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Staying clean?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hello CT community!


I am a Garde Manger at RM Seafood at the Mandalay Bay, and with only 2 years in the business I wanted some advice from some veteran chefs.  I am fairly good at setting up my station to serve desserts and salads, but when the rush comes at some points I just tend to lose focus and some of my cleanliness slips.  I get the food out, but even worse the kitchen is visible to the public!  I don't want bad habits to grow on me as progress through my culinary career and when I eventually go to culinary school.  So I ask, how do you make sure your station is always tight during service? Strategies or advice of any kind would, and blunt be F@$@ing clean answers are NOT what I'm looking for. 


PS: I was a line cook/plancha at a yacht club before in NY, and this restaurant can do upwards of 200-500+ during dinner service, the 500+ nights there is a 2nd man, but the 100-300 are solo nights.


Thank you,



Edited by pauyboy1025 - 12/16/12 at 9:43am
post #2 of 5

work out organisation pre-service. work out how and what you are going to do. Then it''s just a matter of training yourself to follow procedures. 

You dont need to change things all at once, just get better everyday. It could be that you wipe your hands on a towell hanging from your apron, instead of on your apron or shirt. Or it could be that you put your dirty spoons in a cup of water. Or it could be that you set yourself up in such a way that you don't notice the rush as much.


Work out what problems you encouter frequently during service and work out ways to combat them. It could be that your plates are not cold enough for desserts, or that you are running out of a certain item a lot.


cleanliness comes from within though. If you don't practice it at home or if you are not clean in general, it's going to be hard to get clean during a busy service where you rely a lot on instinct and training to get through. 


i believe that cleanliness and organisation go hand in hand. You say you are "fairly good" at setting up your station for service. Try to make that "fairly good" station a little better tommorow and a little better the next day. Before you even realize, you will be well on your way to having a cleaner more organized section.

post #3 of 5

practice, practice, practice. 


Keep on top of your miss en place all the time. Make a prep list and get it done. Do not forget any ingredient or tool.

Continually go through your service areas and remove anything out of date. Take the time after service to regroup/reorganize your station. 

Keep everything in the same place all the time. When you use a tool during service, return it to the same spot every single time. If you remove salad dressing for a salad from the reach in, put it back right away in the same spot. If you drip anything on the outside of the container, wipe it down before putting it back. Never tell yourself you will do it later. There is no later. 

Wipe the counter down constantly as you work. Do not throw anything on the floor. Use the wastebasket. Every time. 

It is especially important to do all these things when it is slow. Do not fall into the trap of thinking they are only important when you are busy. If you wait until then, rushing to get it together becomes the focus and order and cleanliness go out the window. 

Do it right. Do it right a little quicker. Do it right even quicker. Do it right really quickly. Do it right. 

These are habits you develop and learn to maintain all the time no matter what is happening around you. 

When a rush occurs, you should be able to take mental comfort in the habits you  have developed. Concentration and focus on those habits at all times is vital. 

Lastly, remember everything is measured in seconds.  This is to your advantage. It takes the same number of seconds to do it right when it is busy as it does when it is slow. The panic is all in your head. Failing to clean up, put it back or wipe it down just because you are busy only gives you more work to do later and actually does nothing for the customer. If you need an extra five or ten seconds to do it right, you are the only one who will ever know because you have developed the habits that always produce good product in a timely manner. 

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the advice of preemptive organization/sticking to a procedure and continuously perfecting it.  I will definitely pay attention to the little things you mentioned chefwriter such as continuously wiping more and using the same spot habitually.  Patrick, looking in to my personal and cooking life (which are beginning to mesh -.- ) and evaluating my organization and cleanliness in both would just make it all easier. 


Thanks for posts!

post #5 of 5

A few more things that you might find helpful.


When you get into 'the rush' stop every now and then and make a mental picture of your station... OR if you can easily / without disrupting work take a photo of it with your camera.  (probably just a mental picture if it's an open kitchen)




Go back later on that evening and identify everything that was 'making' that mess.  ie. what was it that you were making the most mess with?


Most often I find when training people that they are messiest when trying to be 'extra' fast or when they are unfamiliar with a method of plating.  Sometimes but less often it's a matter of using the wrong equipment for the job.


Figure out what is happening and then correct it by coming up with a different way and/or slowing down or just learning to do it the right way.


Some examples:


  Wrong sized equipment, squeeze bottles in particular i have seen many people try to cut the tip extra large because they need a full two or three oz of sauce on the plate in a puddle, the large tip just makes for drips and inaccuracy.  Use a proper sized ladle and technique not a plastic gimmick to give you that pool.  With huge volume the best tool might be a pancake batter dispenser.  I've watched guys/gals squeeze that plastic 32oz bottle like it owed them money trying to get two oz servings onto many plates in a rush... honestly if you go through more than 5 or 6 squeezies in a night it's the wrong tool.

  Other common size problems occur with pastry bags (often way too small - they spend all night filing the damn things) and also the wrong size of tip.  You shouldn't be making 15 concentric circles to pipe mashed onto a cottage pie and you shouldn't have to do 5 or more spirals to get a decent 2 oz kiss.  Down and around, up and around, then off (3 passes max).  

  Improperly sized ladles, if you have to say I use one and a half ladles of sauce your wasting time and effort just get a 1.5 oz / 3 oz or 4.5oz ladle ... buy it yourself if the place is 'cheap' it'll save you a boatload of time and subsequently mess!


Being extra fast usually means extra mess.  While i'd like to say slow and steady wins the race that is almost always not the case.  Fast and smart is much better.  For instance you can dredge your plates with icing sugar one by one taking it slow and steady and trying to not get it everywhere on your station.  Or you can keep two sheet trays / pans or serving trays beside/under your station take them out and lay them side by side, fill them with xx number of plates - and hit that assembly with powder sugar like you mean it.  Plate the deserts - put the sheet trays beside your station on a box or something and hit them salads.  You will be faster and neater, at the end of the night just tap them off into the trash and put in the dish pit ... saves you a ton of wiping and cleaning or if you chose the slow and steady route a ton of time.

  Use the same principle for what ever you seem to make a mess with, i'm a tray fan so if I have to grate parm on top of a bunch of composed salads... I line em up on trays and hit em with gusto... put em up and then any extra parm gets poured off the corner of the tray to a monkey bowl and used for the next batch.  It shows the chef you care about saving both time and product.


  Technique this is the big one that you will have to self evaluate.  

- When you use a plating spoon do you wipe the underside on the edge of the container to ensure no drips?  

- When you have to grate or shave something do you angle the tool to drop the contents where you want or do you just hold it level and pray for the best?  (if so you better have some trays handy)

- When using your hands to sprinkle diced/grated things onto many plates do you simply fill your hand and then start dropping stuff onto the destination or do you take the entire container in one hand and then use just the other hands fingers to 'pull' out only what you need onto every plate?  (hint try the container and finger method - much faster - much more accurate and less messy)

- When using a finishing salt do you ensure you fingers are dry first... or do you simply bust ahead and then shake off any excess.  If your hands are almost always wet there is no shame or harm in using a tiny little 'dash' spoon in the salt cellar to help you distribute, just do so from up high while taping it on the side.   (if you don't know how to do this just ask... i think the celebrity chefs have all killed this skill)



There are many more tips / tricks but I am way too tired to type them all.


Let us know what dishes you make and what ones go messy and we'll help.


All the above advice is very important - I would have listed it first but they beat me too it ... damn slackers mustn't have worked till 10pm on a Sunday! (just kidding)


Any way - keep striving to be better and have fun!



"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold





"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold


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