When I'm in a busy service I tend to go on instinct. I find if I think to much it slows me down. How about you do you go on instinct or are you more of a thinker?
Do you go on instinct during a service?
I'm not sure exactly what that means. Once you have done something a few thousand times it becomes ingrained in muscle memory. For instance I don't really consciously "think" about flipping a steak any more than you have to think, "okay, gas pedal now..." when you get in your car. That's what training and repetition if for. As for working with the rest of the line that all comes down to communication. A good line is very similar to great sports team where everyone knows what everyone else is doing. A bunch of all-stars that have never played or practiced together is likely to get smoked by a good team that's played together all season (just look at the Olympics!).
Experience and skill. Instinct isnt a bad term but not sure it is 100 percent the right one. I am not a philisophical person but for me the way to describe it is a zen like state where you know without knowing. Its hard to explain. You know when you need to put on the medium delmonicp to come up at the same time as med rare ny strip and time both of those with the pignoli chicken and cream sauce coming from saute as well as the chicken caesar coming from pantry station. It happens when you have a solid crew that works together day in and day out. There is no thought of actual time meaning minutes and seconds. The time is all relative to the ticket and whats on it. I find the busier it is the easier it is to fall into the flow. Those arw the services at the end of the night that remind you how good this business can make you feel. Teamwork and a sense of accomplishment. That busy saturday night rush where everything is perfect. No boomerangs or complaints. The beer at the end of that shift tastes the best.
very true, focus comes a lot easier when you are busy. "Sunday funday" isnt just because you got monday off. On those slower days I have to work a little harder to put myself in the right mindset so I am not caught off guard. I never stop thinking while cooking on the line; mise en place, everything in its place so I dont have to think about where my bowl is or where my thongs/spoons are. Mise en place allows me to focus on the pick, the pick I am putting together next, my temperatures/modifications, and allows me to keep a global perspective to see if everybody is coming up together or if anybody needs help with their plates. a good line cook in my opinion is always thinking about what is going on
I'd say it's both. Good mise-en-place on a daily basis helps to make muscle memory for the essentials. I think the instinct is partly based on experience, focus and awareness. Someone said something along the line of experience being made up of lessons learned from failures so you develop good practices to avoid those errors you have made before. Experience also teaches you the difference between working in a focused manner with continual awareness of what is going on around you and what happens when you don't.
When you begin, there are a million little questions you ask yourself while you work. As time passes, you have fewer questions and more answers.
All those little bad experiences and answered questions add up and you begin getting better. At some point you can go into a zen like zone but simply because muscle memory and experience allow you to make faster judgements. Eventually you don't even realize you're making them.