5 Star Chefs Share Their Holiday Disasters

Do you despair of ever pulling off your holiday dinner like a pro? Well, even professional chefs have major mishaps during the holidays. Read on to hear five chefs' holiday disasters (and miraculous saves).

"Last year on Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. (no kidding), three to four softball-sized holes sprouted in the ceiling of [my restaurant] Klee with geysers of water cascading onto tables, the bar, the middle of the restaurant [and] through light fixtures continuously for an hour, from a flood in an apartment above the restaurant. The fire department came; men with axes stomped through the dining room and [me and my] restaurant partner and fiancee Lori Mason were on hands and knees drying with rags frantically. [We] turned off many of the lights, put buckets all over, passed out sparkling wine, apologized [to guests] and made the best of it. [We] only lost one table! Others just ducked, kept eating, moved from the geysers and were great sports and expressed compassion. Turned out to be a flooding toilet two floors above. The person wasn’t home, so firemen broke in through the fire escape window and fixed the problem.

—Daniel Angerer
Chef/owner of Klee Brasserie in New York City

"I was making an intense veal stock for my favorite onion soup ever. I was roasting the bones in the [restaurant] kitchen when the fire alarm went off on Christmas Day—the whole building was evacuated! Later, after finally finishing the onion soup in the oven to get the cheese bubbly, I reached into the oven and accidentally knocked the bowl over so it all poured out. I lost it…”

—Kuniko Yagi
Chef de Cuisine of Sona restaurant in Los Angeles

“When I was working at a ski chalet in the French Alps, there was a horrible storm in between Christmas and New Year's. We were snowed in for four days—completely isolated with no way to bring in fresh supplies. With almost 80 guests who paid for a wonderful vacation in the chalet, we had a crisis on our hands. The crazy old French chef improvised with the ingredients we had on hand, and it actually ended up being a lot of fun. Disaster was averted!”

—Andrea Cavaliere
Cecconi’s in West Hollywood

“In New York circa 1999, we were having Christmas in our little apartment in the Village with a slew of our cook friends. After about six hours of drinking, all 14 of us sat down starving. Quinn went to cut into the turkey and it was raw. Once we finally got to eat (three hours later), it was all fantastic.”

—Karen & Quinn Hatfield
Hatfield’s in Los Angeles

“When I was teaching culinary school, I gave a long and in-depth lecture about cakes. Since people often cook lots of baked goods during the holidays, I had to share this story. In my class, I went over how to treat the ingredients, how to understand the proportions, the differences between icing and glazing, and everything in between. Then, I put the students to work with a delicious chocolate cake recipe. When one of the students got to the part in the recipe where it instructed her to 'ice the cake,' she picked up her beautiful cake and was just about to dunk it in a full ice bath before I stopped her. Thankfully, I caught her right in time, and we saved the cake!”

—Anne Burrell
Host of Food Network’s Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and co-host of Worst Cooks in America

“I was the chef de cuisine at a restaurant and cooking at the James Beard House with my executive chef for the first time. We planned three weeks in advance on how we'd execute the night with supreme precision. Day of the dinner, we were getting our mise en place ready for our first course—a ravioli with foie gras and cinnamon gastrique. I was giving direction to the crew and I told Cook One to get the gastrique ready for the first course. I see him place the gastrique on an elevated grill and I say, ‘I don't like the sauce there.’ Cook One says ‘I'm fine, I got it.’ All of a sudden I hear a loud crashing noise and see that Cook One dumped the one and only quart of cinnamon gastrique all over the floor. Two minutes from plating up the first course, I see the fear in his eyes. He knew I was going to kill him. Rather than freaking out and starting a fire at the James Beard House, I decided to solve the problem and started searching through the cupboards to recreate the gastrique. I got the reduction down and remade the sauce in six minutes. To this day, Cook One calls me 'The Savior' and my executive chef never knew what happened.”

—Beau MacMillan
Co-host of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America and executive chef of elements in Phoenix

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