First time working in a breakfast café—any tips?

1
1
Joined Oct 20, 2017
Hello chefs, I have a trial tomorrow morning at a breakfast café. Kind of nervous since I've never worked a breakfast shift in my life. Been on YouTube and Google and whatnot for half a day checking recipes and videos, but there's only "mom's super easy hollandaise sauce", and no matter how many Gordon Ramsay videos I watch I can't seem to poach more than one egg at a time without them sticking together. Not adverse to baking but never been a fan of the super fancy stuff.


Some background: Been in hospitality 10 years, from waiter to dishie to cook at various restaurants. Can handle high volume & no problem with authority or criticism. No formal qualifications in hospitality (CompSci... got immediately sick of it). Love food. Very nervous since I'm pretty old (30) and don't want to make a bad first impression. Started looking for café work mostly for a change of scenery, but I'm also naturally a morning person (do an 11PM close, go home, wake up at 5 AM without an alarm and can't get back to sleep)
 

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
Staff member
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352
Joined Oct 5, 2001
Working the breakfast line is something every cook should do in my opinion. When I was on my externship I worked the breakfast line at the Four Seasons hotel in Chicago and it was crazy. It will really help you with your speed and timing over all.

As for poached eggs for slow days we poached to order but for busy days we pre-poach the eggs. As for sticking are you putting the vinegar in the water? Keep us posted on how you do.
 
8
3
Joined Oct 17, 2017
I agree with the chef above, every person in their culinary journey should at least work on the breakfast line for a year. When I actually started getting serious about becoming a chef, I worked the breakfast/brunch line at Heron in the Umstead Hotel and Spa. You will definitely learn speed, timing, and how to work well as a team.

It's really good to see that you are watching online videos to improve or learn various breakfast items. I feel like when you do this stage, they are going to ask you to poach an egg to soft, make an omelet, make an over-medium egg and probably soft scramble an egg. Best of luck to you sir.

ps....white vinegar in your poaching watering next time, if you didn't do that.
 
63
28
Joined Jun 8, 2017
When I staged for a breakfast cafe they had me crack about 300 eggs, prep diced tomatoes, make over-easy (med and hard), poached, and an omelet. They also wanted to see my 'flipping' or sauteing technique. Like you, I watched lots of vids on youtube. You'll do great! Age is just a number. It's how young you are at heart. Good luck!
 
51
12
Joined Feb 22, 2016
Working the breakfast line is something every cook should do in my opinion. When I was on my externship I worked the breakfast line at the Four Seasons hotel in Chicago and it was crazy. It will really help you with your speed and timing over all.

As for poached eggs for slow days we poached to order but for busy days we pre-poach the eggs. As for sticking are you putting the vinegar in the water? Keep us posted on how you do.
i had a fellow who complained like crazy if i used vinegar in the water. i used white wine and used rice wine vinegar.
 
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51
12
Joined Feb 22, 2016
we used quart liquid eggs for scrambled and omelets. then shell eggs for up/ etc. used to have this one women every sunday and her was "basted eggs and wiggly bacon".
 
51
12
Joined Feb 22, 2016
and i hated more than 6 tops. HATED. with 4-5-6 omelets all different. tomato ones? the worst! and you always get the wacko that "makes there own omelete" you know run all over for the fillings.
 

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
Staff member
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352
Joined Oct 5, 2001
The topic is not what you hate or hated it is about working the breakfast line. Any suggestions or tips for the person who asked the question? Please stay on topic
 
2,180
653
Joined Oct 31, 2012
As a long time breakfast cook I'll offer a couple of ideas. Your situation may differ so disregard whatever doesn't apply.

