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"Has anyone seen the tip of my pinky?"

Updated on February 19, 2010

Ask any seasoned Chef if they've ever cut their fingers and they'll probably show you some pretty impressive battle wounds. I'm no exception. I've cut my fingers and burnt my arms so many times during my career that anymore, I don't even feel it when it happens half the time. My hands and arms are a timeline of busy shifts, careless mistakes and nights I should have stayed home. I've donated enough blood in the kitchen to keep a hemophiliac alive for weeks (thankfully, I'm not a hemophiliac or I'd be dead by now), and had I bought stock in those NSF first-aid kits found in all kitchens, I'd be a richer man today.

I'm sorry if this article makes you squeamish but you have to know that this stuff happens. Think about it - you take a person who probably drinks way too much, put them into an environment were the temperatures and moisture levels can be dizzying, hire about ten people wearing tuxedo shirts to place unrealistic demands on them, expect them to knock out about a hundred or so meals an hour more than 40 hours per week... and then throw extremely sharp instruments into the mix. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it?

I've had my share of soiled band-aids and have learned to cook and cut with both my left and right hand. Most of the time when I cut myself, it's more of an inconvenience than anything, but I have had some near-crippling accidents that sent me to the emergency room on more than one occasion. Being the loyal (though somewhat mentally disturbed) individual that I am, I usually do my best to wrap up the cut and work through the shift, but now that I'm older and wiser, I'm not afraid to get to the hospital when I need to. I have enough nerve damage already and scars don't heal as nicely at thirty-four as they did in my early twenties. Besides that, I no longer have anything to prove. I'm a reliable worker, I value my health and if you're planning on firing me because I need medical attention, you can get yourself a nice tall glass of go fuck yourself.


Almost a decade ago, I finally got a good break and scored a job as the Sous-Chef at a new upscale Italian wine bar and grill, and I was eager to pour my blood, sweat and tears into the place to build up my reputation. Keep in mind that up until this point, my most illustrious job title had been 'cook' at a golf course, and now I was going to be the second in command at a fine-dining restaurant. I was ready to do anything for that restaurant to prove myself. For the week before opening night, the Chef and myself worked almost around the clock organizing the kitchen, planning out the mis-en-place for the various stations, stocking the walk-ins and freezer and prepping up all the food. Opening day, we were nervous, stressed out and exhausted. About two hours before the doors opened, the serving staff showed up to have a staff meeting and iron out any final details, and they decided to hold the meeting in the kitchen - much to our chagrin. we were almost fully prepped on all the stations, but the salad line had been delegated to the servers and needed some attention badly. They had spent the entire two hours talking about where to put the damned salad forks without actually stocking the salad station! They hadn't so much as opened the cases of iceberg or romaine, and their mis-en-place was empty. The Chef agreed that I should help them chop, slice and set up the salad station so I went to work. One thing I had to do for them was slice some beets paper-thin so I grabbed the only mandoline available and went to work. This particular mandoline belonged to the Chef, and he'd had it for quite a long time. He kept the blade sharp, but one of the legs was ready to fall off so I was exercising extreme caution with this tool. I was about halfway done prepping the beets when the leg slipped out from under the mandoline. In response, I quickly jerked my hand out of the way to avoid cutting myself, and I didn't cut myself on the mandoline.

I did, however, slice the tip of my pinky clean off on the serrated knife some dumb-fuck server had set on the countertop with the blade hanging off the edge of the cutting board. They even went so far as to set a wet rag over the handle to assure that the blade wouldn't move as it was cutting like butter through one half of my 'hang loose' sign.


This was no small cut. This was one of those cuts where you not only see the bone, but can tell how fast your heart's beating by the pulsating spray of blood. A lesser person would have passed out (and I'll admit, I almost did), but I knew that for me to leave on opening night would have more than assured me a place in the unemployment line. I had to get through the night come hell or high water. The first thing I did was demanded to know who the dip-shit was that set a blade out like that but of course, no one confessed. Next, I looked around and found the severed tip of my pinky on the floor and washed it of. I knew I had to clean up my wound before attempting to dress it, and already the initial shock was wearing off. When I ran my injured digit under the faucet, the pain hit me like a ton of bricks. The cooks were coming over to get a peek out of morbid curiosity and the servers were turning whiter than I was when they glanced at it. I knew there was no stopping the bleeding but I was determined to wrap it up enough to work.

