Chefs are known for their good taste across the board — cuisine, wine, frequently music. So it only makes sense that their humor puts them at the top of the food chain (as it were) when it comes to pranking each other. We reached out to chefs across the country to see how they mess with each other and came up with some pretty good practical joke ideas for the next test kitchen. Everyone best stay on their feet (especially in Northern California — who would have thought?)
Ray Tang, chef/owner of San Francisco’s Presidio Social Club, shared two lesson-driven pranks:
“At Postrio, there were a series of practical jokes that the back of the house would play on the front of the house. At every line-up, the waiters would DEVOUR the desserts like locusts. One of the sous-chefs back then decided that he wanted them to slow down before attacking every plate of dessert. He took perfectly molded espresso grounds, then dusted them with cocoa powder and plated it with a garnish. He served it at the line-up. As usual, the waiters attacked it. However, they all ended up with a mouthful of cocoa-covered espresso grounds. Classic!”
But wait, before you Google “espresso ground molds” (which don’t exist), here’s one you can replicate with slightly less skill:
“Also at Postrio, carrying on with the same theme, I had disguised some garlic and shallots with chocolate. It was around Easter time. I put the “chocolates” in a brown paper bag and labeled it “Ray’s Easter Chocolates — DO NOT TOUCH.” The next day I came in, the sous-chef was screaming at me and reading me the riot act. ‘Ray, you %^&$#! I ate your damn chocolates.’ Funny thing was that he admitted guilt but then wanted to pass that practical joke on to others. I think there were three more victims from that batch of decorated fun.”
“For every new student stage we have, we typically play the same joke on them. In the middle of the first really busy shift he/she works, we will go to the stage, tell them they have to run down to the neighboring restaurant and ask to borrow a “left-handed sauté pan.” Because we ask them in a hurry during the heat of battle the stage doesn’t really think it through and runs down to Samovar [Tea House] to ask for the pan. Samovar will tell the stage “the only left-handed sauté pan we have is broken, but we know that most of the restaurants in the Metreon always have a good supply of left-handed sauté pans.”
It usually takes about 20-30 minutes until the stage returns. Either someone has gone along with the joke and given the stage a pan or the stage comes back stressed that they couldn’t find one. Always provides a good laugh.”
Marty Cattaneo, Executive Chef at Dio Deka in Los Gatos, CA, sends his employees off on their last day of work with a bang.
“My favorite is anytime someone has a last day, they get a concoction dumped on them that is generally something that would make one throw up. After this, the person is generally doused with a nice coating of flour. The best part is the stealth that must go into the execution because the person generally knows what is coming. I have been on the roof of the building waiting for them to leave. I have hidden in the laundry bin, out by their car, you name it.
There also always seems to be someone messing with the drinks on the line. It could be the addition of some distilled vinegar, salt or olive oil, but the results are priceless when a thirsty cook reaches for his/her drink and gets a mouthful of something they don’t expect!”
Have you played a good prank in a professional kitchen? We want to know: firstname.lastname@example.org