1. Invest in a couple of non stick 8 inch pans for omelets and over easy eggs. Mine cost about $30 each. NEVER use anything metal in them. A rubber spatula or silicone coated whisk. A pair of well seasoned steel pans works too but you need to learn how to maintain the seasoning without fail.
2. As with any service, mise en place is vitally important. Preferably the night or day before, make sure you have all tools, equipment and food ready. When service begins, it's too late.
3. If using ninth pans, make two or three for each ingredient. When the first pan runs out you can switch out for a new pan quickly with very little interruption in work flow. Make a backup of french toast and pancake batter as well.
4. When doing eggs to order, drop toast and bread items first, then meats and omelet fillings, then cook the eggs last. When it comes time to plate, the eggs cool off quickest so all else should be ready. In the event you need to redo the eggs, the other items can take the wait but not the other way around. In this way, you can typically do more than one ticket at once, getting bread and other items ready for all of them, then cooking eggs and plating as needed.
5 Don't skip the step. If you are dropping toast and see you have no english muffins (or rye, wheat, whatever) handy, STOP and go get them. Do not continue with the order thinking you will get the english muffins later. You won't and the rest of the order sits getting cold while you screw around getting an item you should have gotten earlier.
6. A dough scraper is a great tool for keeping food bits and crumbs and grease off the grill. Use it frequently to keep the grill as clean as possible during service.
7 A. Learn to cook the eggs correctly to begin with (over easy, medium, well, sunny side up and poached)and then make sure they are cooked correctly every single time. If the yolk breaks or over cooks on an over easy, DO IT OVER. If the customer ordered a poached egg and you made a golf ball, DO IT OVER. A poached egg takes two and a half minutes. The customer will never notice the extra two and a half minutes it took but they will most certainly notice that you couldn't even get their egg order correct. All the fancy jazzed up ingredients in the world won't make up for an incorrectly cooked egg order.
7. B. Vinegar in the poaching water is necessary but so is having the proper pan. A shallow, wide pan with no more than a two inch high straight side is best. you don't need much vinegar, a couple of tablespoons should do. Keep the water at a low simmer, just a steady bubbling. If the kitchen doesn't have the right pan, go buy one. Keep it with your omelet pans for your personal use. I found a perforated stainless skimmer to work well at getting the eggs out. Not the screen kind.
8. Learn to flip eggs in a pan. If need be, buy a couple, three or six dozen eggs and break a few yolks learning to flip correctly.
Save your grill space for home fries, pancakes, etc.
9. Home fries are done on the griddle. They are not deep fried, not ever. Those are called tavern fries. If you consider yourself a breakfast cook and deep fry the home fries, you're a hack. You can't be bothered to have the discipline to learn how to maintain a sufficient supply of home fries during service so you take the easy route and deep fry them. If you do this, at least be honest with your customers and inform everyone you will be serving tavern fries, not home fries. ( And to all you seasoned breakfast cooks who read this and don't agree, tough. If you deep fry a home fry, it's not a home fry.)
Home fries should sit on the grill long enough to get a nice golden crust. Eventually they will dry out and be awful so keep an eye on them but you can have a pile of them browning throughout service while you cook the eggs. Add more potatoes as needed to keep the supply going on one side while you take the browned ones from the other side.
Onions, salt and white pepper are a nice flavoring. Black pepper gives a bitter flavor to home fries. White pepper can take the prolonged heat. Shredded potatoes are Hash browns, treated the same as home fries, just shredded instead of cubed or sliced. 10. Have a couple/three small metal bowls and a small whisk handy for mixing eggs for omelets and scrambled. Practice will make doing it to order fast enough that the time isn't noticeable. Pooling eggs is an option but not the best practice. IF you choose to pool eggs, they should be cracked individually before pooling. Whisking then Straining the pooled eggs helps make a smooth mix. Then in a bain marie and put in an ice bath deep enough so the ice comes at least half way up the pan.
11. As with knife skills, techniques are all important. A bit slower at first while you get the hang of it, speed later. Don't sacrifice quality for speed, ever.
12. It is vital to learn to work clean and neat as you cook breakfast. Keep a towel(s) in sanitizer water to wipe up eggs spills, butter, etc. as you go. Put things back where they belong right away. Do not allow clutter to interrupt your muscle memory and organization.
13. Open bread packages correctly. Undo the tie and open from the end. Don't rip the plastic bag to get out the bread. Seemingly convenient, but not professional. You can't close the bag properly and too often the package doesn't get wrapped correctly and you lose the remaining bread. It may be mass produced factory loaf, but it's a product being paid for and therefore worthy of your respect.
14. Put all tools, food items in exact same place every single time. Muscle memory is vital. Don't waste time searching. You should be able to reach for your spatula, whisk, etc. blindfolded.
15. Don't Panic, ever. Remain calm and unemotional at all times. Time slows and expands when all else is correct. It only feels like minutes have passed when it's more likely seconds. When something unexpected or unpleasant happens, react immediately with your time and energy devoted to correcting the problem, not being upset that it did. If you devote your energies to recovery, the situation will be more of a blip than a challenge.
I might think up more later but that's all for now.
 