After completely depleting the supply of band-aids in the first aid kit (seriously, why don't they include some actual human sized band-aids?), I resorted to wrapping the finger in plastic wrap and then taping the thing up with duct tape. By this time, customers had started filing in and orders were coming fast. So fast, in fact, that I didn't get a chance to focus on the dull throbbing pain in my left hand. Unfortunately though, my makeshift bandage soon proved no match for my hideous wound so I had to once again clean and redress. Shit! The pain was unbearable at this point and the tip of the severed tip was starting to turn purple-black. Never mind the fact that it wasn't even attempting to reattach itself. I had to take some drastic measures, and I had to do so quickly. I told one of the bus-boys to go to the supermarket next door and get a tube of super-glue...

Yes, you heard that right. Super-glue. I had heard somewhere that soldiers in WWII had used superglue on the battlefields to stop bleeding and I was desperate to stop my own bleeding. When he got back, I carefully superglued the tip of my pinky back on and then wrapped it tightly with medical tape. Let me tell you, I know they say child-birth is painful but this had to be a close second! After I bandaged the finger up without passing out, I continued working for the rest of the night with only one hand. I'm not sure exactly how, but I made it through the rest of the night. All in all, we turned the tables four times that night and had over 200 covers. It was an impressive opening and my job was safe.

Instead of enjoying some celebratory post-shift drinks with my new colleagues, I drove straight to the emergency room where the Doctor lambasted me for so stupidly using superglue on my wound. He actually needed to surgically remove the glued on tip and see what, if any, viable tissue he could salvage. Two plastic surgeons and about $4,500 later, I was sent home with a water-proof dressing, a scrip for vicodin and instructions to stay home from work for at least one week.

I showed up to work the next day fifteen minutes early...

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Comments

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    • Delaney Boling profile imageAUTHOR

      Delaney Boling 

      8 years ago

      BFP - Sounds like that kitchen had a very clumsy Chef! Thanks for the compliments on my writing. :-)

      Kuya Dave - The hand is all healed (been about ten years) though I permanently lost feeling in the tip of my pinky. In my older (and wiser) years, I've learned to put my health in front of my career. If something like this incident happened to me today, you better believe I would be heading to the emergency room ASAP. This incident has made me a better Manager though. Now, if one of my cooks injures themselves, I MAKE them get it checked out immediately. Thanks for the comment.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      8 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Delaney I hope the hand is better, but I would have hit the road to the emerg. immediately rather than risk any further complications, or the possibility of infection or worse,because ganggreen could cost you not just a finger, but your life and it sets in quickly. To heck with the prep.

      I am just an amateur cook or chef, I do it for the fun of cooking and for the great tasting food, I've been cut scalded, quick froze with nitrogen, had grease burns and even stupidly lifted one of my skillets off the heat without my cleanup cloth, but I would never risk my health for the sake of the job.

      Dave.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      8 years ago

      Funny, painful and a wee bit yucky. Some years ago, a restaurant I frequented quite often kept the patrons waiting for hours (I mean it) for their food because the chef had an accident. They threw all the food out and started from scratch and frankly, I appreciated that! I love your hubs, I really do.

    • Delaney Boling profile imageAUTHOR

      Delaney Boling 

      8 years ago

      Thanks Bail Up! Unfortunately, I'm left with an ugly scar and nerve damage in my pinky but such is life. It is kind of fun to extinguish matches on the tip of my pinky now to freak people out... I can't feel anything. :-)

    • Bail Up ! profile image

      Bail Up ! 

      8 years ago

      That's what I call dedication!

    • Delaney Boling profile imageAUTHOR

      Delaney Boling 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for commenting ConeyBridget!

    • coneybridget profile image

      coneybridget 

      8 years ago

      Hilarious pass it on

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