Our favourite new chef writer Paul Sorgule is back with another piece of solid advice, offering up his own survival guide for being a chef in the kitchen.
His last list of the 26 unwritten laws of the kitchen was extremely popular with our community and his latest collection is just as thoughtful.
The chef, who also works as a culinary educator, sets about offering up a selection of important points you need to consider if you want to survive in running your own professional kitchen.
A sort of early steps guide for those chefs making the transition from being part of the chain of command to become the commander of the chain.
As with his last suggestions, there are some invaluable pointers to consider for anyone working in a kitchen. Below is the full list and you can see more details about each one on the Harvest America Ventures website.
ASSUME NOTHING. Anyone else’s failure to do anything as expected is still the chef’s fault.
- Personally review schedules with each cook and dishwasher to ensure that they understand.
- Before you leave the kitchen each day, double check with each employee to verify that they remember the schedule for the next day or two. Trust me – this is important and necessary.
- Don’t ever assume that cooks check the posted schedule every day.
- Create a phone number log and phone tree for your kitchen. “I wanted to call out, but I didn’t have any numbers to call” should never be an excuse.
VERY IMPORTANT – make sure that the dining room supervisors and lead servers have the numbers for all breakfast cooks and dishwashers i
- Create a shift logbook and require sous chefs and/or first cooks to jot down any issues that occurred on their shift. This will become the first thing that you read every day and will give you a heads-up before the GM or owner confronts you with a problem that you are unaware of.
- After you read the logbook, check all BEO’s for the day and the following day for any changes and to provide a “feel” for production.
- Whenever possible, make sure that you are involved in banquet and event menus. Allowing the sales office to make decisions with clients without reviewing potential issues with you is an open door for disaster.
- Touch base with each employee on duty making sure to say “Good morning or afternoon”. This simple step demonstrates that you actually care about them.
- Walk through your coolers and storerooms to visually check product quality,
- Always assume that today is the day that the health inspector will arrive and check for compliance on all critical points. Remember – what gets measured, gets done.
- Never unconditionally trust your vendors to deliver the right product at the right time. Always be prepared for the unexpected.
- Maintain a product seasonality chart in your office and study it whenever planning menus. Placing items on menus that might not be available is not wise.
- Take a few minutes, every day, to check all of your equipment.
- Make sure that every line station and the prep cooks have production sheets that are filled out for their shifts.
- Have someone count and check plates before banquet events and a ‘la carte service. Don’t assume that stacked plates are all spotless and free of dings and cracks. If a plate has a chip or crack – dispose of it.
- Pre-meal is one of the most important parts of the day. Check with every line cook by walking through their prep lists and checking quality and quantity of their work
- Always make sure that you have crisis supplies on hand. This might include some IQF seafood, quality stock bases or frozen glace de veau and glace de poulet, back up peeled root vegetables in water, etc.
- Hire more dishwashers than you need. If you don’t need them today you probably will in a week.
- Spend a good portion of your day training others.
- Jump in and help. If a cook is behind – give them a hand, if the dishwasher is backed up – jump in and stack some plates.
- Prepare yourself for Acts of God. Remember that Murphy’s Law is the primary law of the kitchen
- Buy smaller garbage cans. A wise chef told me once that this was a critical step in controlling food cost. For some reason, cooks look to a garbage can as a goal – fill it up in a shift.
- Stay calm. The chef sets the tone for the kitchen. If you lose it, so will they.
- Finally, a chef will always be judged by the quality of the food that he or she produces, but there are two other factors that will determine how much longevity he or she has in the position: 1. Profitability 2. Team Leadership. A simple, but effective rule with regard to food cost is that you don’t make money on the onion, you make it on the onion skin; you don’t make money on the shrimp, you make money on the shrimp shells. In other words – focus on total utilisation and minimal waste. In terms of leadership, the chef must always set the example, build trust among team members, train, and critique without criticising, and create an environment of support.