Great Moments in Kitchen Humor

I maintain that the reason you see so many chefs on television nowadays is because most of them will do anything to get out of the kitchen. Work in a restaurant for a while and you’ll see what I mean. Even the “exciting” ones are incredibly redundant places. When they’re not boring you to tears they’re killing you with stress (which is the same thing as the boredom, only sped up).

Thus to keep things lively you get a lot of practical joking. This is especially true if you’ve got a lot of Mexicans around. Mexicans come from a jibing culture, and will often do anything for a laugh. I remember my first cooking job in high school. I was moonlighting from my weekday after-school job at a stationery store, making short orders on weekends. I was 17 and trying to save up enough money to buy my high school girl friend a gold watch. That $200 watch eventually wound up at the bottom of the Des Plains River, but that’s another story.

Anyway, on Saturday afternoons the kitchen usually slowed down to a snail’s pace, such that the crew (just me, the salad guy and the dishwasher) had bugger all to do. We’d fill up the time doing prep work, usually slicing and chopping salad fixings. That of course meant lots and lots of hard boiled eggs.

The salad maker used to age his eggs to make them easy to peel, rotating them week to week so he always had 10 or 12 dozen on hand to boil. Hell if I knew why he did that, until one lazy Saturday when it got to be egg peeling time. I’d been working there maybe a month and had never peeled eggs before (not in quantity anyway). He picked up an egg and said “Here, let me show you how it’s done.” He plopped the egg down on the counter under his palm, then rolled it slowly to and fro, shattering the shell. When he was finished he picked at a convenient spot and the whole thing came off in one big piece. “Like that,” he said, then gave me a small pile to work on while he tended to his onions. Of course when I tried it not a single piece of shell came off. I spent the next 15 minutes painstaking prying every last little piece of shell off my egg and it still looked like hell. “Here you idiot, like this,” he said from over my shoulder. He produced another egg and worked the same magic again. “OK, got it,” I said, then spent the next half hour mangling two more eggs. It wasn’t until I heard him giggling in the corner with the dishwasher that I realized I’d been had. What he’d done of course was boil up half a dozen fresh eggs and give them to the newbie to peel. Har-dee-har-har. But like I said, working in kitchen you get desperate for entertainment.

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