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Is it normal for line cooks to not get breaks? - Page 2

post #31 of 62
Well I have to say Breaks are what the Walkin is for. If your station is running and you take a break, who is going to fill in for you, The Sous Chef? I don't know maybe its a personal pride issue but if im at a station On the line it would be a cold day in **** before someone would replace me.

For a second opinion I just asked my son who is working his first Line Station at a High end restaurant in San Diego. (Away from my kitchen, Sniff). He tell me the only break he gets is when he resets the line or his shift is over.
post #32 of 62
My station is usually operated by 2-3 people regularly. I'm operating it by myself this summer. Though less business, the amount of work remains meaning 12 different vegetables needs to be cut 12 different ways, 5 different meats needs preping, all the equipment needs to be tend to, opening plus closing, cooking and serving, plus the paper work (hot food temperature logs, cold storage temperature logs, ordering, etc) add to this my regular responsibilities like inventory. My scheduled hours are 7am - 3pm but I obviously take more time.

My service goes from 10am - 1-1:30pm. I prep between 7am - 8:30am, I cook between 8:30am - 10:30am plus cooking between service times to refresh. I stop all cooking at 12:30pm and try to do additional prep. Around this time, others take their breaks, I usually cover. Dishes and clean up from 1pm - 3pm. If I can get help, I can start inventory at 1pm and regularly takes me 2hours to complete cover to cover. Ideally, this is what should happen.

I only get help maybe 1-2 per week. I can't say no to covering breaks (in the past, I've said no but the manager ends up with complaints about it so I now HAVE to cover). Some of the equipment are damaged and needs to be handled delicately, I've put in for a repair request a month ago to the manager. I also have no one to rely on who can run my station for me to walk away even for 5mins, the place was literally closed for the 2 weeks I was away on vacation.

Now is this bad time management or am I be inundated with too much to do with my limited time?
post #33 of 62
I mean machismo in the sense of "poor me, I have to work a double again and cover 2 stations because of poor staffing/mismanagement/preparation" If working your but off everyday 12 hours straight is job satisfaction then it is time for a new job IMO. There is nothing wrong with sitting down between service when you are ready, grabbing something to eat. Again I assume we are talking about taking breaks while service is not occurring. As a chef I insist all my crew get something to eat, and rest a bit every day, I see the payoff. Like a previous poster said the law of diminishing returns applies here.

The only time when you should be working like that is if you own the place-- period. Not that a kitchen is 9-5 in any sense but this outdated work ethos is what keeps our industry lagging behind in terms of pay, professionalism and sanity. How many chefs do you know who have missed their kids birthdays, their first steps or have destroyed marriages because they "have to work again, sorry honey". It is really sad this industry is still in this state. Cooking is not a matter of life or death but it will kill you if you let it.
It reminds me of a cook I once knew who was a meth addict, he would come in so high and tear up service all day and night long, the owner loved it and even condoned it because he was doing the work of 2 cooks while at the same time he was also destroying his life and body. He eventually burnt out and crashed, lost his wife, family and was fired because he couldn't perform like he did, a very sad situation. Otherwise he was a very talented creative person and a helluva guy.

PS I also know some women who can run circles around a lot of men and still have time to take a break.

PSS I still work on average 55+ so hours a week, take breaks and have time to see my kid everyday so don't tell me it cannot be done.
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post #34 of 62
I laugh as I read this forum because in reality, no one is really complaining about not taking breaks. It is just sort of an accepted practice in this industry. However, most of us DO take breaks. Just not the traditional "one hour" lunch break that most other professions have. Now granted I do not work the line, but I know what its like standing on your feet for hours on a stretch without sitting down, but as many people in this profession already know, sometimes sitting down is actually the worst thing you can do. Why? Well, because if you have to work a long shift, your body becomes accustomed to standing on your feet. Once you sit down, your body thinks, "OK, its rest time." But what your body doesnt know is that in 10-15 minutes (or less) it's time to get back up again and start working. And once you stand back up again, you feel more pain than if you didnt sit down at all. If you take a look at people who work in professions where they are on their feet all day (nurses, doctors, assembly line workers), most of them do NOT sit down when they take a break. If they want to go out for a smoke or read the newspaper, they will do it standing up so as not to throw their body out of balance. Its the same thing in the kitchen. DON'T SIT DOWN!!

