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Tips for an extremely stressed, new cook?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hi. Like I said in the welcome forum I'm only 17 and have been cooking for a little more than a month but have been cooking at home for years. It's kind of a funny story how I was hired. I started washing dishes where I work now and would always watch the cooks from the dishpit but never thought I would be hired due to my lack of experience, then one day frusrated I was stuck washing dishes for 6 hours a day I talked to my manager saying I would possibly be putting in my two weeks notice. She then offered me a job cooking since I supposedly showed good energy and what not while dishing, and since I've always greatly enjoyed doing it at home I accepted. To say the least a lot of things I didn't consider about the job are popping up. So if you have anything you wish somebody would've told you when you began cooking please share, however my biggest problem is the stress, staring at 4 or 5 order tickets and not knowing if I should just finish one order first then move on to the next, or do pieces of each order then finish them all together, things like that. I should mention that the restaurant I work at isn't gourmet or anything, we serve everything from prime rib to burgers, to grilled walleye to bruschetta.
post #2 of 28
Keep your nose up, buddy! Food doesn't bite, you do! I just hope you'll get some help from boss making first steps.
Working short orders is all about timing. It's important to be able to finish some plates right in time while starting others. So you'll have to multitask. And be careful with wet stuff in deep-frier.

Lucky you, having fresh walleye all the time. We get frozen fillets mostly here.
Have you checked that thread out yet? http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/profe...er-change.html

Good luck

C
WE ARE NOT SELLING FOOD...WE ARE IMPROVING OUR CLIENT'S LIFESTYLE - HIS LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO EAT SOMETHING HE DOESN'T LIKE
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WE ARE NOT SELLING FOOD...WE ARE IMPROVING OUR CLIENT'S LIFESTYLE - HIS LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO EAT SOMETHING HE DOESN'T LIKE
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post #3 of 28

hey man

hey bro don't worry i know what u mean, i get stressed sometimes when i cook either i will get nervous about how the dish will turn out or how do i do this recipe with out screwing it up. keep it up the more cooking u do the more experience u will have and the less stress u will have from working all the different types of cooking in every aspectof the cooking world u will feel more cofident with it foods u will create

keep it up bro

:chef::beer:
post #4 of 28
When I was in college I was wound up in a kitchen without any training except what I had at home making dinner for six and more. I worked lunch, the busiest shift. What has been said here about multitasking is gold- you have to develop a keen sense of timing, such as how long that sandwich needs to go before you flip it, or how to manage getting all plates in the order on the counter at about the same time. The only remedy is to dive in, do your best.

If you don't mind sharing, where are you in Dairyland?
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post #5 of 28
I'll throw a couple of aphorisms at you like:

Keep your cool, dont panic
Don't let the food be the boss of you.


4 or 5 tickets at once is nothing.
The goal is to get each course out at the same time for each table. This is pretty easy if you have a good expo. Otherwise you must communicate with your fellow linesmen. Communication is a must, don't do it, and the line will sink into the weeds fast.

Second thing to do is check out your mise. If you've got enough, could it be organized better. You should have acces to everything you need if you have one foot nailed to the floor. One of the things I do, is precup some of the sauces that people order extra sides of. It saves me a few seconds during the rush.

The FOH can also screw things for you if the seatings aren't staggered. Some waiters like to hoard tickets and put them in all at once.

Lastly, I always scan ahead to see if I have any surprises or long cooking items coming up. Well-dones are the worst and can really hang a ticket.
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks a lot guys :chef:

Mezzaluna: Im in central WI. Im working on getting better at multitasking but every once and a while I'll totally forget about something on the char broil and end up wasting the company money and the customers patience :mad:.

The tin cook: That brings up a whole nother set of problems...see we have a new head chef that is firm on sticking exactly to the recipes, which is fine with me but the cooks training me will each tell me a different recipe for say mashed potatoes, then the head chef will see me making them and tell me im all wrong and I need to add horseradish and less of all the spices. Then if the cooks see me using his recipe then im told im wrong all over again and its so frustrating.

Chef_rockclimb3: Yeah thats kind of been my plan of attack, I come home from work then cook something from our menu for dinner er...midnight meal then come online and look for all the info I can, so basically constantly thinking about cooking. So far just talking with you guys has proved to be the most useful and I really appreciate it.

