Note: This post contains mentions of drug use and graphic violence.
As someone who used to work in food service, there are definitely stories I have that might seem unbelievable because of how wild they are. But when redditor u/shrodingerspepper asked r/KitchenConfidential to dish out their kitchen horror stories, my jaw was on the floor from how shocking some of the stories were. Here are some of the most outrageous and astonishing responses that might have you thinking, "They totally don't get paid enough for this":
1. "I worked at a popular steak house chain in Ontario. We had a server who used to take his dates there on his day off because of the discount. It was a two-story building, and the kitchen was on the second floor. We were grinding through orders when a panicked server ran out and said to the manager (who was running expo) that there was a situation on the patio with our server who was on a date, and that it needed immediate action. The kitchen guys all ran out to the window, which looked down on our beautiful Victorian garden terrace, only to see our coworker there. He had his date's foot on the table — socks off — and was just going to town, sucking her toes. I cook abroad now, and I've never seen anything like it since."
2. "It was Christmas Day in 2014. Two feet of snow fell overnight. The entire restaurant called out except for me and the GM. We both lived within walking distance from the restaurant, so we both walked. The GM called the district manager saying we were severely understaffed and couldn't run service. The DM said, 'You'll be fine. It's Christmas, it'll be slow. Call me if you need me.' We had 25 people in line before we even opened. The rest of the restaurant filled up within 20 minutes of opening. We opened at 11:00 a.m., and the restaurant stayed full until 6:00 p.m. The DM didn't answer their phone when we called again. We had to work in stages — it was insane."
3. "The chef calls me up right as I walk through the door: 'Hey, I'm not going to make it today. If you look on my desk, there is a shopping list. Walk through the building, check every item, and see how much we need to order. Then, I need you to place the order — here is my login information.' I later found out that he stabbed someone in a bar fight the night before and was calling from jail."
4. "It was a soft opening and my first real restaurant job. The executive chef was a Michelin chef, and the sous chef had a lot of experience. Meanwhile, several other line cooks and I had either no experience or just fast food experience. On soft opening day, we were getting orders, and I was told to make the hand-cut fries — without having any training. So, I grabbed a big handful of fries straight from the soaking water and dumped it into the fryer. Obviously, the fryer overflowed, and the entire line was trashed about 20 minutes into service. The GM told me I was the reason she wanted to off herself. Worst day of my life."
5. "I worked at a place so badly run that the rest of the staff and I thought it was a drug laundering operation. We received paychecks from different accounts, and vendors stopped showing up, so all the food had to be bought from Restaurant Depot. Once, as I was trying to do inventory, an early group showed up, and of course ordered all the stuff we didn't have. The bartender gave me some cash, and I bought their food from the grocery store across the street to cook. This happened more than once. Also, the coffee machine was repo'd during a lunch rush."
6. "I've seen what happens when someone drops a lighter into a fryer. I've also seen what happens when it explodes and sends hot oil into someone's face/up their nose. I'll never forget the sound of the dude hitting the floor. He didn't move, and I legitimately thought he might have passed out/died. We had to call an ambulance and do an oil change mid-rush. The restaurant remained open, and we were still getting orders while this situation was going on. He was out for a few months and came back with a pretty severe burn scar."
7. "I was training a new guy on the fryer. He dropped in a catfish without breading it, and when I was like, 'Hey, that needs to be breaded,' this grown man stuck both of his hands wrist-deep into the fryer trying to grab it. We sent him off to the clinic, and I don’t think he ever came back."
8. "I once worked with a line cook who would somewhat regularly take acid on the line. The dude thought he was Super Chef and had 'CHEF LIFE' tatted on his knuckles. He swore up and down that he worked better while tripping. Spoiler alert: He didn't."
9. "I was hired on to manage a sports bar kitchen. On my first day, I noticed there were no gloves because they just...don’t use them. I immediately bought gloves and insisted that the team should at least wear them when handling raw meat. Some complied, while some told me they’ve been doing this longer than I’ve been alive and know what they’re doing. I eventually had to get the GM to come back me up, and they SCREAMED that I didn't belong in kitchens. The people there refused to wrap anything, and would tell the owner that it was my fault because I didn’t order the big rolls of plastic wrap. I did, they just hid them..."
