Need advice on increasing my speed.

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by Peter_Commis_Chef, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    Hi all,

    I am a commis chef (Ya, that's a beginner chef in Ireland and the UK) I have worked rarely in a family run restaurant where I would be working when it was busy. I could have been put at plating up dishes or helping out in the wash up. I really didn't like this job at all, but at the time it was a bit of money while I was at college. I done 4 year in culinary arts college and to be honest, while I hold good knowledge in food, equipment and cooking techniques, my practical skills leave a lot to be desired. In fact my knife skills are very bad and I'm very slow during prep.

    I recently changed job as I was pretty sick in my first job and I believe it was time to move on. So I was selected for a commis chef position I applied for in a local hotel. The hotel caters for banqueting only, so no Lunch/ala carte menu. It's just what ever groups are booked into the hotel. So this could be weddings and tour groups mainly.

    The head chef is very nice to work for and is extremely genuine (as is every other member of staff in this particular company). He can see that I am really lacking in my knife skills etc. But he give me the job as he said that I have a good attitude, I'm willing to work hard and to ultimately improve and develop my skills to get better.

    The problem is mainly my speed, which is connected to my lack of self confidence. Also I over think things and this also seems to slow me down as well. For instance it took me 2 hours to chop veg. where it should have only taken me 30 minutes at most.

    it's embarrassing and I'm ashamed to be this bad. I really am desperate for advice as this is literally my dream job.

    Any advice at all is appreciated. Thanks!

    Regards
    Peter
     
  2. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Hi Peter. Welcome to ChefTalk!
    What can I say? We all have to learn. And that means beginning at the bottom and learning how to do the basics. You're fortunate to have a chef you work for who is supportive of your desire (and need!) to improve your skills. Ask the chef to show you exactly how to cut each vegetable. Ask him for 5 minutes of his time to save you an hour or more of your time. I'm certain he will do it. As for any other skills? Shadow people who do them well. Ask them questions (at the appropriate times!) and be engaged and curious about what the operation does. Understand how what you do fits in the larger picture of how the place operates. If you focus on those types of thoughts you won't have time to go over the same mental hamster wheel that also seems to be keeping you from being more present in your tasks.
    Good luck!
    Peachcreek
     
  3. linecookliz

    linecookliz

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    I am a visual learner, and had to learn the different types of cuts on my own. I went to bookstores and read books on cooking techniques. I also went on youtube to learn how the different types of cuts. Then at work I practice and apply. Knowing how to hold a knife correctly is important also, and makes a big difference. It has helped with my prep a lot, and practicing brings speed. I'm a beginner also, but working on my plating right now.
     
  4. someday

    someday

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    There is no substitute for experience. You need practice, just like any skill set you would develop over time. We were all slow, awkward and inefficient starting out. It is just how it is.

    Big picture thinking helps. Consolidating your steps helps...don't grab an onion, take it back to your station, chop it, then go back and get a carrot. Get everything you need in your first few minutes, then spend minimal amount of time away from your station while you do your cuts.

    Buy an egg timer. Time yourself dicing 2 quarts of carrots (or whatever). Then, the next day, time yourself again and try to beat your time. Do this for all your tasks. Be a nerd and keep a log.

    Really analyze what you are doing. Be self critical. Are you constantly putting down and picking up your knife? Are you doing all tasks in stages--are you peeling, squaring off and dicing each carrot individually? You should peel all your carrots, then square them all off, then dice them all.

    Good luck.
     