Coregonus: Oh, no they aren't fresh, we get frozen fillets as well, with the skin on. I catch my own walleye all summer long for cooking at home and honestly I can't tell the difference so they must be pretty good. Ill hafta check out that forum too, thanks.
post #7 of 28
Regarding the recipe problem, always do as the chef says. That pretty much applies to anything in the kitchen for that matter.
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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post #8 of 28
I feel your pain Clint. At one place I worked at, the exec was only on the day shift and made frequent changes to recipes and plating without updating the recipe book or letting anybody else know. On the rare occasions when he did swing by he'd throw a fit. It got so bad that our signature salad was almost two different things depending on if you had it for lunch or for dinner.

It sucks taking it both ways. Do what greg said and do what the chef (or sous chef in charge of your shift, I guess) says. If the crew has gone rouge, there isn't much you can do about it except stick up for the standards on the stuff that comes of your station
post #9 of 28
1) The chef is right.
2) The chef is always right.
3) When in doubt, see (1)

:) Whenever some other cook tells you different, ask him can we do it like chef says please? See, being a good cook is a little like being a good soldier. Do your duty unless you know for sure it's ethically wrong. If chef says MR is 140F then MR is 140F. It's not going to kill anyone. 140F is MR in HIS kitchen.

You will find your groove, or you will decide this isn't the right place for you.

Stick with it for awhile and see what happens. Line cooking is a lot like doing your mise. You can start a bunch at a time, like 6 chicken breasts on the grill, and finish them one at a time, or you can do them one at a time as the orders come in. Personally my style was many at a time. During lunch for example when one chicken sandwich would come in I'd toss six on the grill and they would all be gone in 10 minutes. Try not to do it with burgers though. Old burgers suck and customers can tell.
post #10 of 28
Home cook here asking what "MR" means in this context, Kuan. :confused:
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post #11 of 28
Oh medium rare. :)
post #12 of 28

Hmmm...

Communication and patience are important untill you find your "groove" with your cooks.

You really need to be "thrown" into the environment. You will mess up. A lot. The trick is to continually learn from your mistakes and your victories. Ask questions, and pay attention to what others do when you get a chance.

It is stressful, but that's part of the appeal IMO. Don't forget to breathe, and catch every second you can to take a drink of water and truly -read- and know your next 4 tickets, at least. Pay attention to the tickets, and you won't get any surprises. Surprises really crank up the stress level.

Also, don't run. Ever. And be wary of the fryer and your floor. Watch closely for oil/water spills, and clean or mend them accordingly. Stress and heat can be very painful when you get lost in the moment.
post #13 of 28
What does mise mean?
I should've been a chef. Where else can you eat your work?
Searching for food nirvana!
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I should've been a chef. Where else can you eat your work?
Searching for food nirvana!
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post #14 of 28

mise

Mise is mise en plahs(french i believe). In line cooking its all the ingredients and raw product you will need for all the menu items you cook at your station. At home say your cooking beef stew, you would naturally gather, prep all your ingredients before you start. All the ingredients for the stew would be your mise. Hope this explained it.
post #15 of 28
Try your best, that's all you can do. If you are conceintious and truly try, you will do fine. No one expects you to be able to jump in there and be an expert right off the bat. Like all of us, you just need to learn and you will make mistakes learning. I still get busy and forget things. We all do. My frustration in kitchens today is that due to the low wages in my area for cooks and chefs, we wind up with kitchens full of people who are just putting in their time until something better comes around, and they don't care. They don't care if a sandwich that is supposed to be toasted is just barely warm, they don't care if the food comes out hot, etc. So, speaking from experience, if I had a person like you who is concerned enough to come to a website like this and ask for help to improve their performance, I would thank my lucky stars that I had someone on my staff that was trying so hard. It just takes practice. You will get it, and someday we may all be seeing your name linked with some famous restaurant. As for the conflicting information you get, stick with the chef. If anyone gives you grief, tell them to take it up with the chef, but this was how you were told to do it.l Good luck to you.
post #16 of 28
Hey Clint,
Keep the chin up and suck up all the knowledge you can. Be a sponge :) As others have said - go with the chef. Same with any job -the boss is always right. Just gotta find a way to pass that onto others when they contradict what chef says, in a calm way - although calm never equals a kitchen in service!

Ask the dumb questions - don't be embarassed - a dumb question is better than a dumb mistake.

Really good luck to you I hope it goes well - my niece has just finished 3 years of her 4 year apprenticeship as a cook - she's just gone 20. Its been the making of her - she had a lot of issues and inner confusion before being offered the position, but she's made the most of it (it has NOT been an easy path but she's stuck with it) and has benefitted from it in many ways.

Take the advice of our friends on the forum, they've been there, and well done in reaching out for help. Keep us tuned in to how you doing.

