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keeping up

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
hi i'm new to the forum. i've been cooking professionally for 5 years now. i still have one big problem that haunts me everyday and no matter how much advice i've gotten and how many tongue lashings i've got hasn't helped. i can't keep up. when it gets busy and all the orders keep coming in i just get more and more behind. i'm moving faster than anyone else in the kitchen. i try and stay focused but with so much going on i lose track of whats happening. i'll be so caught up in plating 10 plates as fast as i can since the meat guy is waiting for the plates that i forget about the pasta on teh stove or the potato in the oven. and even when it's not a matter of being in the weeds during service i find it hard to stay on top of my prep. i was preping a tray of potatos and it took me half an hour. i did it side by side with someone else. my hands were moving ten times faster and he finished before i did. i couldn't see anything more efficient about the way he was doing it. people have told me to slow down and concentrate. when that happends i get even more behind beause i become lethargic thinking that being calm is going to get me out of the weeds.

anyone else face the same problem? anyone know of any good ways to solve this?
post #2 of 12
Come in early.

Make sure your prep is done and your mise en place is impeccable and intelligently arranged.

Make sure your station is clean and beyond reproach in any way, shape or form. During service.

Understand your own capacity, if you can only do ten orders at a time don't try fifteen. Refires are DEATH.

Try doing multiples of the same item in the same pan if you can do it without compromising the quality of the plate.

Speed tends to come with experience and detailed knowledge of the menu. Over time you develop your own time saving shortcuts and moves.
post #3 of 12
I've worked with some people such as you. I'm the kind of cook who looks like I'm working incredibly slow, yet I always get stuff done and usually alot quicker than everyone else.

Just relax, keep your cool. That's the most important thing. When doing prep, I multitask. I always have something to do, when cooking risotto I'm also cleaning veg, when blanching veg I'll be cutting some more, etc... Sometimes I'll have as many as 5 tasks going on at once.

During service, just make sure every item is working. Temperature control is key, sometimes you need to slow down the cooking or pause cooking while you plate items. I know I forget stuff. So I make sure I watch everything when it's on high heat, if I have to turn away I'll lower the heat so nothing burns.

When you try to move too quickly you get tense. You want your muscles to be relaxed, get into a rythym and you'll find that with no effort you'll actually be moving faster.

Of course, sometimes no matter how good you are you'll find yourself in the weeds. You just need to stay calm and get through it. Just grind away until it's over. I remember services in which we'd push 100+ covers through in an hour, doing very high end food, everything was done a la minute as well (no steamtables - every order of veg, every sauce, everything was cooked to order). It was ****, but that made the beer at the end of the night that much sweeter...
post #4 of 12
It really sounds like you have an efficency and priority issue. You really need to analyze how you work. I have worked with plenty of guys in the same boat. You need to streamline what you are doing, organize yourself and prioritize your tasks, while learning to multitask. First off, look at your station, is everything where it should be for optimal efficency? Are all your prep items for 1 dish beside each other so you are reaching only one place? Are your tongs, spats, etc. set in the same place everytime or do you have to hunt for them each time you need them? When doing prep work do you consolidate your work? Meaning if you are making a chicken roulade do you lay out all your chicken, then pound all of it, then layer all of it, then roll each one or do you do each chicken from start to finish? The latter wastes time and the first is working efficently (that is just an example). Look at each and every way you can reduce your movements. These things may not sound like much, but look at it this way. By putting your tongs in the same place every time you have saved 1/2 second in looking for them. You grab your tongs 60 times during your shift. You just saved yourself 30 seconds. Now do that for every task you do and you will see huge time savings. The reason these "slower" guys are beating you at prep is they have eliminated all non essential movements.
post #5 of 12
I want you to take my post with a grain of salt and please do not take it the wrong way.
I have had many people apprentice under me. I have grown to realize that we do not all have the same natural or chemical make-up.
I have had had many people who perform at 110% like yourself and do not achieve the same results as others who perform at 100%.
I am not a proponent of the medical industry in any way but did have this experience a few years back with the nicest and now closest friend. He had the same exact issue. We decided to bring the issue to his primary care physician. He then refered him to someone who sat down and discussed his problem (not on a couch). She diagnosed him as having 'clutter' ( positive, rational, productive thoughts, comming a bit to fast for a controlled physical responce). She perscribed a medication that would slow the thoughts down a little. In a short period of time he was able to achieve impeccable timing. Which I feel is the key to sucess in this industry and in life.
My buddy has been enjoying a very sucessful career as exec Pastry Chef in Hawaii for years.
BTW My description of clutter is not clinical at all. Just my inturpretation of the situation .
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
i think you hit the nail right on the head my prep is always done to perfection. it the actualy service where problems come. my mind always feels exactly the way you put it... cluttered. the best answer i've heard to that was to train myself to concentrate and focus. i've found it impossible. if my mind drifts to something else it's going to drift. what can you do about it? focus on one thing and prenevt your brain from thinking about something else? and for the record i do'nt have ADD.

mikeb. i think your last bit of advice is usually what happends and that's usually the way i get through the night.
post #7 of 12
Pop, this is not going to be solved overnight, although I know you want it to be.

Do you get a thrill when you prep? Onions aside, do you feel empowered when you make your mise en scene? I still remember the feeling of 5am in the kitchen, semi-awake, but focused on task and ready to cut the cubes, smell the smells, parsley running through my fingers but sticky from the garlic residue.... Sample the corners.... Make your place, if you are going to stay there, get familiar -- this is home. You do not need permission to squat, because you OWN your space. Know it, own it, bathe in it. Its yours. Breathe it in, and you will not panic any more.

Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
i realize the problem doesn't go away over night. it's just that after 5 years of cooking it seems that it's not anywhere close to being solved. but my patience is running thin.
post #9 of 12
Do some visualization exercises in real time. Find yourself a quiet spot and visualize things step by step, slowly. Take note of everything, and I mean all the details. Try not to rush it, that's where you get distracted.

It helps for a lot of things that I do such as memorizing a piece of music, or performing a difficult task like, when I was much younger, a gnarly jump on my skateboard. In either case, the principle is the same.
post #10 of 12
I feel for you, I really do. Keep the faith -- if this is your passion and calling, it will come, and it will be worth every ounce of effort you put into it. Keep swimming!!! And just know you can vent here whenever you need to :)
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! Auntie Mame
post #11 of 12
i think panini is on to something. theres a reason i dont work in professional kitchens anymore and a reason i dont talk about it and it goes back to the issue you describe. but in my case it was ten times worse. to make a long and embarassing story short, medication fixed it. medication is nothing. the new drugs act as a supplement rather than a mind alterant. you still feel like you and function like you 100%. an analogy is, think of a radio. the station you've selected doesn't drift anymore. please keep yourself open to it because it can work miracles.
another good suggestion made was to do visualizations of process. that really works. its not just new age crapola. it trains your synapses. i wish you all the best and i hope you can get through this successfully.
post #12 of 12

having everything in place, all your prep done, your station customized
to your needs. those are all things you know. To really slip into the
groove, I had to change my way of thinking. Aside from the finesse you
pick up with time, you need to empty your mind. It took a long time, but,
I eventually had to just not concentrate. You already know how to do
this. Just let it happen. I think you are just worrying to much. Let it
happen, don't try to make it happen.

On another note. Eat enough. Eat carbs before the business starts. Drink
plenty of good old plain water. Remember, if you don't enjoy what you
do, don't do it. Explore other stations in the kitchen. Not everyone is
meant to work saute or grill. Take it easy brother.
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