Had a hilarious conversation with a good friend who’s involved in one of the dial-a-chef services I talked about a week or so ago. It’s funny how almost all of us, regardless of our experience, tend to romanticize things we read about in the newspaper or see on TV. When I read that WSJ article I imagined people calling in to inquire if a vegetable terrine might make a nice Thanksgiving starter, or whether one could blend a bit of foie gras into gravy to give it that certain special something. Instead, it turns out that my friend’s typical Thanksgiving day call went something like this:
Caller: Help! I can’t tell if my turkey’s done!
Chef: Not to worry. What kind of meat thermometer are you using?
Caller: I’m not using a meat thermometer.
Chef: That’s OK, do you have an instant read thermometer?
Chef: Do you have any kind of thermometer?
Chef: Oh, well that’s alright. What’s your oven set at?
Caller: I can’t tell, the knob’s broken off.
Chef: Excuse me?
Caller: The knob’s broken off. I just kind of turn it on about half way when I want to use it and when I smell gas I light the element.
Chef: I see. You know that’s actually pretty dangerou—
Caller: Can you tell me how to put the knob back on?
Chef: Well, no I can’t actually, it’s—
Caller: Because my husband could do it if someone who knew what they were talking about could give him directions.
Chef: You know I’d love to but they don’t let me—
Caller: Honey! The chef on the phone is going to tell you how to put the oven knob back on!
Chef: Wait, I —
Caller: I don’t care if there’s football on! Get your butt down here and put this goddamned knob on!! The turkey is burning!!! He’ll be here in just s second, chef.
Chef: Wait, this isn’t what I —
Husband: Is this the Lipman’s Furnace and Appliance Repair?
Once I heard a few of those, it made all the sense in the world. Thanksgiving day, after all, is really all about crises (at least it is if you’re placing an emergency call to the chef-for-hire hot line). Still, I think my friend was very happy to be helping. Managing a kitchen really is about dealing with one crisis after another. Equipment, personnel, ingredients, personnel, customers and vendors…personnel. It never, ever ends. So really, who better to have on the other end of the phone when the power goes out but you still have to find a way to feed thirteen people? Professional chefs are some of the world’s most ingeniously resourceful people.