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
Staff member
4,314
352
Joined Oct 5, 2001
I agree with the above post about getting your own 8 inch non stick pans. In fact when the breakfast crew at the four seasons was done we would clean our 8 inch non stick pans and lock them in a locker so no one else could use them. Definitely invest in a set of high quality non stick pans.
 
315
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Joined Jan 19, 2014
You got great advice from chefwriter. Everything he says is spot on. My only quibble is that I buy my cooks cheap Winco 8" nonstick pans for about $8 each and swap them out as needed, about every 3-6 weeks.
 
658
276
Joined Sep 26, 2017
This is the first time I find out that I was not crazy for buying my own breakfast egg pan. Can't believe so many of you did the same. Back in the days, other cooks made fun of me for bringing my own pan to the restaurant.

How did your trial went? Breakfast is not so hard (even when you have no experience) if you have a co-worker or two. But if you are all alone, you will not live through it.
 
106
36
Joined Mar 8, 2015
As a baker, I would suggest you learn a few dishes that you can make ahead. For example, Savory or Sweet bread pudding. (BTW Bread puddings are a great way to use up stale bread) or hashbrown sausage mushroom breakfast casserole can be assembled the nite before and just add the egg mixture on top in the morning and bake. A nice coffee cake can be baked ahead and you can modify it according to the season. Today at the bakery, I made granny smith apple coffee cake with cinnamon, brown sugar, oatmeal butter topping. To save time you can use an apple peeler that you crank. The gadget peels, slices, and cores the apples for you. But I still check the cored tunnel parts carefully because usually one side of the apple still has the seed coverings so use your paring knife to cut those out. Any quick breads can be made ahead and presliced. To keep them moist, place the slices back together in the loaf shape and plastic wrap the whole thing. Then when you need a slice you can easily unwrap one end and grab a slice. just be sure to wrap the opened side back up. With fall here, pumpkin, pumpkin choc chip, cranberry, and always banana are favorites. Pancake batter can be made the night ahead and stored in the fridge. Push plastic wrap down upon the batter to avoid the scab from forming on the top of the batter. Scones are great but don't keep very well. Therefor, premeasure your dry and wet teams. Then combine when you are ready to make them. Scones can be savory or sweet. Same technique for biscuits. Hope this helps.
 
4,474
421
Joined Jun 27, 2012
Reading GG's trix and tips and just ticking thru the list.
Yes...uhhuh...agree...great one... each one a pearl.

mimi
 
3,233
670
Joined May 5, 2010
Another one hit wonder.
The OP never even returned all of the wonderful advice that everyone contributed.
Probably was overwhelmed by the amount of information, and all the OP will be doing is flipping eggs on a line. LOL
 
1,483
240
Joined Jan 31, 2012
But if not for their orig post, we wouldn't have been treated to all this
diverse experience in the matter and all these great ideas. That's what this
place is all about-these OHW's are doing us a service! :D
 
3
0
Joined Oct 27, 2017
As a long time breakfast cook I'll offer a couple of ideas. Your situation may differ so disregard whatever doesn't apply.

