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How do I catch up with service?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'm a new intern at a hotel, and I find myself really lacking behind in speed and efficiency as compared to all my chefs. And all I do is the garde manger, sandwiches, salads, desserts, and I'm required to be quick! The chefs are really nice to me, but I am seriously trying to think how to actually speed up. I take about a minute to finish! And the restuarant can do about 700 covers a night, so you can imagine the hell that I have to go through.

Worse of all, the CDP training me said once I am seasoned I will be going to handle the station alone. My internship last for 6 months, and the last thing I want is screw up. When I have loads of tickets coming in, I start to panic. What I worry most is not being able to catch up.

And I'm still really afraid of screwing up orders, so there are times where I had to take out my notebook, and look at the recipes. And this is a major time waster.
post #2 of 12

Time and repetition.

No matter where I go, I am not as fast on my first day as I am on my 60th.

It takes awhile to get your muscle memory, your ability to act without conscious thought.

You care, which is a good place to start.

You should find yourself using your notes less and less as time passes, and your efficiency will increase.

Hang in there, we've all been there.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #3 of 12

I agree with Jim, also be sure your station is READY!! nothing will sink you faster than making several  trips to the walk in when you are busy.

Fluctuat nec mergitur
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Fluctuat nec mergitur
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post #4 of 12

Arrange your station according to the menu items.

post #5 of 12

As was said, experience will be the biggest speed booster.  Once the muscle memory takes over, you will start shaving seconds off of the time needed to make any item...you'll be reaching for things before even thinking about them.

 

Some general advice:

 

1)  organization is key.  Some of this will come in time, but other things you might need to think about.  Usually you can have some leeway in how you set up the station, so use that to your advantage.  Keep ingredients for the same item near each other.  Before service, make sure you have everything properly stocked, including appropriate back ups.  Make sure you have all utensils/smallwares needed to work your station, including any backups here as well.  (i.e. have sufficient tongs, ladels, towels, etc..ready to go).  

 

2)  Economy of action.  This is king in the kitchen.  I can work circles around younger, faster cooks because I think through my actions quickly before taking them, and plan ahead beforehand.  Anticipate!  Look for ways to reduce movement...minimize the likelihood of having to leave your station to go to the walk in or dishtank or trash.  No handy trashcan nearby?  Use a sixpan or a small cambro or some other small container to dump scraps and other small things in, then you can dump that in the trash when you have a second or two free.  Or if you have to reach into a low boy, grab everything you will need in one go (think ahead for the next few tickets), to minimize the amount of time needed to bend over and dig around.  Having to run to the dishtank often?  Set up a hotel pan on a bottom shelf to temporarily store dirty dishes, then you can dump them all at one time instead of making multiple trips.  Every step you can remove, every action you can eliminate, every second you can shave off, speeds you up considerably.  Lets say through maximizing your economy of action you can shave off an average of 5 seconds from the time needed to make every item.  At 700 covers a night, thats 3500 seconds...thats 58 minutes worth of activity eliminated.  That might sound extreme, but its true, thats the level of savings that can be achieved.  And think how much less work that is!

 

3)  Work clean!  You can't stay organized, you can't work fast, if your station is a mess.

 

4)  prepare multiple similar items at the same time.  Say you have three tickets coming down, and they have a total of 8 dinner salads on them.  Instead of making just the salads for the first ticket, make them all at once.  You can put 8 salads together in assembly line fashion faster than putting together 2, then 4, then 2.  Obviously this depends on space and timing and other issues, but the idea is to assemble similar things at the same time when possible.