However, that said, if anyone who has to work a 16-hour shift is not allowed a break (and I don't care WHAT the circumstance is), then as someone has already suggested, find a different job. Not only is that illegal, but it is cruel. Since when has the food service industry turned into the modern-day slave trade? I understand the economy is bad and people need jobs, but if you are forced to work under these conditions, then this is a sad day for this profession. Even though I am a trained chef, the first job I had was working in a deli for Target Corporation in one of their SuperTargets. Like many on here, I had a dedication to getting the job done at all costs, even if it meant skipping breaks. Most of the time none of the managers noticed, until one day the deli manager said to me, "ok, you've been working for 7 hours now, and you have not taken your break yet." I replied, "sorry, I still have a lot of work to do". He informed me that what I was doing is illegal and against company policy, so he wrote me up. He told me the next time he caught me skipping breaks I would be fired. I was fired the following week. I thought by skipping breaks I was provong my dedication to the company and would get rewarded with a corporate chef job. Instead, I got fired.

For the individual who stated that "these chefs who skip breaks are the ones who go up the ranks in the kitchen", I have to respectfully disagree. These are the people who will be taken advantage of and be kept at the line cook level with perhaps if they are lucky, a $1 an hour raise.

Working hard does not pay off in this industry. ***-kissing does. It's sad but true. Which is why I pity the poor young Culinary students of today who have NO clue what they are getting themselves into: long hours, hard work, and crappy pay, with little or no benefits. Bottom Line: If you choose to work in this industry: either open up your own restaurant/food service operation or if you want to work for someone else, go corporate. No, you wont be able to showcase your culinary skills in a corporate environment, instead you will be following a strict business model with no room for creativity. But at least you'll earn a decent "livable" wage and have benefits to boot. Plus, you'll get to take breaks.
post #35 of 62
Wow! That sounds like a nice place to work!! Are you hiring? :)
post #36 of 62
Those people are usually called shop stewards or upper management.......
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post #37 of 62
I budget in 2 breaks of about 5 mins. a day. I typically get one before service and one after service. I never know when it will be, but I certainly know when it is time to step out for 5 mins to collect myself.
post #38 of 62
I work for a large hotel chain, and we have to force our cooks to take a break. It's a pain in the ***, because, as a corporation, we are short on hours as it is, but then, they force the employees to take a 30 min break. Say a guy has a 6.5 hour shift scheduled(I know, ridiculous,huh?) and they get done in 6 hours and 10 min, they habe to clock out for 1/2 an hour, then clock back in, then out again to be the way the executive comittee wants it. Some of my guys smoke, and they'll clock out for half an hour and work during that time, because they know they'll eventually take 30 min worth of smoke breaks during the shift. This is something that frustrates me. I would rather work the shift non-stop if I choose.
post #39 of 62
This may have a lot to do with labour law in your State, don't know what State you're in, or what the laws are like.

That being said, in my part of the country (B.C.Canada) an employee can take the employer to the labour board and win compensation for breaks not taken. The employee may be a a scumbag looking for a buck, but as the the Labour Board here declares: "The onus is on the employer", in other other words, it is up to the employer to prove the allegations false. I believe California has similiar laws.

Say what you will about the executive comittee, and it's more than likely true, but the one thing they do know is how to cover their butts should a situation like I described above should happen. Hence the time clock, proof of break taken.
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post #40 of 62
Bing go this is how it was when was on the line:lips:
post #41 of 62
Break? Maybe once every three or four days I will step outside for a quick breath of fresh air if time permits.

