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Need Advice for Very Poorly Planned Station, PLEASE HELP!

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

LONG POST AHEAD!

 

So to catch you guys up I've been line cooking at an old school French style hotel kitchen for the last few months after being a Sous for a long time. It's a loud kitchen with old crappy equipment, a snobby French expeditor whose English is terrible, a new head chef who is in way over his head, and we do 100+ covers on the weekend with only 2 stations on hot line. I've been doing extremely well up until our new menu change because it was planned out terribly. The new head chef did not factor execution into the menu change at all for my station, it's the most poorly planned menu I have ever seen!

 

 

So we have an old school French menu because of the type of establishment, I work meat station and on my side I have:

Statler Chicken with baby spring vegs (expensive baby veggies!) and herbed pommes puree, jus

Lamb Rack with Favas, carrot puree and glazed tiny turnips from a local farm

6 oz. Filet with truffle pommes puree, asparagus, cippolini onions and demi glace

6 oz. Veal sirloin with sweetbreads and lardons, shallots and artichokes, and mustard pan sauce

And a grilled burger for room service (which outsells them all!)

 

On my station I have a grill, a six burner range with 2 ovens (one doesn't work) and a dead salamander which holds my plates because the heat from the grill underneath keeps them warm.

 

The major problem is everything is sauteed or pan seared! I only grill the filet and the burger, all the other proteins I pan sear and finish in the oven. ALL of the sides are sauteed or reheated on the range as well, nothing is hot held so even pommes puree I am reheating with a knob of butter and cream to order on the range, even the sauces get a flash before I spoon them over the protein. As you can see I run out of burners instantly! My 6 burners are going like lightning and my oven is being opened and closed every 30 secs all the while my big old grill is barely cooking anything. WORST MENU PLANNING EVER!!!!

 

I talked to the chef about incorporating the grill more and consolidating more like grilling the asparagus instead of sauteed, deep frying the sweetbreads insteading sauteeing with lardons, making the carrot puree chilled instead of warm, making a mustard sauce before service instead of making a pan sauce to order, grilling the veal instead of pan searing etc. etc. I basically got "well I don't like my veal grilled and making a pan sauce without a fond is pointless, the carrot puree needs to be warm and grilled asparagus is not pretty". All valid points to varying degrees but I can not get the food out with some many components of each dish requiring one burner, a two top ticket with a veal and a filet require 8 separate pans and on 6 burners it's chaos in the middle of a busy service. Not to mention I still need to get my temps right!

 

I am incorporating the grill where I can like parking the glazed turnips in a pan on top of the grill, same with the cippolini onions as well as reheating the pommes puree on top of the grill when it's not too busy because it takes so long. The other side components I simply need the regulated heat from a burner instead of the grill for things like sauteeing the sweetbreads and getting the water to boil for the baby spring veg. I am also keeping the lamb at room temperature because they are cooking so much quicker compared to from fridge temp.

 

I am getting my temps done correctly despite the chaos of pan searing everything and trying to finish in the oven which is being opened and closed very frequently and thus dropping the the temp like crazy. THANK GOD.

 

 

Any advice for me? I am super conscious about food quality but the chaos of a poorly planned station is driving me to almost quit during busy nights, I am willing to take advice anywhere even if it means sacrificing food quality to some degree ( I don't care who judges me, try doing this station yourself on 100+ cover nights LOL). I am a strong line cook and meat station is my specialty but something has to give before I give myself a heart attack!

post #2 of 14
Oh man I feel for you. But I think you kind of answered your own question, if the chef won't change the cooking method of some of the menu items, why not use the grill as a range for heating and sauteeing some of the food items, frees up some of your ranges for other priority items, or vice versa.
“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 #3 of 14

Hard to say without experiencing the working situation in person but just to throw some thoughts out there...Keep your saute pans on the grill so they are hot for when you need them. Keep a pot of water on the grill so it is hot and ladle out water as needed into a saute pan when you need to do baby veg. Start sides on a burner and move to grill to finish. Not sure how exactly you are doing the veal sauce but what about doing a base ahead of time, deglazing the pan to order, add some of your base and done.

 

Ask chef to work your station one night so that you can observe him in action and thereby learn ways to be more efficient yourself ;) Might open his eyes a bit if he does.

 

Remember...that which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Also file this working situation away in your memory banks to so that you don't make the same mistakes as you move up the ladder in your career. Menu writing is much more involved than just the finished product. A good chef doesn't turn a deaf ear to feedback from the guys in the trenches. And many more lessons.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #4 of 14
How do you keep your Demi and jus? In delis or a bane? Can you keep your pomme purées, and carrot purées in the same well or deli spot?
post #5 of 14

Somebody needs to come over and fire the veg.