 

Garde-manger is usually the most intense station as far as energy and activity needed to get tickets out.  First, alot of your items are order/fire, so as soon as the ticket comes in you are needing to plate.  Other stations might have a course or two or three to get ready before fire, and the hot stations will have items that need time to cook, so they can manage timings easier for each ticket...i.e. while this is cooking I can be doing that.  Second, you will get hit harder before anyone else, so as they are getting a chance to ease into the service you are already getting blasted.  Third, every item on every plate requires activity to put together, and you will often have more items on a plate than the other stations.  A meat and 2 side plate might have 4 or 5 things that need put on that plate, and a lot of it might already be prepped and ready to go.  A salad plate might have 10 or 12 or more things going on, and some of it might require additional attention (slicing this, stacking that, arranging this, etc..).  But this is why this is often the first station a new cook gets to work, so that you can see how well the cook manages himself and his time, how clean he works,  and how quick he can move.  And that newer guys tend to have a lot more energy!  (that, and the ingeredients are usually a lot cheaper, so a mistake isn't as costly as say overcooking a ribeye or screwing up a fish)  

 

If your fellow cooks aren't getting mad at you for being slow, then they don't think you are too slow, at least given your level of experience.  If they did think you are slowing things down, they'll let you know.  So you are at least above the baseline.  And if you focus on all the little things you can do to speed yourself up, and get faster as you get more experienced, you'll be where you need to be in no time.

post #6 of 12

I have been a caterer/chef for quite a few years, and the nights where I work the line, all by myself, from prep to production to plating (from salads to desserts), I too still get overwhelmed when the orders start coming in. Aside from everything that is posted above, the one thing I try to focus on that has helped me immensely is to take it one step at at a time, of course in a speedy efficient way.. Keep it in your mind that panicking is not going to get anything done. Even if you're a bit behind, keep chugging away, and never be afraid to ask anyone for help, even if you have to pull in the  dishwasher to come and lend a hand.

 

 

Tonight for example I'm having one of those nights where we are totally booked, had to actually turn away some reservation requests, and still I'm like "oh crap, am I going to be able to handle this all by myself?" Sometimes it keeps me up at night, but when I'm in the ACTUAL moment of trying to get these orders out I center myself as much as I can, and get into the zone, and it really does help to have a lot of it is mental discipline too. You can have all your mise en place ready, and everything organized and still freak out because you didn't "mentally" prepare for the rapid incoming of orders being thrown at you. That's something you have to teach yourself as much as any other skill in the kitchen.

 

I feel for you because i've been there too, but remember, we all have been.

 

I hope my advice helps.


Edited by Pollopicu - 4/27/13 at 6:41am
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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post #7 of 12
Don't stop working. To many cooks stop and take a breather or to watch the grass grow, bad idea. The only way to keep up is to keep producing in an organized way, finish things then move on. If you get a second then clean, fill, prepare. Most important focus in what you are doing, don't keep starting orders if you can't get the older ones out. Try and keep the things you are working on to a minimum.
I work in a kitchen with no tickets, all memory, and I think it is faster the tickets become a crutch for you to lean on. Stop staring at them and make the food.
post #8 of 12

You said you were an "intern".  OK.  Perform like an intern.  Do everything that you can as well and fast as you can.  Nobody with any professionallity should call you out for that.  Yeah, OK, maybe they will still, but don't worry about it so much.  Worry about dishes coming back because they're wrong ... don't worry about being slower than fast.  People forget about speed, but they remember bad dishes. 

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by wvman2374 View Post

As was said, experience will be the biggest speed booster.  Once the muscle memory takes over, you will start shaving seconds off of the time needed to make any item...you'll be reaching for things before even thinking about them.

 

Some general advice:

 

1)  organization is key.  Some of this will come in time, but other things you might need to think about.  Usually you can have some leeway in how you set up the station, so use that to your advantage.  Keep ingredients for the same item near each other.  Before service, make sure you have everything properly stocked, including appropriate back ups.  Make sure you have all utensils/smallwares needed to work your station, including any backups here as well.  (i.e. have sufficient tongs, ladels, towels, etc..ready to go).  

