We asked a handful of North Texas chefs about the worst things they've ever eaten, found in the back of the walk-in or basically anything that induced a gag reflex or created a stench that permanently singed their nostrils.
Braden Wages of Malai Kitchen has traveled extensively, and so we asked him for his greatest hits. Number two takes the cake of all cakes. (He sent a picture, but it's too gross to run.)
"We had grilled bees for a snack in Laos. They grill the bee hive (with live bees) until they are dead or partially dead, then you eat them. You can remove the stinger before eating, which is cool. However, they really go for a medium-rare with the grilling, so the legs are still moving a little. We had just come from a place where they make rice moonshine called 'Lao Lao' so my judgment may have been a little impaired."
That wasn't all for Wages, either:
"Snake rice whiskey is a popular elixir in Laos and Vietnam, as it is believed that you can gain strength and health from the infusion. At one place, we did a 'flight' of snake, bee, and silk-worm whiskeys.
"A restaurant in Hanoi famous for its unique ingredients. I should confess that I am a sucker for anything fried, and their fried scorpions were no exception. They looked as scary as you would imagine, but tasted delicious!
"We had noon-doo in Arusha, the town in Tanzania at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It's slow grilled fat from the hump of a cow. It is so tender and delicious! I recommend this to anyone who has complete disregard for their health, and an all-around glutton like us!"
Chef April Barney at DISD "About four years ago at our school (Skyline) the walk-in freezer went down over holiday break. We returned to a ice cream and meat sludge oozing from it. The smell filled the entire building for about three weeks. Nothing says Happy New Year like vanilla meat sludge."
Chef Stefon Rishel at Max's Wine Dive Fort Worth "Once when we moved we put an extra refrigerator in storage. I had asked my fiancée if she had cleaned everything out after the movers had already wrapped the fridge with plastic. She promptly said yes and that she would not have left anything in the refrigerator. Four months later we decided to move the refrigerator into the garage for extra cooling storage. When I opened this refrigerator, a full gallon of milk had exploded all over the inside. The stench that came from that machine was one the most awful things I have ever smelled."
Gene and Julie Gates of Battuto Italian Kitchen "After a long, stressful day of dealing with contractors during our restaurant build-out, Gene came home and was scrounging around for something to eat, he was STARVING. He reached in our kitchen pantry and pulled out a box of ginger snaps and started eating one. Then he noticed his hand holding the cookie was covered with ants. He completely freaked out when he realized he ate an ant-infested cookie. SO GROSS!!! Although everyone says it's a good source of protein. That memory still makes my skin itch."
Brian Luscher of The Grape "Hot pickled beets will instantly evoke gag reflex. They've made me throw up in a bucket before."
Jeana Johnson of Mot Hai Ba, from an August interview about her recent trip to Vietnam What was the worse thing you had while traveling in Vietnam? We didn't taste anything bad, but there were a lot thing that you really had to wrap your head around and tell yourself, "OK. It isn't snot. In your mouth it looks and feels just like snot. But, it's not snot."
"It's not snot." Best line ever from a chef interview, by the way. We also ate a few things that were amazing, but we didn't know what we were eating and got back and Googled it. Like there was this oil in our banh quon. And so I asked Dragon [tour guide] about the oil and he's like "Oh, it's jut oil, just eat it. Don't worry about it.
Turns out to be giant water bug oil. It taste just like Froot Loops. Now we know what Froot Loops are made of."
Are you serious? No.
Chad Houser, Café Momentum "Once one of the guys in the kitchen backed into another guy that had a hot pan of butter in his hand. The pan flipped back and the hot butter started sizzling on his skin from his fingers to his elbow. Within three minutes, there were blisters the size of tennis balls all over his arm.
"It was gag-inducing. He went to the ER and they had to scrub his arm before they wrapped it to prevent infection."
John Tesar, Spoon Bar and Kitchen "I was on a ski trip in Vermont and we stopped for breakfast and I ordered a ham and cheese omelet and it was the worst thing I have ever tasted. It looked like gristle and snot and like the cook spit in it. I paid and left."
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Chef Kenny Mills, Chop House Burgers and Chop House Steak and Seafood "Since I like dry-aged beef, I'm no stranger to mold in a fridge, but several years ago we were soaking a cow's head in a pot to make tamales and everyone thought everyone else took care of it. When we did find it and pulled it from its murky water it was NOT pretty."
Bonus Photo: The before and after photos of a snake that ate a golf ball. (Courtesy of a friend of the writer, Davey Kadlecek, always an observant student and farmer.)