True Kitchen Stories: The Tale of “Razor”
This post comes to you from a great friend of mine and one of the most talented cooks I have ever met, Douglas Alexander. I guess all of us have worked with some seriously horrible cooks in our time, and I’m glad we can sell them out on this blog. After all, they deserve it.
Our tale takes place at a nice restaurant where a close friend and i worked tirelessly at producing ‘the best food few people ever ate.’ This friend is likely one of the best cooks and chefs I have ever known. We had things on our menu we knew were brilliant and delicious but people would not order. We had scallops with blood pudding and parsley root cream, frog legs with meyer lemon, cauliflower and unagi salad, braised sweetbreads with pancetta and tomatoes, pork belly (before it was cool) with shaved radishes, minus 8 vinegar and carrot nage. We also had successes. one was poached razor clams in sake-dashi broth dressed with a miso-honey emulsion served with arugula and ponzu.
A new kid was working garde manger. I took it upon myself to train him. He worked four full days in the station with me. I took him through set-up, prep, service and breakdown for four full days. This kid was given the cadillac of trainings. he was being handed success at his job. On day six of his tenure the executive chef (my pal) was on vacation so i was running the kitchen alone for a week. We are buried during a busy saturday night and things go so so so horribly bad. The other garde manger guy comes over to me and says in broken english ‘we have a problem with the razors.’ I go over to his station to find out what this problem might be. That is when I learn that this kid I trained has been serving raw fucking clams all night long. He did not poach them at all. Those four days with me where we poached them each day went totally out of his brain and he is just slicing them up, dressing them and sending them out. I was angry and terrified. Raw razor clams can get you very sick. I had visions of the restaurant closing, me getting fired, this kid being murdered.
I took him outside. I yelled at him. I yelled at him a lot. It was said my voice could be heard in the kitchen. My face felt hot from my fury. even now i feel the anger and anxiety. he should have been killed that day. The chef is a kinder soul than I am. He kept him on, but we kept a strong leash on him. He was forbidden to be the opener on the station. He also got the nickname ‘razor.’ A few months later, he quit. Over the next several years after leaving that restaurant I would often get his resume on my desk at other jobs. It would always promptly go into the garbage.
Fuck you western culinary institute. this kid finished with a 4.0! are you fucking kidding me?