I know yes technically I am entitled to one, but I don't really care. If I am the only cook on the line, do I tell my customers they can't eat because I am on break? I'd rather work it all the way through and leave 30 minutes earlier.
post #42 of 62
Most cooks I know feel this way, it's tough enforcing something you don't believe in.....
post #43 of 62
i work in a truck stop, and it's by far the most unpredictable place i've ever worked. i'm normally the only line cook on duty during my shift, so i often don't get an official break. when the opportunity presents itself, i scamper off to the break room and suck down a cigarette, but that's only when there's nothing else to do. if i have something that needs prepped or a ticket in the window, my nicotine fix must wait. when someone on my crew starts whining about their break, i giggle. there's rarely more than three people in my kitchen at a time...line cook, prep cook and dishwasher. so if one's missing and we get hit, the whole machine gets outta whack. most days, it's not a problem getting my crew's breaks in. but there have been many days where we're balls out from clock in to clock out. i personally believe breaks to be discretionary.
post #44 of 62
By law we have to give breaks two 15 min and one 30 minutes for shifts over six hours. My cooks and myself do not take a straight 15 min or 30 min but through the course of a day everyone takes 5 min here 15 min there that all add up at the end of the day. Your not straight out for the full shift if you want to spread out the time 5 min for a smoke 10 min to run to the store so be it. We are all grown people take your time as it fits into your work day
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post #45 of 62
Personally, I find breaks are more of an interrupution than anything else. I rarely take my breaks that I am entitled too. I'd rather spend that time getting my head into gear for the oncoming service and making sure my mise en place is set up the way I want it. I just don't feel that spending 30 minutes outside or somehere else is the best way to relieve stress or prep myself, I'd be more stressed if I were outside constantly thining, "I've gotta do this then that then this...."

I gotta admit it is a little bit of a macho thing aswell, but only because I am proving to myself that I can tough it out. I love the long hours uninterrupted in the kitchen. I'm addicted to it and feel at home in the kitchen, so why would I want to leave.

But ****, when close is finally done I love that first smoke of a marlboro red and a glass of red or white wine, wind down time :)
post #46 of 62
I was working in a 72-room hotel, with two function rooms (seating 100ish and 175-200). We started off with 8 people working the kitchen. Head chef only did prep sometimes if we were in the sh!t, so make that 7. One chef walks out. One chef's wife has a stroke and passes away so he goes on sick leave for about six weeks. One chef heads to college. Wedding season starts. Suddenly I become the pastry chef, the pastry chef is on breakfast, and my split shift (10-2 and back for 5-10) turns into a 12-hour shift. I'm the lucky one; one of the guys does breakfast some days straight through til the end of service. No one new is hired. If anyone gets a break it's usually to run down to the shops to get soft drinks for everyone. Yes, you take a break when you can, but sometimes it's better to just work through it instead of only having 3 brulees and no petit fours left for service on a friday night. Then I left the hotel (visa expired, not much I could do). The kid who left for college comes back for a couple months, but the only person that they've hired in this entire time was a 16-year old apprentice going for his svq2, and he went on holidays for 2 weeks on the same week that I left.

When wedding season really started up we had to get agency chefs to come in every weekend to help out. That alleviated the problem a bit, but with some of them you really had to keep an eye on what they were doing, and with others they'd become the chef's pet and you'd be stuck doing the work anyway!

Most people who were working in that kitchen (in fact, everyone who wasn't working breakfast) were supposed to be on split shifts, but it would be rare to find anyone leaving for more than an hour unless we had everyone on.
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post #47 of 62
Nothing is like the wind down time after service... Nothing.
If I can take a break and want to, I do it. I dont have my **** together, unprepped and so on, I dont. Being unprepared costs me so much more than not taking the break.
Bu prepping vedgetables and etc is kind of a chill down time for me. When you can disconnect and do the no-brainer prepping. Or baking bread or something. Those kinds of jobs are relaxing to me in a way.
I dont know how the laws are here in Norway, but I dont think I can sue my workplace if I dont take my breaks. Seems pretty harsh.
But again, its you guys. The land of lawsuits. :p
post #48 of 62

Just Take Them

If the kitchen station is running well, take a break, if you are under pressure don't.

Nobody can stop you going to the "toilet", and no chef will stand for 16 hours straight
post #49 of 62
I met Thomas Keller about twelve years ago during a special event. Later that night when he saw me walking past when all the chefs were outside on the pateo he stopped me and invited me to join him with a glass of wine.

How often does Thomas Keller sit a young chef in training to give him advise? I think the conversation went on for a few hours. He told me of a time when he was in France working in a restaurant 16 hours a day and there was lull in the afternoon so he sat down on the counter for a moment. He was reprimanded by the chef and was told that a chef never sits down.

