Matt Pre­ston :

Re­veals his ul­ti­mate kitchen pranks

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - MATT PRE­STON @mattscra­vat @MattsCra­vat

IT all started with the BBC’s highly re­spected cur­rent af­fair show Panorama do­ing an in-depth re­port on the fail­ing spaghetti har­vest in Italy, com­plete with Ital­ian farm­ers pick­ing spaghetti off spaghetti trees. Since that hoax re­port on April 1, 1957, food pranks have be­come so much part and par­cel of April Fools’ Day that it might as well be re­named April Food’s Day.

We’ve seen the April 1 an­nounce­ment of the pret­tily hued ‘blu­e­nana’, claimed to be the re­sult of cross­ing a blue­berry bush with a ba­nana tree; the launch of eco­log­i­cally re­spon­si­ble ‘ea­gle-caught sal­mon’; and the world’s first six-legged lamb, to re­duce the cost of Sun­day roasts.

As prank-hun­gry so­cial me­dia has boomed, we’ve seen com­pa­nies put out April 1 posts about ev­ery­thing from their bar­be­cue-flavoured gum, to a new fra­grance ‘Chee­tau’ that would make you smell like a cheese and ba­con puff. This was a per­sonal favourite, along with the Brook­lyn bar­be­cue restau­rant that an­nounced it would only be sell­ing grilled tofu, which ob­vi­ously caused huge up­roar among their car­niv­o­rous clien­tele.

It seems that the big­ger the com­pany the more in­ge­niously ridicu­lous their April Fools’ in­no­va­tion. Think: Domino’s un­veil­ing its ed­i­ble box made of pizza crust, or KFC’s mighty mouth ex­pander.This fear­some me­chan­i­cal de­vice would en­large your mouth wide enough to ac­cept a par­tic­u­larly huge chicken burger.

The cor­po­rate food world doesn’t hold the mo­nop­oly on pranks, in fact, there are so many in pro­fes­sional kitchens you could be for­given for think­ing every day is April Fools’ Day. The most vi­cious tend to be per­pe­trated by chefs on chefs and of­ten push the line – es­pe­cially when the chef who drinks the chilli-spiked drink is al­ler­gic to chill­ies, or the cayenne pep­per dust­ing their work pants re­sults in hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion. Chilli is an ob­vi­ous choice for chef pranks. There’s wip­ing a su­per-hot ha­banero over the rim of a ri­val chef’s cof­fee mug, or sneak­ily fill­ing the straw in a drink with hot sauce. Slightly less bru­tal is ask­ing them to mop the freezer floor, and far fun­nier is freez­ing in a block of ice the knives of a young ap­pren­tice who has fool­ishly left them ly­ing around, bat­ter­ing and deep-fry­ing their kitchen tongs, or plac­ing a cou­ple of raw eggs among the 200 hard-boiled eggs that are await­ing peel­ing.

Given the long-run­ning ri­valry be­tween chefs and floor staff, a fair num­ber of the most in­fa­mous kitchen pranks are com­mit­ted against wait­ers. There is much joy in hid­ing a metal skewer in that baguette they are about to slice, or wait­ing for them to cut up a baguette that you’ve ap­pro­pri­ated with a flour-filled bal­loon bomb.

Chefs also find a spe­cial plea­sure in watch­ing wait­staff do im­pos­si­ble tasks like drain­ing all the wa­ter from the plumbed-in cof­fee ma­chine. It’s so much more cre­ative than ask­ing the new ap­pren­tice to visit all the neigh­bour­ing res­tau­rants, ask­ing if they have a spare can of steam they can bor­row for the cof­fee ma­chine.

Chefs also take par­tic­u­lar um­brage with floors taff who snack on food they have pre­pared for ser­vice. That’s why chefs have learned to leave booby­trapped pun­ish­ments on the pass for trans­gress­ing wait­ers; whether that be

“WE’VE SEEN THE WORLD’S FIRST SIX-LEGGED LAMB, TO RE­DUCE THE COST OF SUN­DAY ROASTS”

Oreos re­filled with tooth­paste, choco­late mousse spiked gen­er­ously with Worces­ter­shire sauce, choc cov­ered quail eggs that look like choco­late truf­fles, and lit­tle bowls of crème brûlée made from tof­fee-topped may­on­naise – yuck. All are dis­tinctly un­pleas­ant sur­prises de­signed to make wait­ers think twice about help­ing them­selves. A more men­ac­ing re­venge is serv­ing a re­cal­ci­trant waiter a bat­tered dish rag as a schnitzel (or cut so it re­sem­bles onion rings) at staff din­ner when ev­ery­one else at the ta­ble is get­ting the real thing.

Not that front-of-house staff is de­fence­less; there are tales of dis­grun­tled wait­ers slip­ping dry ice into the dish­washer, or load­ing the kitchen air con­di­tion­ing vents with flour. This is a re­venge that just sits there wait­ing for the first hot ser­vice of sum­mer. Sneakier are tricks like swap­ping out chef’s XL plas­tic gloves for small-sized ones, so you can watch a par­tic­u­larly un­pleas­ant chef strug­gle dur­ing the pres­sure of ser­vice, or just swap­ping the com­bi­na­tion lock on their locker with an iden­ti­cal one with a dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tion.

Of course, none of these pranks equal the best prank I have wit­nessed at the beau­ti­ful, can­dlelit ta­ble of a luxe sa­fari camp.The chef had made one of the campers a glo­ri­ous and huge glazed choco­late cake dec­o­rated with all man­ner of can­dles, whipped cream and sprinkles.The birth­day boy went through all the usual rit­u­als, proudly blow­ing out the can­dles, only to find, when he cut into it, that the cake was ac­tu­ally just a large, choco­late-cov­ered ele­phant ‘road ap­ple’ (dung). The sur­prise, and the con­trast of the low-brow gag with the im­pec­ca­bly swank sur­round­ings, re­sulted in much hi­lar­ity.

“THERE IS MUCH JOY IN HID­ING A METAL SKEWER IN THAT BAGUETTE THEY ARE ABOUT TO SLICE”

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