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Chefs are a cantankerous lot. Just one look at a Gordon Ramsay tirade speaks in volume to how people communicate in the kitchen, especially when something goes wrong. Yelling is the modus operandi of chef-to-cook discourse; it’s the exclamation point that drives the industry. You would never see this behavior in professions like teaching or banking. Can you imagine a loan officer screaming at an underling to restock the loan applications? High-volume uproars like “Hey, Johnny, I told you five fuckin’ times to refill that box!” would echo across the bank’s marble interior like a string of booming farts in church. Yes, chefs are wired differently than most people. So, be careful what you say to them or you could hear, “Shut it down!”

Seriously. Shut it down.

1) Don’t Tell Them They’re Doing It Wrong

Since most chefs are egomaniacal know-it-alls, they hate to hear they’re doing something improperly. If you really want to see that forehead vein throb, correct a chef about their prized dish. “That’s not how my momma makes her spaghetti carbonara. Let me show you how it’s done.” A declaration like that will definitely get you thrown out of the kitchen. And never criticize a chef’s knife skills. “C’mon! You call that a julienne onion? What? Did you go to the Stevie Wonder Culinary Academy?” That will probably get you killed, particularly if the chef is Italian or Greek.

2) They Found What in Their Bouillabaisse?

Chefs abhor the thought of something foreign making its way into the food. Cockroaches, Band-Aids, and broken glass are some of the worst things that could possibly pop up in someone’s antipasto. As you can see, an errant strand of hair is the least of your worries, except for hair from the pubic region. A curly surprise like that might make you wonder what’s going on in the pantry station. Sex and Caesar salads? (Sounds like a new cable show!) That would really piss off the chef, unless he’s the one having sex. (It must be noted that female chefs have active libidos as well.)

3) Houston, We Have a Problem!

Problems happen during the busiest of times. This disparaging fact holds true for most industries. But chefs really get bent when stuff goes awry in the middle of a dinner rush. Statements like “Oh no, I just broke a glass in the ice machine” (see #2) are guaranteed to cause a spike in blood pressure. Yet nothing is grander than “I didn’t mean to start that grease fire,” which inevitably set off the automatic sprinkler in the exhaust hood system, causing white foam to come raining down all over the food. Who knew that people in the restaurant industry got snow days?

4) Enough With the Stupid Questions

Annoying questions really get under a chef’s skin. Customers and waitrons (let’s call servers this androgynous name from now on) are not always on the same menu page.
“She wants her medium-rare sirloin pink in the middle. Is that possible?” (Anyone who has cooked steaks for a living knows that bright red is the interior color of a medium-rare steak.) Questions such as this are guaranteed to get a chef’s blood boiling. And questions like “There’s a vegetarian guy in the dining room that’s wondering if there’s meat in the French onion soup?” will probably yield some screaming because most people know that this popular soup is generally made with beef stock. (This is like asking for a metric Crescent wrench.)

5) Why Can’t We be Friends?

Chefs and waitrons have an eternal conflict. Dining room-types view life differently than those who reside in the kitchen. In short, many chefs believe that waitrons are put on this earth to make their lives miserable, so chefs dislike much of what comes out of their colleagues’ mouths. Statements like “I brought her another iced tea and she said those ice cubes weren’t cold enough, either” aren’t going to bode well with the kitchen staff, who have bigger fish to fry than whether or not someone’s ice cubes are cold enough.

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