I've been working at a restaurant for a year now after school. I started on desserts, moved to pantry and now I've been on meat for a month. We're a small inn that has two restaurants, one a brasserie and the other modern american, execution oriented. Each cook has about four pick ups from each restaurant. It's really hard on meat, and my inexperience is catching up to me. When we do anywhere from 25-100 I'm more or less ok and do a good job, hit all my temps, etc. But sometimes I melt down, and this kills the flow of the line, people get pissed off, etc. I'm trying to communicate with the middle guy, but quite frankly I don't trust him or really respect his work ethic (it's a really good restaurant, but the chef tolerates him for some reason) so it's hard for me to open up and ask him for help when I need it. The chef sat me down last week and said he thinks I'm very talented and have great potential, but he can't have any more meltdowns on the meat station because it's too costly to service, and I understand. So this week is my last shot. He'll be in DC at the White House for some event, so I have to hold it down without his support. I really don't want to lose it, I know I could be a really good meat cook, I just have trouble putting it all together. Any advice?
I know I'm not the only one, but how do I deal with this situation?
First of all congrats on all your progress, you should be proud. You should also be proud of how you worry about your performance, alot of future chefs out there are much more quicker to blame others for their shortcomings where you were big enough to say straight out you are inexperienced. I think that may be your only flaw here and to be honest, that is probably your greatest strength.
I have been in that position of having to work with someone you don't trust but the thing is you just have to when you are on the line. You showed a lot of character by not really blaming anyone else for the most part. Though you really haven't given a really good detailed summary of what is really going on during your "meltdowns" I am going to jump off a cliff here and assume you just get behind and stop talking when it gets busy?
If that is the case then it sounds like a bit of unneeded pride is sticking somewhere it shouldn't. Whether you trust middle or not if he/she is the only go-to guy to save you then do it. ALOT OF TIME (stressing the point there) working on the line is not about you doing a bunch of stuff single handedly. It is about 2,3,4 maybe even 7 guys working as a team and just getting the job done. I think that is what the chef may be looking from you, your ability to let others help in order for the higher good.
That being said, if it is just a case of you getting confused. Sometimes (and I have done this trust me) it just helps to take a step back from your station, take a deep breath and just say to yourself "I can do this". Sounds corny but it really works. It's not the mantra that does it, it is the stepping away and breathing.....getting control of your body and breathing. Putting your body in a relaxed stature so you don't freeze up and freak out!
But that is just me. Either way, I hope you get it figured out and you do well! If it doesn't.....big deal. You move on to the next job and just kick some more butt at that one using the experience of both your successes and your failures (failure is where you will learn your biggest lessons!).
Just have fun and remember you do it because you love it!
Knowing you can do it!
ENRICO: WELCOME ABOARD!
ChefAB83: You are getting some good advise there. Touche'
Line cooking is a learning process. Some can handle the speed and pressure that goes with it and some can't. Not everyone that learns music becomes a "band leader" and not every ball player becomes a "pitcher" or "quarterback." It's a team effort that make a line successful and you learn more from your failures than successes. Hang in there! you will know soon enough if you can handle it on not. I have worked with a lot of Chef's that couldn't work a very busy line, How they ever got the Chef's job I will never know, unless it was "kissing a**" there is a lot of that, that goes on. You will have to deal with a lot of insubordinates and incompetences before you become a "Chef" and then some after, for the rest of your career. "GOOD LUCK"
Thanks for the thoughts! The good news is that I managed to hold it down very well and I still have the station. The bad news is that last Saturday, in spite of a very strong start, I got crushed with orders in the last hour and, as you said Enrico, failed to communicate and tried to do too many things myself and I hit a bad spot. I CAN do it, I can handle the stress and the bollockings, but I need to work on my communication and I have to know when to ask for help. I've been talking with the middle guy more about it, and he has actually been pretty helpful. And my cooking is not the problem, it's being closer to fire and coordinating with the other cooks, and I know that just comes with practice. Thanks again for your help, and I will definitely keep busting my butt!
The other thing with communication too is that it's a two way street. You need to open your ears as well as tell people what you need. Knowing where you are in the flow helps you anticipate what you're going to need the next couple minutes.
Does that make sense at all?
Sounds great 83!
Sorry I am so late to reply, but you would think with a recession there would be less to do!
I was so happy to hear you are doing better and KUAN gave some great advice too! (Preaching to the choir almost to me but good advice never gets repeated often enough!) I think we all want to hear updates on your progress, successes and discoveries! You are going to learn alot about yourself in this business (just like any other but amplified) and you are going to learn alot about people in general; how they operate, what they do, who you can trust and under what different circumstances.
To all in this board a good night! And a good night to all in this board! HO HO HO HO! Too early? really? Yeah it is.
I'm glad to see you made it through and you're still on the station. You were given some great advice here.
How are things between you and the middle guy now? I worked with someone who had horrible work ethic and I didn't trust him as far as I could throw him. He was KS at the time but had no responsibility given to him because he showed that he just wasn't mature enough to handle it. He was our opener and how on earth he got that I have no idea. On my days in I would send him home as soon as I could afford to cut him. I was doing his work anyway so what why was I paying him. Towards the end of his time with us the owner and KM finally were seeing what I saw months before and realized that it was his work I had issue with, not him as a person.
Yeah...communication is the key thing...
I like..."You ok?" meaning where you at...need a hand?
and then "What do you need?" meaning only you know exactly what I can do for you right now to actually speed things up...
Once established they serve as communication reference points when things go quiet under pressure...something standardised to ask and something that must be replied to as a basis of the responsibility of the crew to share the load....
Allen Saunders, 1957.
Allen Saunders, 1957.
If I could add one more thing, find a really good system of organizing your space. If you know exactly where everything is, which temps are where on the grill mainly, it will make it easier. I find that when someone touches things or I walk away to get something and someone else covers and adds something out of place I can tell just because it's not where it belongs. This really helps when you get nailed because you dont have to think about where things are, or go. Especially whith meat. You know the row of well done's are good for that extra min. so you can throw on another, but you don't have to think which is well done. The best part of a good organization system is when you have someone come over to help (and presumably it will always be the same person or people) they will know where things are as well after a few services. My guys always know exactly where to look for things on my station when they help me out of the weeds, or I ask them to send something to the pass because it is always (to the point of OCD) in the same place. Glad to hear you made it without the Chef there. Sounds like your in for some successes. Good Luck!