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Here are my 3 craziest kitchen stories

Note: Michelle Oliver was not harmed in the making of Dine in the D

Michelle cooking safely at Samurai Steakhouse
Michelle cooking safely at Samurai Steakhouse (WDIV - TV 2020)

You probably know me as “the food girl” from Live in the D. For the past 6 years or so I have been traveling to a different restaurant almost every week to film my Dine in the D segments. Let me do some quick math on that.... that means I’ve been in about 300 different kitchens! That’s a lot. I’ve been inside a non-air-conditioned food truck in 90-degree heat, after a storm, making hand-sliced fries. (Never have I been so hot on a shoot before) To all the food truck workers out there, I am so impressed by your stamina and general heat resistance. That was not the smallest kitchen I’ve been to however, that award goes to a restaurant that converted an old closet into a kitchen, and the 2-person team manning that kitchen could crank out some food! I’ve also been in giant kitchens, one of which had a room where they made their own cheese, and a bakery to make their own bread. So, all these aside, let me share with you the reason you clicked on this link, my 3 craziest kitchen stories.

1) The time I almost set myself on fire

Ok, so I am in a kitchen on a pretty regular basis, and anyone who has cooked a lot before, or who works in a kitchen will tell you, getting burned is definitely a possibility. Now, I always take a lot of precautions to prevent myself from getting hurt, as do the professional chefs I work with, but sometimes accidents happen. So I was learning how to set saganaki on fire for a segment I was doing with George Senate’s Coney Island. Saganaki is that white square cheese that is served on a sizzling plate, while the waiter shouts “opa” and sets it on fire. It’s a lot of fun to watch and I wanted to try my hand at it. I was trying to light the saganaki, but it kept not catching fire. We kept adding more and more alcohol (what makes it catch on fire), a little bit at a time, and then... WOOOSH! It went up in flames. Luckily I managed not to swear, I didn’t get burned, and I eventually managed an “opa.” It all went great! If you want to see it, it is about 3:20 into the video below.

2) That other time I almost caught on fire...

Yep, I almost caught on fire twice, and I think the second time was an even closer call. I was at Samurai Steakhouse learning how to work the hibachi grill. Hibachi is the style of cooking where there is a giant flat-top grill that the chefs masterfully work. They make towers of onions steam and move around like a train, and effortlessly toss a grilled shrimp up in the air and catching it in their pockets. Well, I, a novice, was trying to learn how to do all of that. We wanted to start with a bang, a simple trick they often begin meals with where they lay a trail of oil on the grill and set it on fire. I was given the oil and was told to squirt it across the grill... I am not sure if I squeezed too much oil out or what, but there were FLAMES! GIANT FLAMES! After my partner in crime checked that I was okay, we had a good laugh about it.

3) When I managed to stay away from fire completely, but ate bugs instead...

So this one is a bit of a stretch since it wasn’t strictly speaking in a kitchen, but I was in front of the cooktop on set where a chef just finished cooking, so I am counting it! Anyways, M Cantina, a restaurant I love and had previously done a Dine in the D on, contacted me to let me know they had $180 tacos. Let me repeat that, $180 tacos! Now I have seen some pricey food, I am looking at you 32oz. bone-in dry-aged ribeye, but never tacos... and that was kind of the chef’s point. He wanted to dispel with the stereotype that Mexican food is always cheap or low quality. If you’ve ever been to his restaurant, you know that is not the case, but I wanted to try these tacos, and it was a good story, so we invited them to be on the show live. These tacos had everything, Wagyu beef, a very expensive beef known for its intense marbling and tender texture, foie gras, caviar, black truffle mushrooms and roasted grasshoppers with a finger lime on the side. Yep, grasshoppers, and I ate them. They were honestly not as bad as I thought they’d be. They don’t have much flavor, besides what you cook them with. They acted more like little texture pills that added some crunch to this rich taco. To this day, those tacos are probably one of the most expensive things I’ve ever eaten.


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