Advice for a new guy.
You seem to have the right attitude and aptitude. Watch every thing that others do and ask questions in particular , WHY they do it that way. Good Luck
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume).
Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...
This this this this this this this
Get used to doing a routine
S&P left hand up
Water right hand up
Steak markers right middle
Set your station up the same way every day. What spot your proteins go, where your sauces go, where your starches go... whatever you need for your station(s) the exact same place, the same way, every day. After a couple months you'll be on auto-pilot putting out 12 minute ticket times at dinner rush
If you have to assemble your own plates, do it while everything is cooking, not when it's nearing done. Sauces, jus cups, lemons, garnish ready before the plate's ready to be assembled
Once you change one thing in that routine, it's chaos. Serious
Also, one of the things I look for a lot when closing or training someone to close is clean they are and how well they clean. I'm not talking about digging shit out with a toothpick in the smallest crevice, I'm talking about cleaning mid-service and maintaining a fairly clean station. Obviously during a rush it's not entirely possible, but when you can spare 10 seconds to put tongs, plates, spoons, pans, whatever needs to go to the dish pit, in a bus tub then do it. When closing, make sure everything is clean. Make it the cleanest station when you walk out that door. It will get noticed
Lastly, as becoming a cook as a career... That's a hard one to address. Coming from where you were, started at the same age at pretty much the same spot(I was in the dish pit for a couple months before I got to do line work), you have to really have a passion for food... turnover rate is huge in the restaurant industry simply because people can not hang with the day in/day out 10 hour shifts getting to work when people leave for work and leaving work well after they're probably asleep
Words of encouragement though.... I or probably anyone else that posts here would definitely not trade it in for anything. It's who we are
i did catering at college for two years, within the the second year a local hotel was looking for a commis chef and came in to view our work, after a final interview i was hired, was a big step going from an 17 year old trainee into a five star 2 AA rosette establishment, was hard work getting to level of practice were i could be trusted on a section alone, my advise to you if it helps is graft keep your head down and work as hard as you can take on bored all advise from the more experienced chefs in your kitchen it does help greatly , prep up and even the more difficult service will be less of a struggle good look chef hope it helps.
Easy to say, but just calm down. It can be little bit hard of begin, but if you just focus that, what you are doing it going well. Even, when it`s really busy night, just try to be clean and dont run everywhere, just be focus. You are pretty much same age than me. I`m working 12 months very very busy restaurant, and was working in the grill (Mothers Day..->) omg, it was horrible. But it was so horrible that we just laugh, and making great food. Dont think, that omg now they must wait 30minutes for their food. Just do what you can do! And dont let your food going down, that is the biggest mistake, what i`m seen in Finland. Some restaurants, evenly put food out fast and give to customer shit food.
When some things go wrong, dont let it put your mind down. Focus Focus Focus. And good luck for you! Listen to your chef!
when you're not busy work like you are busy, the slow times are kind of practice. if you take your time when it's quiet then you will have a hard time staying focused if you get slammed. when you have no orders clean or do side prep to keep moving. learn how to organize your bills when they start to come in and prioritize.... one of the more experienced cooks should be able to show you. also if you think you are going to fall apart during a rush you will fall apart during a rush, it's mind over matter. once again stock your line and have back ups ready ...... you should never have to leave the line during a rush.
Your chef is telling you the correct thing. It's the exact same thing I tell new guys to the industry when they start spinning (guys who are confused and flustered will often spin around constantly, without actually getting anything done, it's because their mind is racing and they can't focus). You need to calm down, identify your next... 3-6 steps, get them done, and move on from there. As you get better, you'll start thinking 10, 12, 20 steps ahead, but keep it simple and improve one step at a time.
As to your other points, I agree with what others have said. When you walk on to your line each day, you need to do your walk through, and set your station up exactly the same way, every.single.day, you need to be able to move mindlessly when you're working, so your tongs should always be in the same place, your garnishes, ingredients, etc. etc. should ALWAYS be in the same place, such that you could reach for anything without even looking at it.
During your walk through, identify what's running low, and stock your station up to the brim. You should be preparing for success, not worrying about failure. If things are constantly running out mid-service, then you need to create backups and store them in litre containers (or whatever you use) ON YOUR LINE, or if that's not possible, the next-easiest accessible place, and ALWAYS the same place. Preparing your station for the rush should be the first thing on your mind when you walk in for work every day.
You should develop routines that you repeat over and over so you stop thinking about them during service. Say just one order for any random Chicken dish comes in: Fire Chicken on grill, start heating however many pans I need for veg/sauce, pull down plate, fill any ramekins with whatever dips I need, swig of water, flip chicken, fire veg/prep sauce, check chicken, check my "all day", taste sauce and adjust, plate the dish, call hands, swig of water, CLEAN. My routine is so ingrained that I will STILL reach for that water long after I've finished the bottle.
One last thing... Clean, clean, clean! Wipe down and re-organize your station every single time you have a lull between orders. A clean station is a clean mind. If your station is a mess, so is your head. A messy station is full of distractions when you're trying to keep track of your shit during a busy rush, so CLEAN it at every opportunity.