And yes, remember to breathe!

DC
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #17 of 28

Chef Knowledge

Definitely listen to your co-workers. For fixed menu items, get feedback on overcoming any specific ingredient or preparation-stage hurdles you may enounter. Take notes. Own the menu, in your head.

Remember, anything that has your name on it is worth going all out, so make it the best cooking you can muster.

Best of Luck,

-Phil Moyers
Phil Moyers
Expert Chef
The Arches Restaurant
Los Angeles, California
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Phil Moyers
Expert Chef
The Arches Restaurant
Los Angeles, California
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post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks a lot guys! I never expected so many replies. :) Things are definately going a lot better despite having just learned the menu and now a bunch of changes have been made :mad: I finally talked to the head chef about how nobody is showing me how to do anything. Being the nice guy he is he decided to come on line with me a few shifts a week and actually teach me something instead of just winging it on my own. One night I decided to take notes on anything that he told me I had been taught wrong and by the end of the shift I had a full page. Quite a few of them he was shocked by. Now if I can just get the noise of the ticket printer out of my head while im trying to sleep after a shift haha. Thanks again!
post #19 of 28
mise en place(french) Every thing in its place. Meaning you have everything prepared before you start.
Mise en guarde- basically means your place to put you "garbage"-@ home I use a bowl.
canadiangirl
post #20 of 28
you started the same way i basicly did, the only difference the first time i cooked on the line was because the chef was away on vacation and there was no one else that had a good enough attitude to be trainable. Just remember its ALWAYS yes chef.
post #21 of 28
It sounds to me like you have a really good relationship with your chef, and he has a strong interest in you. This can be an extremely valuable life lesson for you. Working with people like him can give you the same knowlege and experience as some culinary schools - for free! I once had a line cook who really wanted to learn. He asked me questions all the time, and I taught him what I could. He went on to be head chef in a three or four star restaurant somewhere in Colorado. I saw him briefly some years ago when he came back for a visit and was shocked when he told me I taught him everything he knows. I didn't, of course, because I didn't use a lot of my knowlege in the place we were working. I did teach him enough so he could go on and teach himself. You remind me of him because you're so enthusiastic and want to learn.
post #22 of 28
all i can say is, skill and speed are secondary. be willing to work, don't *****, don't doubt yourself, just do what you do the best you can. eventually, it's all good.
post #23 of 28
I've cook allover after school but not big time I'm stressed because I can't land that big time job help me
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clint View Post

Now if I can just get the noise of the ticket printer out of my head while im trying to sleep after a shift haha. Thanks again!

Haha, I just started my first job as kitchen help (I'm on salads, desserts, and general prep) and I have the same problem after working. I can still hear that ticket, the dishes being washed, someone prepping tomorrow's special, timers going off, etc etc etc. Takes a bit for the sounds to leave my head... And then I do it all over again the next day. wink.gif
post #25 of 28

The stress comes from not being prepared or trained enough to feel confident in your job. It's not really your fault, it's the managers fault to put you there. It's like being a baby with start off crawling and then walking. We don't go from crawling to running the 100 yd dash in the Olympics. Just because your survive doesn't mean you succeed. You need to be trained properly, if your insecure in what you do you will never feel confident that you can succeed working a busy line. May advice is to learn the menu and get better at what you do........

post #26 of 28

Get yourself one book for right now.  Professional Chef the earlier editions are better, I think.  READ IT.  Everyday, everyday off, When you come home, when you get up.  It will teach you the basics, if you see someone not doing what your reading don't fret.  You do what your reading.  Don't argue, just be aware of what your reading.  

 

Tips on cooking lunch don't ignore checks coming in read everyone, while your plating.  And think to yourself "how long will this take?"  

 

I once had a Steak sandwich that was 25 steps, I hated to see that sandwich but I hammered it out.  Ask for help, the only people that suffer is in the customer "guest"

 

One last thought mise en place!  Good luck my friend, you'll be the one teaching soon!

post #27 of 28
My suggestion is to start drinking heavily ... particularly when you realize you're answering a thread originally from 2007. However ... being that I myself like resurrecting old threads ... my suggestion to the original title would be to realize that putting out dishes late but correctly is so much better than having them come back. Skills don't come in a day. Skills trump everything else.




"We work in kitchens ... It ain'te rocket surgery."
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by kuan View Post

1) The chef is right.
2) The chef is always right.
3) When in doubt, see (1)

 

 

This is the best advice of this thread =).

And don't take the criticism personally, just use it as motivation to get better.

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