'I permanently damaged my lung while syphoning consommé'
In a fast-paced job relying on knives and fire, it's no wonder that even the best of the best have had some hair raising experiences in the kitchen.
From a run-in with a pressure cooker to an incident with an oyster knife, below are the answers that top chefs came up with when we asked them to recall their near death experiences in the kitchen.
Lee Skeet runs a self-titled pop-up restaurant. He is based in Cornwall
About four years ago was syphoning consommé from a huge pan after I'd clarified it, and sucked it through a plastic tube to get it started. Just as I did it the stock violently boiled and exploded through the tube and down my throat.
I was there drinking iced water trying to stop my throat from closing, struggling to breathe and thinking I was going to suffocate! I managed to walk to hospital and ended up with burns all down my throat and even burned the inside of my lung. The recovery was horrible. I couldn't eat anything at all for a couple of weeks and was coughing up blood for quite a while. I can still feel the damage in my lung when I breathe, and was off work for about 3 months.
Richard Bainbridge, chef and proprietor of British restaurant Benedicts in Norwich
I've cheated death twice. The first time was when I sliced my finger off at college and had to have it sewn back on-my mother walked behind me into A&E with my finger in a jug of ice.
Another time I was carrying a 20litre pot of soup and as I lifted it off the stove with my oven cloths, they caught fire. I then proceeded to burn my hands severely as I didn’t want to loose the soup!
Tilesh Chudasama, founder and chef at London’s Indian street food restaurant Chai Naasto
It was on a particularly sunny morning a few months ago in Hammersmith that I nearly met my sticky end. We were in the final, manic stages of kitting out our restaurant kitchen, when the delivery van turned up with the tandoor oven.
Now, I have been known to act like an excitable child at Christmas, even at the ripe old age of 34. And this was precisely my reaction upon seeing the gleaming new tandoor for the first time. So, I did what any 34-year-old man-child would do on Christmas day; I dived right in to ‘help’ get the oven downstairs to see it in action.
We were nearly at the bottom of the stairs and into the kitchen, when, in my haste, I stumbled…
The life of my tandoor flashed before my eyes and in that moment, I realised that I couldn’t let go and risk breaking it before I’d even had the chance to see it in all its glory. So I shut my eyes and held on, fully prepared to break the fall and my back in the process.
As luck (and smarts – theirs, not mine) would have it, I had some strong guys taking most of the weight from the other side. My pride was mortally wounded but my tandoor was, thankfully unblemished. Moral of the story: avoid basement kitchens (or maybe its: don’t rely on a chef to lift heavy objects).
Hari Ghotra is an Indian chef who works at Tamarind of Mayfair, London
I was using my pressure cooker to cook spiced red kidney beans when it exploded all over the ceiling and work tops. But I was OK! The lesson is to always allow the steam tube to fully release before attempting to open one.
Simon Rogan is chef and owner of L'Enclume and Rogan & Co in Cumbria
Wwhen I was waiting for L’Enclume to open I did some temping in a restaurant in Reading. It was so busy that within a day I was in charge of the grill which was central to the whole restaurant, as well as the order machine that printed the tickets. For about five hours the order machine didn’t stop, so I literally served hundreds and hundreds of customers. I am pretty sure I remember being close to a heart attack!
Shrimoyee Chakraborty is the owner of the Calcutta Street Bengali restaurant
Chefs are notorious for their bad tempers. I once had a very angry sous chef who wasn't happy about being told what to do in the kitchen by a woman. He slammed a very big, full pot of hot oil on to the cooker where I was working. Thank goodness I ducked.
Eric Guignard, the head chef at The French Table in Surbiton
When I was younger, working at the Capital Hotel, I was opening oysters by hand and the blade slipped and went all the way through my palm.
Andrew Dargue, the head chef of vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black in London
Many years ago I was lighting an old gas oven. There must have been a fault with it as nothing happened for a minute or two. All of a sudden the gas must have rushed through and it exploded in my face. My eyebrows took quite a while to grow back.
Mary Sue Milliken the co-chef and owner of Border Grill restaurants and trucks in Los Angeles
In our first restaurant, we wanted to avoid a deep fryer, so instead, we installed two woks so we could change the oil daily. We also cooked pasta to order in a pot of boiling water, and during the shift change, we would heat oil and water side by side.
One time, someone was filling up the pasta pot with water and she dumped the water in a pot of boiling hot oil and it was like a bomb going off! Literally, people flew three or four feet from the explosion. Luckily no one was permanently injured, but it was scary. After that, we heated the oil and water at opposite ends of the line – needless to say.
Dan Doherty, chef director of Duck & Waffle and Duck & Waffle Local, which specialises in British cuisine with continental European influences
Once when doing my apprenticeship, I picked up one of the many squeezy plastic bottles that we kept various oils in, and gave a little squeeze to release some air so I could smell to find out which flavour it was. But it was so full to the brim that I basically inhaled a load of oil through my nose and down the back of my throat. I genuinely thought I was going to die. Was pretty funny to everyone watching though.
Hamish Brown, the group executive chef of Japanese-inspired restaurant Roka
Being late for shift when I was an apprentice I am pretty sure Chef was about to cut my throat! Last time have ever been late it scared the life out of me!
Paul Wedgwood is head chef and co-owner of Wedgwood in Edinburgh, which specialises in Scottish produce with occasional Asian touches
I had a few lucky escapes, but one that really stands out was having a real harpoon gun aimed at my face as a joke but it accidentally discharging, only for the cable which attaches the harpoon to the gun getting caught in chef’s buttons in his jacket, therefore lessoning the distance it could travel and reaching full extension as it just grazed my cheek and fell down in front of me. We both got a shock at that one!