Chefs Share Thanksgiving Horror Stories and Turkey Mishaps

November 22 2011 - 12:11 PM

Fire extinguisher genericYou'd think that professional chefs would be immune to the usual culinary mistakes and small kitchen fires that plague the general population. Not so. Even accomplished chefs in the city have had their share of Thanksgiving blunders, from electrocuted turkeys to vegetarian conundrums. To make you feel better about your own missteps, here's a sampling of their most hilarious moments.


Ed Lakin, owner, Edzo's Burger Shop: "My Great Aunt Wilma used to host Thanksgiving every year and was already notorious for her poor cooking ability for which she compensated by being a very good purchaser of prepared foods. One year the turkey was in the oven for probably four hours before anyone realized that she'd forgotten to turn the oven on. We ordered Chinese."

Joncarl Lachman, chef HB Home Bistro: "We had a fairly large group of family and friends packed into our Philadelphia row home. As everyone was getting ready to sit down in our dining room (which we only used for special occasions), a loud crash came from the kitchen. When we went to find out what it was, it appears that our Collie had pulled the bird off the stove and was attempting to eat one of the legs. In the end, I am embarrased to say that someone cleaned it up and we all ended up feasting on the bird anyway."

Susan Goss, chef, West Town Tavern: "A few short years ago when I fried my first turkey, I bought an all-natural, organic, free range, designer bird from a small, precious farm in central Illinois and drove it to Indianapolis to celebrate with my father and brother. I had scanned a few articles online about frying and had the timing down. We drank champagne and watched the bird bubble. When the timer sounded we carefully pulled the turkey from the oil and it looked, literally, like Wiley Coyote after being electrocuted by the Road Runner. I hadn't taken into consideration the difference in fat between a commodity bird and the $70 turkey I had purchased. It was so overcooked it was not edible."

Nicole Pederson, chef, C-House: "One year we had Thanksgiving at my aunt Margaret's farm. My aunt was so happy that she finally had a table set large enough that we could all sit at the same table, so there was no "kids table" for us that year. My cousin David was probably about 10 or 11 years old. After digging into his first couple of bites of turkey he declared, "Boy does Tom sure taste good!" Tom was his pet turkey before he became dinner, but this did not sit well with all the diners at the table, including my mother. The next we were all back at the kids table."

Melissa Trimmer, pastry chef, C-House: "My biggest Thanksgiving disaster was several years ago when my daughter was a baby. I was up late cooking dinner for my family, my husband was working late and the baby was sleeping. In the middle of cooking, I ran out of vegetable stock. My mother is a very strict vegetarian. As I couldn't go to the store without waking my daughter I rolled the dice and started cooking with chicken stock. The next day I served dinner without sharing my dirty little secret. Throughout the dinner my mom kept commenting on how flavorful everything was, and how I must be getting really good at cooking to get so much flavor into vegetarian dishes.To this day she still doesn't know she was slipped chicken."

Don't let these cautionary tales scare you into abandoning your holiday cooking plans. There are plenty of resources to help you, from turkey thawing guidelines from the USDA, to William Shatner's deep fryer safety video, to the ubiquitous Butterball turkey hotline. Happy Thanksgiving!

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