"...They would also text the owner and tell him I never did dishes, when in reality, I actually did most of them because I was disgusted by their lack of cleanliness standards. The icing on the cake was when a cook put raw chicken on the grill with his bare hands, then proceeded to make a salad IN FRONT OF THE HEALTH INSPECTOR. The last straw for me was two days after the health inspection: literal sewage was backed up behind the downstairs bar, so they closed it down and continued with regular business upstairs only."
10. "I worked at a retirement home, and we had a worker that would NEVER change his gloves. He would wear a 'Bucc-ee' ring OVER THE GLOVES. He would eat product right from his prep station, lick the gloves, and go right back to work. He would put bowls that were out on the salad bar up to his mouth to drink leftover fruit juice from, and just wouldn't change his gloves no matter what task he was doing. He'd put his hands through his hair and would touch his face, mouth, and phone with the same gloves while working. At first, I thought it was hilarious that he had to be babysat, and always had to be told to change his gloves and wash his hands every time he did something. But, one of the reasons I left was because he was getting praise from all the higher-ups, even though we were the ones who were babysitting him."
11. "It was my first kitchen job, and I was being shown around on my first day. The restaurant was 40 years old. They brought me down to the walk-in fridge, and the walls had a perfectly even coat of mold on them. Clearly, no one had wiped them down in 40 years. I immediately grabbed a bucket and some bleach and spent my first two days scraping the walls down and cleaning everything I could. I finally got to the back of the walk-in, where the kegs were, and all of the lines from the kegs also had the same coating of mold halfway up them. People had been unscrewing the moldy lines and putting them on new kegs for who knows how long."
12. "This wasn't at a restaurant, but a middle school kitchen. I was the district chef and culinary trainer for a small public school district. I got a call at the end of the day that one of our cooks had gone down during closing. I jumped in the car, drove over there, and sent my staff home. Rescue was working on him for about another 30 minutes before pronouncing him — the dude passed almost immediately after he hit the floor. The rescue team started packing up, and then told me the coroner would be by to pick the body up. At this point, school was out, the buses were gone, and everyone else left...including admin. I was left there by myself with a dead guy. I couldn't bring myself to leave him there alone. I sat with him on the floor for an hour until they came to collect him. It was beyond fucked up."
13. "I picked up a friend for our morning shift. It was just him and me opening and for lunchtime. Normal shit. I pulled up to his house — he was chasing around his dog in the front yard. He got the dog in, hopped in the car, and I immediately noticed that he was stoned as shit. He said, 'Man, I took some acid at six this morning, and I’m peaking.' Shit. We got to work, and then I realized he didn't have shoes on. We got slammed with tickets — like, $2,000 per hour. I was calling checks, while he was just staring at his hands talking about how red they were. I was eyeballs deep in tickets and food, so I yelled, 'YOUR HANDS ARE NOT FUCKING RED. I NEED THREE SHRIMP AND GRITS ON THE FLY!' I eventually called in another guy early because I couldn’t deal with my friend's shit anymore. It took us two hours to catch up. Our ticket times were 40 minutes and over. It was a disaster."
14. "The wildest thing that I witnessed from a guest was when the table tried to walk out without paying the bill. My coworker tried to stop them in the parking lot, and they almost ran her over with their car."
15. "We had a smaller, 50-person wedding to cater. We had everything ready to roll except for the ribs, as they were resting on the smoker. We went out to grab the ribs and were greeted by a giant bear. The bear knocked over our smoker and was chowing down on the ribs. The wedding party got chicken."
16. "Someone passed away in the dining room during dinner rush. A server came back to the kitchen to get me, saying there was someone slumped over their table. She thought it was a medical emergency, so I went out there to check. There were four older women at the table. I asked if the person who was slumped over was okay, and the ladies said, 'Oh yeah, she's just sleeping. She has spells.' I noticed the lady was turning blue. I told them, 'I don't think that's the case.'"
"The server is frantic behind me. Luckily, another table noticed what was going on, and they happened to be nurses. They came over, got the lady out of the booth, and started doing chest compressions. At that point, the ambulance was on the way, but she had already passed. The most disturbing part was that we had a packed house, and even with everything going on, the other patrons just continued eating as if EMTs hadn't just left with someone out on a stretcher."