Any chef will tell you that spending most of one’s waking life standing in a hot kitchen dealing with sharp knives and hot pans can be a recipe for serious injury. But while cuts, scrapes, and burns all go with the territory, some chefs have found themselves in situations from which they’re lucky to have escaped with their lives.
On a Sunday afternoon in April 2014, a Lexus carrying pioneering Napa Valley chef Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill) and her husband, John, was struck head-on in a horrifying collision that killed a boy in the other car. While crash photos show that the damage could have easily been much worse, Pawlcyn's injuries were listed as moderate, and John’s injuries were minor.
Back in 2008, Ramsay was filming a BBC segment about puffin hunting in Iceland when he slipped and fell off an 85-foot cliff into icy water below. He remained below the surface for 45 seconds as he struggled to remove his heavy waterproof clothing and boots. "I was panicking and my lungs were filling with water,” he told The Telegraph. “When I got to the top after getting my boots off, I was dazed and my head was totally numb." After he was pulled from the water by his crew, he was treated for a gash on his leg at his hotel, and also received stitches on his nose, where — to add insult to injury — he had been bitten by one of the puffins.
Jacob Effrig was the chef at a Sacramento sandwich shop called Mad Subs when, in 2010, he was involved in a serious car accident that claimed the life of his best friend. The chef, who was 24 at the time, was in a coma for months and nearly died after having a stroke due to a bad reaction to medication. While he still experiences some
Chef John Burton Race, who owns a Michelin-starred restaurant called The New Angel in Dartmouth, Devon, in the U.K., and became a celebrity in England after being featured in a TV show called French Leave, underwent routine surgery to have his pacemaker replaced in 2006 at the age of 49. He was rushed back to the hospital after an infection developed few days later, however, and is only alive today due to a six-and-a-half-hour operation.
Lucali serves some of the best pizza in Brooklyn, but the chef and owner had a brush with death after a 2011 stabbing on a Brooklyn street in broad daylight left him in critical condition with injuries to his neck, back, and legs. While he wasn’t able to reveal the cause of the altercation to news outlets, within a year he was back in the kitchen, brushing off his brush with death as if it were no big deal. “I have no feeling in, say, about 50 percent of my body, maybe forever,” he told Grub Street. “But that's okay, it's nothin' really."
When the executive chef of M Bistro at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans, Matt Murphy, tripped over one of his daughter’s toys and scraped his knee in 2010, he brushed it off. But he became extremely ill a couple days later, and was rushed to the hospital on death’s door with necrotizing fasciitis, a “flesh-eating disease” that has a 90-percent mortality rate. Murphy was rushed into surgery and put into a coma for 16 weeks; during that time, he underwent 16 surgeries and was resuscitated three times. After extensive physical therapy, he’s made a miraculous recovery.
Former Boston Red Sox executive chef Steve “Nookie” Postal developed a following while appearing on Bravo’s Around the World in 80 Plates in 2012. He began feeling ill while appearing in the show’s finale, he told The Daily Dish, experiencing a major lack of energy, and when symptoms didn’t get better after returning home, he went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a massive pulmonary embolism. He remained in the hospital for three weeks on a regimen of blood thinners and other medicines, and was able to return to work three months later. Today he’s head chef at Boston’s Commonwealth.
After moving to New York in her early 20s, Rachael Ray lived in Queens and worked at a specialty store on the Upper East Side called Agata & Valentina. According to Allen Salkin’s From Scratch, one night when she was 27 she fended off a mugger with pepper spray, but he returned a couple weeks later, dragged her to a dark corner, and began beating her with a gun. He ran off when a local dog approached, but Ray was so badly shaken that she left New York and didn’t move back for several years.
A Lexington, Kentucky, restaurant owner named Mamadou “Sav” Savane was seriously injured last year after a 20-gallon pot of boiling chicken peanut stew fell on him, causing second-degree burns on more than 50 percent of his body. Sav ran a beloved local restaurant caked Sav’s Grill & West African Cuisine, and the community rallied around him, setting up an online fundraiser that raised $50,000 in 36 hours. Family and friends also stepped up to keep the restaurant open while he recovered. Sav made a full recovery, and was back at work within weeks.