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  5. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I'll add that correct knife technique is the most important. Practice does indeed bring speed eventually. Proper technique is awkward and uncomfortable at first for everyone but that should not mean you change it for any reason. Using proper technique means you will start off slow but as you practice, you get faster, but all the time using good technique. This means that eventually, you are able to blaze through prep without cutting your finger. Eventually. Of course you are always using a very sharp knife and working to keep it sharp throughout your work. This means you use less effort for each cut and the work overall is a lot less strenuous. Developing speed slowly while using proper technique all the time means not giving yourself a nasty cut with your very sharp knife.
    As Someday points out, do each step for every vegetable before moving on to the next step. So with onions, all the onions get cut in half. Then all the onions get peeled. Then all the peels get cleaned up. Your work surface is cleaned and ready for knife work. The peeled, uncut onions are in a container on one side of the cutting board and the empty storage container is on the other side.
    First I make sure the entire work area is clean and clear and free of clutter. So nothing else is near the work or able to intrude on my movements. I make a constant practice of having the food I am preparing in one container and an empty container on the other side of my cutting board for the finished product. As the cut product fills the board and begins to restrict my cutting, I put the cut food in the container. This keeps it all organized as i work. If necessary, I can move my work on a moment's notice. When finished, or if interrupted, I can wrap, label and put it away quickly. When I am done with the onions, I put the first container in the dish area right away, wrap, label and date the cut onions, put them away. Then I follow the same process with the next prep item. While working, cleanliness and organization is of the utmost importance for maintaining focus on the task at hand.
    Do one thing at a time, focus on doing it well, move on to the next thing.
     
  6. alaminute

    alaminute

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    Practice.
     
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  7. efesto

    efesto

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    Have a knife that you're so comfortable with and sharp that it becomes an extension of your hand. Get a bunch of cheap veggies that you can use at home. I'd get some standard mirepoix ingredients and start practicing different cuts at home and then use the veggies you cut. More you practice, more efficient you will get. Get used to the knife and after a while the hand motions become automatic, you will eventually chop, slice, dice fast and efficiently, it'll be second nature.
    and DO NOT be embarrassed, no one is born a Chef! its all hard work and time.
    Michael Jordan was cut off his highschool basketball team, he was not athletic enough :) LOLOL
    He never quit and he practiced..
    Repetition + discipline + consciousness + pride + time
     
  8. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    Thanks Peachcreek!
    I am delighted to have this opportunity, it really means the world to me and I totally agree with you that I am extremely lucky to have a head chef that willing to help me. :) Ah he has been showing me how to do the tasks. Each new task, he would show me how to do one and then let me carry on the task. That's a good idea to ask them questions, as obvious as that is. I never thought of that! I suppose it's more to do with the fact that I get sucked into my own work and don't think to ask the questions. So I must start asking questions and I understand what you're saying. However, something that I am currently doing is writing up exactly what I done at work each day. This as helped me to remember particular cuts and methods. Thanks very much for the reply. Very much appreciated!
     
  9. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    That's good advice. To be honest I viewed alot of YouTube videos as well before my trial at this current job. Now that you mention that, I think I'm gripping my knife too hard. After just checking there, yes. I am. :( I suppose alot of it is practice. Best of luck! Thanks for the reply.
     
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  10. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    I see what you're saying someday! But I just feel like I'm not much of a help. You know I was just looking at the other chefs today at work and for every job I done. They done about four or five.

    This, I do try to do. it's more the speed that I chop at is the major problem.

    I like this idea. I tried timing myself before on the clock in the kitchen. Every minute goes like 5 minutes though. But I am sure that the stop watch will provide a more accurate analysis!

    I also get what you're getting at here also. It makes sense to do it in stages. But today for example, I had was required to prep 30 bell peppers. So I hand to top and tall them. I had to dice the top and tail and put it into a mix for mushroom sauce. So I had to finely dice the top and tale I then had to clean out the seeds and the white parts. The the remainder I had to julienne.

    So the way I used to do it was.
    Top and tail the pepper > Dice the top and tail > clean it out and julienne the remainder.

    All the above steps was carried out on each pepper. The I moved onto the next pepper etc.

    But today I...
    Top and tailed the pepper> dice the top and tail> Cleaned it out> I then set the remainder of the bell pepper aside and when I had a full ice cream container full I julienne all the sections of pepper which I had. I then repeated this process.

    What I found by doing this was that it was a bit faster, but not alot.

