Intermediate Kitchen Tips
So you’re no longer a beginner. How can you take your game up a notch, and be the best? 1. Organize your space! When you come into a new kitchen, chances are someone has already set up your station. Chances...
So you’re no longer a beginner. How can you take your game up a notch, and be the best?
1. Organize your space!
When you come into a new kitchen, chances are someone has already set up your station. Chances are they’re a moron. Figure out what components you’re going to use the most, and make sure you have easy access to them. Bad Line Cooks fumble around for stuff during a rush. Smart Line Cooks plan ahead, so everything they need is within arms reach. Put components for the same dish next to each other, so you can seamlessly add ingredients without rooting around or searching.
Also, know what you’re going to need and have it on hand! Do you use a spatula? A lot of spoons? Ladles? Two different knives? Gather it all before the rush, and put it in an easily accessed area. I like to keep a 6th pan empty, so I can put all my spoons, spatulas, etc. in there, and easily grab them. God forbid all that crap is scattered around your cutting board and workstation!
2. Back It Up!
If you know you’re going to use a lot of something, make a back up! Bad Line Cooks have to stop in the middle of the rush to make more of something – or worse ,86 it. That’s just stupid. If it’s a Saturday night, BACK THAT SHIT UP! Why take chances of running out of something, when you can be smart and have a backup ready to go?
3. Manage your Time!
Look at your prep list. What’s going to take the longest? What can you bang out in the few ticketless moments of service? I like to set up my station first, have everything all set to go, then start prepping. Be organized and ready to go from the start. That way if you don’t get all your prep done before service, your stations already set up, and it’s not a big deal. Do the easy, forgettable things first. Like, do you need stock on your station? Get that out, and a ladle in it. Do you need to make rice? Start it first thing! Did you turn the oven on? If you’re making something that involves multiple steps, have everything ready to go before you start. Have your meez for it laid out. All the tools you’re going to need near at hand, where you’re going to store it. That way you’re not running around like a moron looking for stuff, when you could be seamlessly prepping.
4. Think Efficiency!
Start timing yourself. See how long it takes you to do the individual daily prep tasks. Then evaluate how you went about them to figure out ways to do it in less time, with less mess. Find something to do better, faster, and cleaner everyday. Think outside of the box – it sounds lame but doing the same tasks every day forms habits and routines. These can slow you down. Imagine in your head that you’ve never done that task before – how would you go about it in a different way?
5. Stop being Lazy!
Is it a slow night? Tickets sporadically coming in? Look ahead to tomorrow! What can you get started?
6. Never put off till tomorrow, what you can get done today!
Why put yourself in the shit?
7. Do what no one else remembers!
Is that dry goods area a mess? Flour everywhere, stuff unorganized? Go tidy it up! Does the walk-in look like a bomb went off in there? Organize it! Mop the floor, put the oldest stuff up front, the newest in the back. Is there junk on the bottom of the coolers? Scrub them out! Are the sides of the drawers looking a little drab? Go at ‘em! Is there gunk in-between the pans on your meez? Pop the top!
8. Dream big!
I like to write myself a realistic prep list, of things I know I can get done that day, and a ‘dream’ prep list: all the stuff I would love to get done that day, but am not sure if I have time. That way, once I complete my realistic prep list, even if I’m busy, I can delegate tasks to people who aren’t, and if it’s slow, I already have a list ready of things to keep me occupied.
10. Always leave your area cleaner than you found it.
11. Blame yourself.
Did you have a crappy night on the line? Things got bogged down, and the tickets started piling up? Don’t blame the customers, the people working beside you, or even the waiters. Blame yourself and think how you could have handled the situation better, gotten the food out faster, and supported your team better. It’s waaay too easy to say “so-and-so fucked up on the grill tonight and slowed the whole line down”. Figure out a way to help that person. He’s on your team!
12. Educate yourself!
When you go home, instead of turning on the TV and zoning out, learn more about cooking! Watch crazy old Jacqués Pepin/Julia Child videos. Watch fun Asian videos – even if they’re not in English. Even if the food they’re cooking is in no way related to yours, absorb different techniques and ideas. The more knowledge you have, the more efficient you can be.
If you’re in the middle of the rush, and everything’s going to shit, tickets are piling up, and the mayhem starts, STOP! Just stop for a second, get out of your own head, look away from the tickets, and clean off your station. It will just take a moment and make not panicking easier. It’s impossible to cook when your tools are scattered everywhere, your cutting board is messy, and your towels are flung about helter-skelter. Get everything back to normal, then go for those tickets.
14. Talk to people!
It’s so easy in a rush to get caught up in your own mountain of tickets and work. Most people shut down and stop communicating. I do. I have to make myself say, “When do you need this?” “I’ve got two min. on that” etc. By keeping in touch with everyone around you, it helps them know where you are, and keeps you focused.
This sounds obvious, but a lot of people can’t make it work. To be able to multi-task you need to know yourself. How long it takes you to make certain things. How long your attention span is. If you REALLY will remember that if you put it on the back burner. Start small then work your way up. Not everyone can have 8 saute pans on the stove, and 5 in the oven, and not lose track of any of them. Figure out what you can handle, then slowly push your limits. On the other hand, if you can only focus on one task at a time – you shouldn’t be line cooking.
Find ways to keep your job interesting, and challenge yourself. If not, this job seems pretty lame.