That's right. According to Thomas Keller, "A chef never sits down." Don't forget it.
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post #50 of 62
If time doesn't allow for a break, a break can't be taken. How is this not normal? In the middle of service your head chef will stop and say "table 28 can wait, the fry cook has been on his feet for 5 hours straight!"?
post #51 of 62
In the past, during banquet season in a nice hotel I will often work 16 hour shifts 5 or 6 times a week, with just quick smoke breaks and quick meals in , part of the dues you pay as a chef. If there was a big breakfast to be done I was the one to be there to open up at 5 am and still work my lunch and dinner shifts. I say suck it up or someone hungrier than you will be there to take your place, in my career I have often been that "someone" I worked longer and did better work than everyone else and it has paid off in a big time way. Now I call my own shots and I look for that next hungry young chef. I realize there are labor laws and such but the culinary career is a whole different world. This is a marathon and if you don't have the stamina, as well as the talent, you will be left behind in the dust. Thomas Keller was right.
post #52 of 62
well said Natividad. Agreed bud
post #53 of 62
While I do agree that breaks should only be taken when at all possible, as a sous chef running my line back in Toronto, I had to be aware of my staff. I have seen guys who will refuse to take a break while hovering over the grill for 12+ hours. It can be very bad, I have seen a guy almost pass out on the grill. I will try to shift people around my line to either give the guy a break or at the very least get him/her into a lower key station, such as salads to at least cool off.
post #54 of 62
At the restaurant I work at we are paid for our breaks and are entitled to a half an hour break as well. That just said I think I have only taken a full half hour break a handful of times. Most of the time I take enough time to gobble something up and then I'm washing my hands and I'm back online.
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post #55 of 62
On Mondays and Tuesdays we have two of us on the line and one on the lunch so breaks are a little hard to come by at times. I'm the opener so I usually get a break and most times it's just enough time to eat and then I get right back at it. I'll take it at 9am when the lunch person comes in so that the other line cook has someone he can look to for help. The fruiter we have in on that day does know the line as well (we're corporate) and the location he came to us from trained them on all the stations so he can help as well. Our place can be pretty unpredictable too.. Tuesdays are usually deader than dead but not this past Tuesday and we got clobbered... and that was the day I worked from open to close because I couldn't leave them with so much prep to do.
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post #56 of 62
I worked at a small cafe before the place I'm at now and there I was the cook and by the cook I mean the ONLY cook, so I had to take my breaks on my feet and I agree with what's been said here... sitting down is bad! Sometimes you have to sit down ... I have just started opening and because I don't drive (I can but I hate it) I have a fifteen minute walk uptown to the GO station and then a twenty minute walk when I get off the GO bus in Burlington, so it's taken some getting used to. I made the mistake of sitting down yesterday to eat and it was even harder to get back up onto my feet again!
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post #57 of 62
Every restaurant I have ever worked in, whether it be as a Pantry Cook or a Line Cook, I have always been told to use my own judgment. I don't smoke, so I don't go outside before or after each rush. I generally eat my staff meal on my station, while getting prep done for the shift. So when it comes down to it, I am ok with not getting a 2- 15 minute breaks and 1- 30 minute for lunch, like a normal Monday-Friday 9-5.
post #58 of 62
Wasn't Thomas Keller sitting down when he told you that story.................So much for advice from Thomas Keller.............................As for line cooks getting breaks....A line cook is hired to manage his/her station. That also includes breaks...............A Chef worth anything will make sure their cooks get a break. Going back years ago all cooks smoked, I'll tell you one thing they made sure they got their smoke break every hour....Bill
post #59 of 62
"A Chef never sits down".

This was brainwashed into me as well.

I completed a 3yr cook's apprenticeship in Luzern, Switzerland waaay back in the '80's. We were reprimanded if we ever sat down, if we stood on one leg during long mundane vegetable peeling sesions, the other leg was kicked out by the chef de partie or Sous.

Later, during my Swiss army bootcamp, I was detailed to the kitchen--same attitude prevailed, a cook never sits down.

25 years later, I can not-so-proudly state that I suffer from flat feet, plantar facsicitis, and must wear custom orthotics--but I still find it hard to sit down......
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post #60 of 62
Hey Foodpump, Sitting down isn't the problem, its getting up........Bill
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