Basic Advice for Kitchen Noobs
Written by Hanna Youngling 1. A burn is a burn, is a burn. Put cold water on it, put burn cream on it, put that stupid compressed air shit in the jar like you clean your keyboard with on it...
Written by Hanna Youngling
1. A burn is a burn, is a burn.
Put cold water on it, put burn cream on it, put that stupid compressed air shit in the jar like you clean your keyboard with on it – whatever you put on it, it’s still going to burn, and you’re just going to have to live with it for the rest of the night. The best you can do is wash it in cold water, cover it, and move on. No amount of love, fawning, coaxing or medicinal products are going to make it into a not-burning burn.
2. Covet Towels.
Keep track of them. Anytime someone puts a hand near your towels, watch that bastard. Hide your towels. Find a sneaky place on your station. In your cooler. In an empty third pan on a bottom drawer close to you.
3. Your knife is yours.
Don’t bring it into dubious kitchens. Don’t let other people use it. This seems obvious, but in a busy rush, things happen. Things get grabbed, people ask for a loan in a panic, you feel that saying ‘No, that’s my knife’ would seem weird or stand-off-ish. But it’s YOUR knife. Other people will do horrible things to it, because IT’S NOT THEIRS. I’ve had knives dropped, tipped, chipped, run through electrical knife sharpeners, stolen, and just generally abused.
4. BE CAREFUL AROUND THE OVEN.
Sounds self explanatory, but really, for the love of god, ovens are death traps for your vulnerable wrists, arms, and fingers. Whether it be the oven down by your knees that yawns open downward with the pull out racks – and be careful on those stupid racks that never ‘slide’ out. Or worse, the up-right coffin convection ovens whose huge doors swing open, with expanses of scalding hot metal on either side, ready to mangle your unsuspecting forearms as you wrestle for that ceramic dish slipping through your tongs in the very back.
5. That Mandolin is going to hurt you.
It’s just a question of when. So be careful. You might work for a penny-pinching little bastard who tells you to shave that carrot down to the last little nub – but fuck him. Your fingertips are more valuable than the half penny he’s saving on that bit of carrot, shallot, potato, or whatever stupid thing you’re running through that mongolian bloodbeast.
6. Speed rack 101: Old stuff goes on Top, NEW stuff goes on Bottom.
No one will tell you this ahead of time, but they will get mad as fuck if you go shoving hotel pans in there indiscriminately.
People will say this when they need to get behind you with something hot or sharp or just in an emergency situation when you moving would be stupid. So don’t move.
Unless you go to Hawaii. There, ‘behind’ has been bastardized by low-end cookery and has come to mean, ‘get the fuck out of my way or else’ – the ‘or else’ meaning, ‘or else this 500 degree saute pan I’m casually swinging near your head is going to hit you in the face’, or ‘this vat of oil straight out of the fryer is coming down the line, and is about to run you over’.
8. Get a $10.00 whet stone and a cheap hone.
Figure out how to use them on cheap knives. I’ve worked for countless chef’s that own their own knives, have their own kitchens, use purveyors, but haven’t managed to find the time to buy their own stones. It’s annoying and baffling. Having the ability to sharpen your own knives literally gives you an edge. Dull knives suck, are dangerous, a pain in the ass and make you look stupid. And they take just a few minutes to fix. And, knowing how to sharpen a knife will set you ahead of the pack.
9. Smaller is better.
When cramming shit into the walk-in, smallest possible container. When trying to fit stuff into a cooler – smallest possible container. Compartmentalize your world into the smallest possible pans and boxes. Sounds simple, but it’s a space-saving, time-saving, world-saving art you need to perfect in order to achieve kitchen, cooler and drawer zen.
10. Clean .Clean. Clean.
Make it a habit from day one. You cut something on your station or cutting board? Wipe your board with your towel, wipe your knife. Fold towel, put knife back into place. Do it from the start. It sucks to learn that kind of fanatical neatness later on. Get that in place from the beginning. And section off your cutting board – the place you’re cutting that steak should not be the same place you just set down that tuna.
