Gonzalez

Every office has its stories, from major milestones reached as a team to that one time the intern spilled coffee on the boss. When it comes to kitchen incidents, things can get crazy, very quickly—plates flying, gallons of sauce spilled, even…snowball fights in the kitchen!? Our East End chefs had some wild anecdotes to tell when we asked them to:

Share your funniest, most unforgettable or oddest kitchen incident.

A kid came out of culinary school, and I asked him if the deep fryer is hot enough. He stuck his finger in it. It still blows my mind. —Spiro Karachopan, Owner and Executive Chef of Spiro’s Restaurant & Lounge in Rocky Point

That might include unusual clothing and small barnyard animals (no animals were hurt). —Ronald Philipp, Executive Chef of The Maidstone in East Hampton

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When a snowball fight broke out in the kitchen and there were wonton casualties. —Courtney Sypher, Executive Chef of Sen Restaurant in Sag Harbor

I once dropped $2,000 worth of plates on Jean-Georges’s feet. —Justin Bazdarich, Chef and Owner of Speedy Romeo in New York City

I’d say it’s when I didn’t realize that the Vitamix was on high gear when I turned it on, and the soup went flying literally everywhere. Having to climb up to get it off the ceiling was pretty unforgettable. —Brian Wilson, Executive Chef of North Fork Table & Inn in Southold

I had no idea Porta Potties came with seat lids. Also, why? I shall spare the details. —Jennilee Morris, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Grace & Grit and North Fork Roasting Co. in Southold

I once had a customer ask me for my pickle recipe because she really liked the pickles on our Po’boys so much. When I told her that I outsource them, she said she didn’t believe me and got a little miffed that I was “withholding my recipe.” —Adam Lathan, Co-Founder and Executive Chef of The Gumbo Bros in New York City

A cook tripped up the stairs with many gallons of butternut squash soup. Sorry, Alan. —Taylor Knapp, Chef and Owner of Peconic Escargot and PAWPAW on the North Fork

At my first job, when the head chef got really mad, he threw a plate at the wall. But it turned out that the owner walked in at that exact time, and he hit him in the head with the plate. Needless to say, I was the head chef the next day! —Darryl Harmon, Executive Chef of Clinton Hall in New York City

Sharing half the chocolate chip cookies at a beach event that the client baked for dessert, only to realize they were “weed” cookies when she announced that she recommended guests only eat one. —Peter Ambrose, Chef, Caterer and Owner of Events by Peter Ambrose

Keith, our bartender, taking over as chef when nobody showed up to work. Funny and scary! —Derek Axelrod, Partner of T Bar Southampton

My sous chef at Sunset Beach wearing only an apron and clogs for his last shift on sauté for the season. —Matty Boudreau, Executive Chef of Green Hill Kitchen & Que in Greenport

Being on Food Network’s Chopped—the strangest ingredients and spinning, running and cutting to create a duck slider with all accompaniments in 20 minutes from scratch—and being knocked over by another contestant. —Marco Barrila, Executive Chef and Owner of Insatiable Eats Catering and Events

Way too inappropriate to share! —Matthew Birnstill, Executive Chef of The Quogue Club

It’s probably when I was an intern, and I was dragged out of the kitchen by the other staff and covered in fermented vegetable scraps and kitchen fat. I couldn’t get the grease out of my toes for days! I’m pretty sure you couldn’t get away with something like that today, but it was fun and a ritual in the early days of stages and mentorship. —Peter Van Der Mije, Chef and Owner of Osteria Leana in Oyster Bay

When little kids come into Shock Ice Cream, sometimes we give them a little tour of behind the counter. To see the look on their faces when I say, “You can come behind,” they get so excited. Also, to see a baby have their first vanilla ice cream…so cute. —Elyse Richman, Owner of Shock Ice Cream in Westhampton Beach

Dodging a flying sauté pan from an angry chef—not meant for me. —Nikki Cascone-Grossman, Owner of Cheese Shoppe in Southampton

When my chef yelled at me one night, I felt bad, but at the end he took me in the office and said to me that he wants me to be better than him—a moment I’ll never forget. —Cleon Clarke, Chef de Cuisine of Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor

Definitely popping out of nowhere to scare my cooks, with a clown mask. I’ve never seen them jump so high! —Bruce Miller, Executive Chef of PORT Waterfront Bar & Grill in Greenport

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Electricity went off the busiest night of the summer. Chaos! —Jose “Cheo” Avila, Chef at Kon-Tiki at the Gallery Hotel in Greenport

Wait for the book to come out. —Jeremy Blutstein, Executive Chef of Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina in Montauk

As a young chef working at Tavern on the Green, my mentor, Patrick Clark, passed away, and we had a benefit for his family. I met some of the best chefs in the country at that time, but I was mostly happy to see those chefs were there for Patrick Clark and his family. —Joseph Labita, Executive Chef of Black Tap Craft Burgers and Beers in New York City

We take our work very seriously, but the smiles are always on. If you aren’t enjoying what you are doing, why are you doing it? —Stephan Bogardus, Executive Chef of The Halyard at Sound View Greenport

My first day at work, I measured three pounds of salt. I only needed three ounces. That focaccia was rubbish. —Fabián Gallardo, Chef and Owner of Petite Taqueria in Larchmont (PTL)

Oh, I’m not sure I can share that… —Brian Schlitt, Executive Chef of The Clubhouse in East Hampton

Melting a five-gallon bucket of marinara sauce on a brand-new range when I first started cooking. —Matthew Abdoo, Executive Chef of Pig Beach in New York City

Years ago, I worked with a chef named “Shorty.” Shorty had a fifth-grade education, the ability to drink three bottles of vodka a day and a penchant for carrying unlicensed firearms. One night, he shot up the ceiling of a local restaurant lounge, for some undisclosed reason, and hit a water line and flooded the bar. He was duly arrested. The owner of our restaurant decided to let him cool his heels in the slammer for a few days before bailing him out.

The following week, after the bail was posted, I went to pick him up. He told me a story about how no one in jail would mess with him and that he was the alpha male, yada yada. I asked him, “Did you mention to your fellow inmates that you were charged with murdering an air conditioning unit?” After threatening my life at the top of his lungs, he got quiet and said, “Boy, you gotta help me out here, I got priors.” I asked him, “What? You killed a washing machine and a toaster oven or something.” He was as mad as I ever saw him, and that’s saying something. The only reason I’m alive to tell the story is that he needed me. He said, “You gotta make a phone call for me.” I said, “Okay, who do you want me to call?” He said—and I swear this is true—“Perry Mason.” I said, “What?!” He said, “Perry Mason! He’s the only %$#@&* that can get me off of these charges. The man ain’t never lost a case.”

There’s more to the story, and I’ll tell you the rest when I see you, but Shorty was dead sure Perry Mason was a real lawyer and the only one in America who could clear him of the charges. It took three of us two hours to convince him that Perry Mason wasn’t a real lawyer, but a figment of Erle Stanley Gardner’s imagination. I have a million Shorty stories for those who are interested. —Tom Schaudel, Chef and Owner of A Lure and aMano on the North Fork

Read More East End Chefs Roundtables Here.

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