    EDIT: Thanks very much for your reply! :)
     
  11. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    Hi Chefwriter! By techniques do you mean the way you hold the knife? As I previously mentioned. I was gripping the knife like a hammer. So I hadn't my index finger or thumb on the blade. I assume this is effecting my chopping.

    I do try and do this alright and I find it beneficial! But as I mentioned to someday, I was unsure the correct way to prep the bell pepper and didn't notice much difference between two different methods.

    Thanks for the reply though, much appreciated. :)
     
  12. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    Cheers for the advice. :) Much appreciated!
     
  13. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    I have a set of victorinox knifes, I find the good enough for the task but I really need to buy a stone to sharpen them. The chefs at work are very good to me as they sharpen my knifes for me. However, I never considered practising at home before though. It seems like a very good idea. I just can't wait to get good. I didn't know that about Micheal Jordan, it makes sense though..
     
  14. efesto

    efesto

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    yeah brotha get a variety of veg and chop chop chopppp
     
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  15. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    By proper technique I meant both how you grip the knife and how you hold your other hand. You can hold the knife by what is known as a pinch grip. This means just over the end of the handle so you are gripping a bit of the blade. That's half the technique.
    Your other hand is equally important. I'm afraid my description might not translate well but if you've watched videos by chefs, then you know how to hold the food you are cutting with fingers curled, so the knuckle is foremost, not your fingertips with the fingertips slightly receded and pressing on the food item. I would hope you have observed at least one other cook at work doing this.
    When you move the knife to make another cut, your other hand moves back to gauge the thickness of the cut. Because you are keeping your fingers curled and your thumb back and the knife never rises above the knuckle, the knife can not cut you. With everyone I show this to, there is always the comment that it feels awkward and that may be true but it is also a failsafe way to insure you never cut your finger. When getting accustomed to this technique, speed of work is not important. Constantly using the correct technique is. Speed comes with practice. As you may already know, there are videos to show you this. Pay close attention to the non knife hand.
    As for your peppers, top and tail all the peppers all at once. (Alternatively, you can cut them in half top to bottom and pry out the top with your thumb.) Set All the tops and tails aside. Then clean out All the peppers at once. Then julienne all of them at once. Then cut the tops and tails all at once. Whatever the prep item, do each step to All of the vegetable, Then the second step to All of the vegetable and so on. The time difference may not become apparent immediately but it is unquestionably the fastest way to prep large amounts of vegetables. .
     
  16. someday

    someday

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    This is everyone when they are first starting out. It just takes time and practice. It's just like any skill. Try to watch what they do and learn from them too. Have them show you. Ask questions, learn. If you are better today than you were yesterday, that's is mots of the battle.
     
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  17. kevin oliver

    kevin oliver

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    ^^ -- also, the same can be said about the method/steps of your technique. For example, halve all the onions, peel all the onions, then slice them all. Instead of say, halve, peel and cut each onion.

    Having enough space is important (also the placement of the garbage). Get organized the first few times and it will become second nature. Think efficiency before you start.

    Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
     
  18. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    I'll start doing this at home. Thanks very much for your reply. I suppose chopping as fast as I can will help me increase my speed.
     
  19. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Concentrate more on being comfortable, rather than speed. Comfort comes with repetition. Speed comes with comfort. Mis en place is not just about ingredients and equipment, it is also about technique.
     
  20. Peter_Commis_Chef

    Peter_Commis_Chef

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    Hi again Chefwriter.

    I totally see what you mean. I used to grip the handle of the knife with my right hand. So it was only this week that I realised that the pinch grip was the proper method. As for the other hand, I do bring my fingers back to avoid chopping them off. But I need to learn how to move my left hand at a steady speed, to help me chop faster.

    That's the way I was thinking with the peppers. Out of curiosity why is it the fastest way though? What makes it fast like? Is it just that you are picking up and leaving down the knife every few minutes?

    Thanks again for the reply.
     

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