Working clean will help you work faster, put out better food, and feel better as a human. Always wipe your knife. It’s your baby. You don’t want to be going through a rush and grabbing a knife coated in EVOO, shortening, chicken goo, salt, pepper, or various other mish mash. Keep that thing pristine. It’s an extension of your hands. You wash those, right?
11. Wear comfortable Underwear at All Times.
Imagine you’re going to join Lance Armstrong on the Tour de France. Be ready for that marathon at any time – because the customers will run your ass!
12. Don’t be AFRAID.
Do. Grab that plate or pan. Never hesitate.
13. Before grabbing that pan without hesitation, check for heat.
Never grab a pan without checking for heat first. The light finger brush, etc. But don’t be a pussy. You’ll find your happy medium, but remember with pans, never assume it’s cold.
14. Be aware of Real Estate.
People are territorial in kitchens. You may be the new guy in the pressed white chef coat, but it doesn’t mean that you own the 6X4 space in front of the grill, pantry, or cutting board – it’s probably somebody else’s that was there before you. Tread lightly. Beware of foot stompers, bumpers, and personal space invaders.
15. Telling someone that you don’t know how to operate a piece of kitchen equipment is OK.
Every Hobart or Robo Coup – even though they are made by the same manufacturer – once they have ended up in the kitchen, is not the same. Nothing is worse than breaking an expensive piece of equipment that will probably cost your whole paycheck. People will look at you, then at the inanimate machine that you’ve inadvertently injured, and they will always pick the machine first. Let’s be serious – it doesn’t talk back, it shows up to work on time, doesn’t ask for a raise, doesn’t eat much, and with a little scrubbing will probably look better than you when you show up to work with your first hangover.
16. Search Until You Find.
Nothing is more annoying to a chef than when he tells you to go find something and you come back empty-handed. Find it. Move stuff around in the walk in. Look everywhere else than where it should be. Ask someone else. Anyone else. Until you know that that particular item is nowhere even on the same BLOCK as the restaurant, don’t go tell the chef that it is not there. Search until you find it.
17. Be aware.
Of the guy next to you. Of the cold breeze coming through the screen door, which may keep you cool and comfortable but is probably lowering the temperature of your food by ten degrees. Of the owners attitude. Is he smiling? He’s probably thinking about firing you. Is he frowning? He’s probably thinking about firing you.
18. Never PISS OFF the Dishwasher!
Cherish that strange little smelly man, for he gets you out of the kitchen 2 hours earlier than him – cleans your grease trap, cleans your fryer, makes your floor pretty for when you walk in. When you need pans, sizzle pans, plates, the odd thing from the walk-in….
Feed him if you have to, smile at him if you have to…ask him about his family, his drinking habits, his favorite movie – he must feel part of the ‘team’. When’s the last time YOU opened a grease trap? I know I never want to again. Thank you, dishwasher.
19. “Yes Chef” is your answer for everything.
The next time the morning people fuck you over on prep and the chef comes up wondering why the fuck your cooler is empty of prep for the next, and starts shouting at you about this or that – and you want to answer back that “so and so didn’t do this” or a million other reasons – “Yes chef.” “I’ll get it done chef” is really all they want to here. And get it done. Shut the fuck up apart from those words. Really. You’ll be much better loved, save yourself a lot of trouble, and have a much better appreciated kitchen experience.
20. MISE EN PLACE!!!!
Everything where it should be? Is your knife on the right hand side? Are your tongs on the right hand side? Are you left-handed? Should they be on the left hand side? Do you have a damp towel? Do you have a dry towel? Are they neatly folded and within easy reach? Do you have a stash of extra back up towels squirreled away somewhere close at hand? Do you have everything you need to run your station for the night?
And I mean every thing! Are there back-ups in case you’re hit hard? Are your tray tables in their upright and locked positions? All electronic devices turned off and stowed away? Because if not you’re going to crash.