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Illustration of chefs worst nightmares
Photograph: Serge Seidlitz

London chefs tell us their kitchen nightmares

A broken oven, a flooded kitchen and a surprise visit from the health officer… what could possibly go wrong?

Isabelle Aron
Written by
Isabelle Aron
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Jeremy Chan 

Chef and co-founder, Ikoyi

‘One busy Friday evening, our gas switched off as the restaurant filled up. We couldn’t turn it back on, so we turned the oven up to 250C, leaving metal trays to get super-hot, which we used to sear and cook. We held blow torches beneath pots to warm up sauces. Somehow, we made it through nearly 500 plates of food all cooked with a blow torch and a broken oven.’

Pary Baban 

Chef and owner, Nandine

‘During lockdown, the fryer was left on overnight. When I arrived at the restaurant in the morning I was greeted by a smoky kitchen. The next day, the kitchen flooded. The near-fire the night before had thawed out a tap that we thought was broken, but was actually completely frozen from the weather. Needless to say, seeing the restaurant flooded the day after the fire incident was quite a shock!’

Chris Leach 

Chef co-founder, Manteca

‘During a Friday lunch in December when omicron was getting going, we were already three staff down when the grill chef burned his hand and went to A&E. Then in walks a well-known critic and sits opposite the kitchen. Then the environmental health officer shows up for a surprise inspection. Definitely one of the most unenjoyable services since we opened.’ 

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