A Stage’s Worst Nightmare

40 pounds of edamame.

That’s approximately how much I spilled onto the kitchen floor during the busiest part of dinner service at Uchiko.

That’s how much ingredient I had to sweep up and toss in the trash while the other cooks/chefs in the kitchen looked on.

This is what caused me for a brief second to consider running out the door, driving to a remote desert in the west, and living in a cave for the rest of my life. A brief second, but the thought was there nonetheless.

So my task was to open a ton of frozen edamame pods, empty them into a lexan, and then put it into the walk in. The problem started when I finished covering and labeling the lexan and was taking it into the walk in. I approached the walk in door with my hands full, looked around and saw everybody preoccupied with some task or the other, leaned one edge of the lexan against a table and reached for the walk-in door with my free hand.

The edge slipped.

In less than a second, all of my hard work was sprawled ALL over the floor and PILED up at my feet.

&$@*#9$)(#*%(*@#&$ is what I said.

Everybody in the immediate area glanced up at me and then slowly looked back down. Nobody even said anything because the realize the shit that I had just gotten myself into. All I could do was mutter “I’m sorry, I’ll clean it up.” as I walked back and grabbed a broom and a dustpan and started sweeping up the mountain of edamame.

Inevitably, Chef Tim (who bless his heart, had greeted me again today with a smile, handshake, and an enthusiastic “Good to see you!”) turns the corner, sees the mess/waste that I just created, and bellows “What the FUCK is this??” On the verge of tears out of humiliation and kicking myself for being such an idiot, I manage to stammer out a brief explanation of what had happened. He lets loose a scowl and points around the room as he yells “There are 5 able bodies in this area that can help you. Why didn’t you ask for help?” Being unable to explain myself further, I can only look down and continue my profuse apologies.

As he walks away shaking his head, I consider my time at Uchiko. It was a a great run, I tell myself. You learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and be prepared to accept your punishment. The possibility that I wouldn’t be asked to return burned brightly in my head.

Throughout the rest of the evening, none of the other cooks in the kitchen bring up my stupid error, or give me a hard time about it. I’d gotten so used to the antics in other kitchens that I work in that I was waiting for the jabs. That’s something that I really love about Uchiko. Jokes are still made, fun is still to be had, but professionalism is almost always maintained when it should be.

After I finished up my duties for the night, I saw Chef Tim in the corner sharpening his knife. I debated slinking out the door without saying anything, though quickly decided that that wouldn’t be a wise move. So I slowly made my way over to him and squeaked out a “I’m heading home for the night, Chef. So sorry about earlier….”

Without hesitation, he looks me in the eye and says “It’s okay, just don’t try to be fucking Superman. You have to ask for help when you need it. Still, thanks for your help tonight.” And with that, a smile and a pat on my back, and he sent me on my way.

I still feel horrible about the mistake I made, and keep replaying the moment in my head and all the ways I could have avoided putting myself in that situation. However, there is hope that this is not the end-all-be-all of my amazing experiences there, and the bright side is that I learned from my mistake (definitely won’t be doing that again). In the culinary world, this is especially true: Shit happens.

About Michael Chen

A contestant on season 3 of FOX's MasterChef! Tune in on June 4 and 5 at 9/8c to watch me compete in the top 100 home cooks in America!
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4 Responses to A Stage’s Worst Nightmare

  1. Gregory Wright says:

    HA! Priceless, but that’s how you learn. I’ll make you feel better. When I was younger than you, I worked in a grocery store. And for some reason, things like what happened to you seemed to happen to me. Entire carts stacked with boxed of can would tip over while turning a corner and fall into a display, for example. And one disaster earned me a nickname I never enjoyed. See, I knocked over an entire display of…COOKING OIL. Guess how much fun that is to clean up? Kitty litter, hot water, and everyone watching, pointing and mocking. And from that day on in the store I was referred to as BUSTER by everyone from the owner down. And when they needed me and called over the intercom…yep, they’d call for BUSTER. I still maintain it wasn’t my fault…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Chef Tim said it – don’t try to be a superman and ask help when you need it. Treasure yourself!!!

  3. Oriana says:

    “Shit happens.” Holllerrrr! Totally with you on that one. Take to heart what Chef Tim said! Team work goes a long way and we weren’t made to be alone :].

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