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by alaminute View Post

How do you keep your Demi and jus? In delis or a bane? Can you keep your pomme purées, and carrot purées in the same well or deli spot?
I do not have any sort of steam table or something to hot hold for the demi or jus. I keep them in either a bane or sauce pot on my prep table and throw them on the grill or a burner before I plate to warm
post #7 of 14
In my experience, if you can't have a productive conversation with your chef about it, nothing is going to change. The most relevant question is, if your doing all that, who else is on the line and what are they doing? Depending on equipment they could maybe take some sides from you.
Practical advice working with what you have? Blanch your veggies so you just pick them up with a quick reheat. Hold your sauces hot on the grill in a 1/6th pan or double boiler. If the sauce is hot and ready, you deglaze and mounter a buerre off heat. Lose the fricken pommes puree, i have never seen anyone sell mashers as a reheat.
But if you are selling more burgers maybe the chef is barking up the wrong tree.
post #8 of 14

I don't mean to throw another problem at you when clearly, the chef has little operational expertise but-

Have you or the chef considered the food-bourne illness implications of keeping raw lamb, jus and demi at room temp on a hot line throughout dinner service? What happens to the lamb you don't sell at the end of the night?

 

Just seems to me that this is a situation that's cooking up more than tasty food.

Probably some very unhappy tummies and a visit from the health department.

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #9 of 14

Others have posted some good advice. Make whatever changes you need to keep up the quality while speeding up the service. If the chef does not object, keep fine tuning your work.  As the one under fire, only you can tell if something is working. As long as the changes do not lessen the quality, you should be fine. 

 

Ultimately though, it may be time to move on. As the others pointed out, the chef seems limited in his understanding of menu planning and execution. Unless something drastic happens to change your current situation, I don't see how it will get better if the chef doesn't see the problems for himself. If you don't find opportunities for learning anymore, you may have outgrown this job. 

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodnfoto View Post
 

I don't mean to throw another problem at you when clearly, the chef has little operational expertise but-

Have you or the chef considered the food-bourne illness implications of keeping raw lamb, jus and demi at room temp on a hot line throughout dinner service? What happens to the lamb you don't sell at the end of the night?

 

Just seems to me that this is a situation that's cooking up more than tasty food.

Probably some very unhappy tummies and a visit from the health department.


I pull the lamb at 5:00 and put it back by 9:00, keep it on the pastry prep table around the corner away from the heat of the line. I have 4 hours in the danger zone for my state so I am safe legally. I never pull more lamb than I need, we are by reservation only so I can estimate a number ahead of time, I always go low too so I don't have any left over usually. I know it sounds iffy keeping proteins at room temp but it's not as bad as you think. The jus I toss every night and start fresh before service. The demi however I do reuse, should get in the habit of just bane-ing the amount of need for service and no more, thanks for the reminder!

 

 

As far as the head chef not seeing a problem I know he does, he avoids the subject like the plague because he knows he f*cked up terribly. He does not question me in the slightest about my cooking habits or plating presentation because he knows I am going balls to the wall because of his ill advised menu development. I got a send back on a temp on Saturday (which almost never happens to me btw) and it was a legitimate temp error (wanted it medium, was medium rare) and my chef didn't even bat an eye, just quietly cooked it more himself in the GM oven. He would normally give a hell for a temp send back. So at least I am quietly getting some slack because he knows this station is like running up hill with chains on your legs. He even minced chives and brined statlers for my station the other day (he helps nobody! lol).

post #11 of 14
I feel really bad for you, it sounds like a miserable position. I'd suggest keeping sauces and purées in double boiler set ups on your grill to hold hot (two 1/6 pans or banes sitting in a 1/3 pan with water), prefabing your lamb racks separated with patty papers and kept under your station so you can just turn around and grab one (I don't think bringing them upto room temp is really saving you that much time. Someone said preblanche your veg., that's important. I don't know how frequently you push various proteins but you could always sandbag a little. Keep a resting rack somewhere (lol I get you have no space) and whenever you fire a protein just fire three and hold two rare/MR. This should help with how frequently you open your oven.
post #12 of 14

Maybe you should call and get that oven fixed. Use the oven to store saute pans so they are instantly hot. Also you could keep 6 in hotel pan on the grill, and keep your sauces in there. already hot and ready to go. You can't be a well oiled machine if a part is missing.

post #13 of 14
Chef will probably shoot it down immediately, but what about making a steam well on the grill with hotel pans to hold some sauces or purees?

Edit: didn't see the comment right above me that suggests this. Maybe we're on to something!
post #14 of 14

Like alaminute said, double boilers are what your going to need.  Your Pommes Puree (It's OK to call them mashed potato's)   You need to find a creative way of keeping these warm.. It sounds like you use your grill very little.. If your grill is level and not slanted you need to get yourself a 4" hotel pan and use it like a double boiler on that if you have room.  Otherwise I am still going to have to recommend you do the same thing and forgo two of your burners  on your stove top..  They make a aluminum steam table spillage/water pan that would actually probably hold dividers for your different sauces and you could hold them warm/hot much much easier..  

 

The best advice I can give you if nothing else is just make it comfortable... You have to figure out how to hold your sauces and your taters HOT!! but other then that just make it comfortable, it needs to feel like your space/home. Get creative if need be on how to hold them hot but it is a priority..You can't be reheating sidedishes to order, that should already be hot. 

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