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Cooking solo: How do I keep track of it all?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'm sure most Cooks and Chefs reading this have been here before: You're the only one in the kitchen for a couple of hours during the slow time, when 50 people get out of a conference and decide to visit YOUR restaurant!

So you find yourself alone in the kitchen with the dreaded "Never-ending Line of Tickets" ! There you are; trying your best to meet this challenge by running 4 stations, keeping a dozen or so timers running in your head, when a server comes back and tells you "Oh, sorry but this needs no onions and this guy needs to keep kosher and I forgot to ring in that but I REALLY need it NOW" etc. etc. ...How does one keep track of it all day in, day out, without completely losing their sanity?

As critical as mental focus is to a Chef (or an aspiring Chef like myself) how can anyone reading this get better at keeping track of every little thing in the midst of chaos? Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
post #2 of 12
Tough it out bro and live to fight another day

I've been there a million times, and a smile is the only way...period.

I can promise you....if you can hang, you'll laugh at this memory sooner than you think.

Perhaps, look at it this way....
Did you feel any sense of pride and sick satisfaction that you busted out a huge hour by yourself?

It's that...or this biz aint for you

I don't mean to sound harsh on you.....it's kinda the way it is.

Of course, I'm assuming this doesn't happen every shift.....God I hope not....but it does build character and everything gets easier after that.

I could share war stories with you that would make you wanna cry...

Cat Man
post #3 of 12
Another way to do it is to snatch up a server and have him/her start plating or adding sides and such. They know what the plates are supposed to look like.

You'll both be better for it. Buy him/her a beer after shift, say thanks and you'll walk away with both a friend and new found confidence in your coworkers and own abilities.

Ciao,
Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
- * - * - * - * -
"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
Reply
Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
- * - * - * - * -
"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
Reply
post #4 of 12
Grab the dishwasher.

Throw eight chickens and four burgers on the grill, have the server expedite.
post #5 of 12
You'll learn soon enough that getting any assistance available is better than none at all. Servers can plate and expedite, dishwashers can cook fries, managers can assist. As the old saying goes, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." You'll either thrive on the pressure or you'll snap and look for a new career. Have fun!
post #6 of 12
Those are the times when you find out exactly what you are made of....cheers :beer:
post #7 of 12
When I get slammed, I have to force myself to look ahead on the tickets in case there's a well done steak or something down the line that I can put on the grill now, so I'm not dragging the table later. I also try to group items as much as possible.

The grill guy at my old job kept a 1/4 sheet pan with a cooling rack on his station where he puts his "ordered" meats after the've called. This way he never losses track.
post #8 of 12
I usually piece together things... I will grab X amount of tickets and drop down the protein on the flat top or the grill.

After all proteins are down I grab a big saute pan for vegetables (most of our plates all get the same veg) and then the small saute pans for the different sauces.

Im still not perfect, but practice gets me better.
post #9 of 12
I usually just start by the dishes which takes the longest time, then go down the ladder, such that you can get most of them at the same time. And always look 3-4 dockets ahead, so you can always get the well-done steak on the grill while you're plating up or doing the pans.
post #10 of 12
First thing someone needs to do is get those servers under control...
When they know you are the only one in the kitchen is no time to be messing with you. If you have some rapport with the waitstaff, they will understand the need to help set as even a pace as possible for you to put the food out, have some sort of idea of what you are capable of for menu items and timing.
The other thing you can do is use specials to help direct traffic towards certain items and help with your overall cooking strategy. The last thing to remember is Don't feel overwhelmed in front of a bunch of orders. The first one and the last one don't have to go out at the same time... (usually)... Good luck.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
Reply
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
Reply
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your knowledge! And no, this is not even close to my worst story about when the &*%@ hits the fan in the kichen; but after talking to a few people who have been at it for decades... well, my worst stories don't even come close to theirs :D ...then again, I usually thrive under that kind of pressure and the boss keeps placing me in those kinds of situations so I must be doing something right! (side note: I work for a chain restaurant with only managers above me and not an actual Chef to be a better mentor; but to their credit they know more than I and always do what they can)

Tonight I handled the same situation a lot better. Almost everything went out on time, there were many compliments from everyone about my quality, and I even finished early enough to enjoy a few frosty cold ones with my friends! Cat Man, THAT'S pride and satisfaction when I mistakenly boasted to a server in the middle of the rush "No Problem, I'll be out front drinking with Tim and Jason in 2 hours" and she held me to it!

Please join me as I raise my glass to the long day that you somehow manage to pull off! :beer:
post #12 of 12
You gotta know your line. In the past when i was on lines and this happened it was fun, because, I knew my line inside and out. About 4 months ago I took over as Exec, well, to control the labor I have been working anywhere from 4-6 hours solo depending on prep levels etc... but about 1.5 weeks into it, **** I wasnt sure of the menu yet(not mine, just finishing the quarter with the last chefs menu), but it got kind of hectic. Also, just talk with the FOH, if they are good service folk, not order takers, they should EASILY be able to slow the flow, sell some drinks, tell a story something to give you even two -3 minutes between tickets. As mentioned above, I was near psychosis at the time all this happened but looking back now, it's our equivilant of the superbowl or a gold medal. I love those times! The only thing better is when you can change a mood(for the better) with a dish. That is amazing, and why I am in this hellish business.
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