 

2)  Economy of action.  This is king in the kitchen.  I can work circles around younger, faster cooks because I think through my actions quickly before taking them, and plan ahead beforehand.  Anticipate!  Look for ways to reduce movement...minimize the likelihood of having to leave your station to go to the walk in or dishtank or trash.  No handy trashcan nearby?  Use a sixpan or a small cambro or some other small container to dump scraps and other small things in, then you can dump that in the trash when you have a second or two free.  Or if you have to reach into a low boy, grab everything you will need in one go (think ahead for the next few tickets), to minimize the amount of time needed to bend over and dig around.  Having to run to the dishtank often?  Set up a hotel pan on a bottom shelf to temporarily store dirty dishes, then you can dump them all at one time instead of making multiple trips.  Every step you can remove, every action you can eliminate, every second you can shave off, speeds you up considerably.  Lets say through maximizing your economy of action you can shave off an average of 5 seconds from the time needed to make every item.  At 700 covers a night, thats 3500 seconds...thats 58 minutes worth of activity eliminated.  That might sound extreme, but its true, thats the level of savings that can be achieved.  And think how much less work that is!

 

3)  Work clean!  You can't stay organized, you can't work fast, if your station is a mess.

 

4)  prepare multiple similar items at the same time.  Say you have three tickets coming down, and they have a total of 8 dinner salads on them.  Instead of making just the salads for the first ticket, make them all at once.  You can put 8 salads together in assembly line fashion faster than putting together 2, then 4, then 2.  Obviously this depends on space and timing and other issues, but the idea is to assemble similar things at the same time when possible.

 

Garde-manger is usually the most intense station as far as energy and activity needed to get tickets out.  First, alot of your items are order/fire, so as soon as the ticket comes in you are needing to plate.  Other stations might have a course or two or three to get ready before fire, and the hot stations will have items that need time to cook, so they can manage timings easier for each ticket...i.e. while this is cooking I can be doing that.  Second, you will get hit harder before anyone else, so as they are getting a chance to ease into the service you are already getting blasted.  Third, every item on every plate requires activity to put together, and you will often have more items on a plate than the other stations.  A meat and 2 side plate might have 4 or 5 things that need put on that plate, and a lot of it might already be prepped and ready to go.  A salad plate might have 10 or 12 or more things going on, and some of it might require additional attention (slicing this, stacking that, arranging this, etc..).  But this is why this is often the first station a new cook gets to work, so that you can see how well the cook manages himself and his time, how clean he works,  and how quick he can move.  And that newer guys tend to have a lot more energy!  (that, and the ingeredients are usually a lot cheaper, so a mistake isn't as costly as say overcooking a ribeye or screwing up a fish)  

 

If your fellow cooks aren't getting mad at you for being slow, then they don't think you are too slow, at least given your level of experience.  If they did think you are slowing things down, they'll let you know.  So you are at least above the baseline.  And if you focus on all the little things you can do to speed yourself up, and get faster as you get more experienced, you'll be where you need to be in no time.

These are some great pointers, along the being mentally prepared for an ass kicking these tips will go a long way towards helping you not sink or not sink as fast. there are still times you will find yourself so far in the weeds that you not sure what to do next. that's when you focus, breath, and then start working smaller batches of tickets until you can gain back that momentum. I like to think of a busy service like running down a huge hill while people are constantly throwing things to you to catch. sometimes you make it all the way down with everything intact and sometimes you eat shit and roll down the hill a ways, but the important thing to remember is there is always a bottom to the hill and you want to finish running down the hill not roll all the way to the bottom and whatever you were supposed to catch doesn't come crashing down on you like some ticket avalanche. all joking aside. it is really important that no matter what, when you feel like you are about at your wits end during a rush, remember that the last time it happened sooner, and the next time it will take more to get you there, and then the next time it will take more than the last, and so on and so on. The more pressure you put on yourself and the more you learn during a rush it will help. Memory, experience, versatility, adaptability, speed, mental toughness, stamina, and a sense of humor are definitely things you will gain if you keep at it and apply yourself. 

