Nervous Breakdown, Exit Next Left


I’ve had some pretty funny food experiences in my life. I’ve had soufflés fall, burned my share of meals, and participated in my share of kitchen disasters.

Nothing compares to this one.

Smack dab in the middle of production for a holiday campaign, I’ve been feverishly working with my crew to get as much done in the past week.  Food stylists have prepared turkeys, set stylists have painted and dressed fake rooms, and food makers from all over have generously made sure their product made it to me in time. We’ve had caviar and truffles fed ex’ed in time for photos and scoured farmers’ markets looking for winter gourds in the middle of August. So far so good.

On the third day of shooting I went to the fridge to inspect a few dense balls of black truffles that arrived from Italy. I couldn’t wait to see and smell them in all their glory and to delicately rest them next to the Italian truffle shaver my stylist purchased. The set was ready and the light was good.

But no truffles.

That’s funny, I thought to myself, I know I put them on the top shelf of this fridge. But I must be mistaken. No big deal, this studio has three large refrigerators.

But no truffles in Fridge #2.

And again, missing from Fridge #3.

Ah, no worries. I’ll just look again. Things have a funny way of moving around when you’re shooting food on a big busy set. I rounded up my co-workers and very “colorfully” asked if they could stop what they were doing to help me locate the expensive fungi.

And still nothing.

In less than it takes to say “tartufo”, I felt my blood rising and my chest pounding, only to have it followed with beads of sweat that formed along my brow. My palms melted, my legs wobbled. I felt uneasy. How on earth could these pricey beauties turn up missing? How how how? We looked everywhere – cabinets, trash bins, veggie crispers, pockets, bags and shelves. Since they were so fresh and pungent, I became concerned when my sensitive nose was not led in any particular direction.

And then I feared the worst.

Someone, and I still don’t know who, decided to clean out the fridge the day before. My precious cargo most likely got dumped during the clean up, and that made me a very sad and angry boy.  But like a well-oiled machine, everyone worked together and ran outside and jumped into the dumpster. We took a few bags each, wading through putrid food and filth just hoping to find the missing truffles. I was up to my elbows in rotten gravy and goose carcass. And as luck would have it, as one of us went through the last bag, there they were.


Safe, sound, whole.  My babies were found! My blood pressure instantly returned back to normal, the foam around my mouth subsided and the horns and claws retracted. Once again I was a very happy art director and photographer, even if I was covered in nasty sticky food goo.


Somewhere there’s a lesson to be found here, although I haven’t quite figured it out. I suppose it would have something to do with a thousand bucks worth of truffles being thrown in a dumpster before you had the chance to photograph or eat them, or maybe it’s about never cleaning your fridge in the first place. Whatever it is I know I can breathe a huge sigh of relief now and dream of all the things I’m going to do with black truffles in the next few days.

I better not throw out the trash.



  1. says

    matt, i’m no art director, but while reading this i kept thinking “welcome to my life.” because this sort of thing just always seems to happen to me.

    you must have been HORRIFIED – and you must have been highly pungent after emerging from the dumpster.

    congratulations on finding your very expensive little balls of fungus. 😉

    that’s a great story, matt.

  2. says

    how funny!
    same thing happened to me with a friend trying to help CLEAN!
    they looked dirty!

    another friend recieved a jar of rice for christmas.. whne she opened it it smelled so bad she threw it away…
    yes with the truffle in it!

    never surprise someone!

    glad the day was saved.. funny black truffles here are cheap.. the white ones are precious!

    Come to Firenze

  3. says

    You captured the moment perfectly Matt. Speaking for myself, I had bile butterflies in my stomach and the voice in my head kept saying “ohnoohnoohno.”

    I especially liked it when you taped the rescued bag of truffles around your chest, as if it was a baby in a baby carrier.

    Whoever thought relief could feel so good?

  4. says

    I can understand your stress! If I would have been in your shoes, I bet that I would have sweated a lot, cursed like hell and roamed the place like a crazy freak!!!

    Your post was so well-written that the way you felt communicated itself to me through the text…

  5. Valerie says

    I had a similar thing happen to me a while back. My boyfriend helpfully threw out a large block of expensive Parmigiano Reggiano cheese because he thought it was some other kind of cheese that had gotten hard! I too, had to dig through the trash to save it. Fortunately, it was in a ziploc bag and therefore safe. My boyfriend and I had a very detailed discussion regarding cheese after that! Glad to hear you found your lost goodies. Whew!

  6. says

    I almost had a stroke just reading this tale — I can’t imagine living through it.

    I can just imagine the thought process of the dork who tossed them: “Holy cats, what reeks in this fridge!? Oh, gross! It’s these moldy …whatever they were. Eew, you can’t even tell what they used to be before the stinky black mold covered them!”

  7. says

    I am ashamed of the anger that rises within me when people throw away my leftovers. My disappointed fury is irrational and uncontrollable and I usually cry. I can’t believe you didn’t cry!

  8. says

    I find it very funny that the wiley do-gooder didn’t fess up! In my experience, work place fridge cleaning types also make sure everybody knows about what a drudgery it was for them to do and how we should all be thankful. But your workplace is indeed a bit different from others, isn’t it?

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