Entertaining Mistakes

It's your worst nightmare: intimate dinner or big splashy event, and something goes horribly wrong. The causes can be legion. The only known antidote: humor & quick thinking.

Pig on fire!
Photo: Yasu & Junko

Pig on fire!

Who: Michael Chiarello, chef/owner of Bottega Restaurant in California’s Napa Valley

Result: Flame throwing oven.

As a young chef, I was asked to do a series of dinners in a program called Great Chefs in Great Homes. This one was a 10,000-square-foot home overlooking San Francisco Bay. I was cooking a slow-roasted suckling pig that didn’t quite fit in the roasting pan—its nose was sticking over the edge.

Many hours into the cooking, just prior to serving, we looked through the oven window and saw fat dripping off the nose onto the floor of the oven and flaming up. When we opened the oven door, oxygen rushed in and hit the fire, and a 4-foot flame came ripping out of the oven! (continued on next slide)

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