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shian Bang View Post

When I have loads of tickets coming in, I start to panic.

 

I think just about every one that's worked in this field for any amount of time knows that feeling. When I started working for the Mouse I was expediting in a kitchen that did nearly six figures a day. The minute the doors opened the printers would take off on a tear and not let off all day long.

In addition to all of the good advice you've already been given; when you find your self in a challenging position try to make a mental "game" out of the situation. Your mind is the best tool you have. Use it to find a way to be more efficient. Just keep working at it and what once put you in the weeds will seem very easy in the future.

Take the word "fear" out of your vocabulary.  ;)

 

Dave


Edited by DuckFat - 6/6/13 at 1:36pm
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shian Bang View Post

have loads of tickets coming in, I start to panic. What I worry most is not being able to catch up.
 

this is a major problem when you panic your mind moves faster and your body cant keep up, which makes you move even slower. Perception of time changes as well (for some people) you think time is moving faster when its not. so you end-up thinking you are moving even slower when you are not. Keep focused and relaxed don't panic don't overstress.

 

Also that notebook you have read it at home study it take pictures of your station with your cellphone camera this will help you study the enviroment as well as the what is where and what is what. another thing it will do is make sure you set up the station right for the night guy( if you do opening prep and its not just a dinner only place) 

 

for when it is slow have a stop-watch time yourself on what you think are your troubled items and record the results next time you get that item try to beat that time even if you improve by .5 seconds each time its still an improvement, don't move faster than you are comfortable you will make mistakes and the food might get returned which is worse than it taking one extra minute. 

 

When I was an intern I was the same way (memory problems didn't help) before they knew my name they called me "the dumbshit intern"  it was a joke some kitchens are like that to keep the stress down and also because they arent just co-workers they are good friends as-well, and once you know them all it works, they joke around a-little whenever they can you do too when the exec. chef is cool with it and joins in is the best, you'll see it a-lot less in chains or with stricter chefs though, so another bit of advice is when you make the move to another restaurant try to find one where all the back and front of the house workers act like they are a family, because that's how they will see you and the next job it will keep the stress down as well as be in a good learning enviroment amongst friends.

post #12 of 12

I am pretty honest and humble as a kitchen person but I will say I was a beast of a garde manger cook! The thing I learned quickly at my place is GM is low man on the totem pole. That means all the hustle work goes to you and none of the credit is given. Granted my place was absolutely terrible towards GM cooks but low man on the totem pole still applies to a much smaller degree at other places even if they are nice to work with.

 

We were a high volume place and I was always putting out dishes at 8 times the volume of other stations all while doing EVERYTHING else for the kitchen line (grabbing more mise for them in the walk-in, chiffonade more basil for them, cleaning up the dropped salmon, going to dish to get more plates etc. etc.). It's expected of you and you'll probably never get a thank you but they'll notice when you're gone! A speedy GM cook is the bloodline of most kitchens, when it's going bad everyone notices, when it's going perfect nobody notices.

 

Anyways, my advice for a high volume GM station is speed, organization, cleanliness, keeping composed, and being smart which will come in time. I could handle any rush with ease and every dish sent out looked perfect because I knew my station. I knew that doing an add salad can wait 10 minutes so I'll bang out those desserts first because they're needed sooner. I knew that the new server would ask for her app immediately after sending the ticket so I did that first. I knew that on hot days oysters would sell like crazy so I would line up dozens of mignonette filled ramekins in my oyster fridge because it says one step. I kept the tops off of squeeze bottles of remoulade sauce because I knew the prep cook never minced the pickles fine enough to squeeze through the tip. I knew creme brulees would get soggy after sitting a few minutes so I always did those last on a dessert ticket.

 

When you get to be a speedy and great GM cook you'll know it. You're doing all the extras, slicing things to order and keeping your standards high while every dish goes out looking nearly perfect and identical everytime all while keeping your cool. It takes practice trust me but you'll get there!

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