1. Invest in a couple of non stick 8 inch pans for omelets and over easy eggs. Mine cost about $30 each. NEVER use anything metal in them. A rubber spatula or silicone coated whisk. A pair of well seasoned steel pans works too but you need to learn how to maintain the seasoning without fail.
2. As with any service, mise en place is vitally important. Preferably the night or day before, make sure you have all tools, equipment and food ready. When service begins, it's too late.
3. If using ninth pans, make two or three for each ingredient. When the first pan runs out you can switch out for a new pan quickly with very little interruption in work flow. Make a backup of french toast and pancake batter as well.
4. When doing eggs to order, drop toast and bread items first, then meats and omelet fillings, then cook the eggs last. When it comes time to plate, the eggs cool off quickest so all else should be ready. In the event you need to redo the eggs, the other items can take the wait but not the other way around. In this way, you can typically do more than one ticket at once, getting bread and other items ready for all of them, then cooking eggs and plating as needed.
5 Don't skip the step. If you are dropping toast and see you have no english muffins (or rye, wheat, whatever) handy, STOP and go get them. Do not continue with the order thinking you will get the english muffins later. You won't and the rest of the order sits getting cold while you screw around getting an item you should have gotten earlier.
6. A dough scraper is a great tool for keeping food bits and crumbs and grease off the grill. Use it frequently to keep the grill as clean as possible during service.
7 A. Learn to cook the eggs correctly to begin with (over easy, medium, well, sunny side up and poached)and then make sure they are cooked correctly every single time. If the yolk breaks or over cooks on an over easy, DO IT OVER. If the customer ordered a poached egg and you made a golf ball, DO IT OVER. A poached egg takes two and a half minutes. The customer will never notice the extra two and a half minutes it took but they will most certainly notice that you couldn't even get their egg order correct. All the fancy jazzed up ingredients in the world won't make up for an incorrectly cooked egg order.
7. B. Vinegar in the poaching water is necessary but so is having the proper pan. A shallow, wide pan with no more than a two inch high straight side is best. you don't need much vinegar, a couple of tablespoons should do. Keep the water at a low simmer, just a steady bubbling. If the kitchen doesn't have the right pan, go buy one. Keep it with your omelet pans for your personal use. I found a perforated stainless skimmer to work well at getting the eggs out. Not the screen kind.
8. Learn to flip eggs in a pan. If need be, buy a couple, three or six dozen eggs and break a few yolks learning to flip correctly.
Save your grill space for home fries, pancakes, etc.
9. Home fries are done on the griddle. They are not deep fried, not ever. Those are called tavern fries. If you consider yourself a breakfast cook and deep fry the home fries, you're a hack. You can't be bothered to have the discipline to learn how to maintain a sufficient supply of home fries during service so you take the easy route and deep fry them. If you do this, at least be honest with your customers and inform everyone you will be serving tavern fries, not home fries. ( And to all you seasoned breakfast cooks who read this and don't agree, tough. If you deep fry a home fry, it's not a home fry.)
Home fries should sit on the grill long enough to get a nice golden crust. Eventually they will dry out and be awful so keep an eye on them but you can have a pile of them browning throughout service while you cook the eggs. Add more potatoes as needed to keep the supply going on one side while you take the browned ones from the other side.
Onions, salt and white pepper are a nice flavoring. Black pepper gives a bitter flavor to home fries. White pepper can take the prolonged heat. Shredded potatoes are Hash browns, treated the same as home fries, just shredded instead of cubed or sliced. 10. Have a couple/three small metal bowls and a small whisk handy for mixing eggs for omelets and scrambled. Practice will make doing it to order fast enough that the time isn't noticeable. Pooling eggs is an option but not the best practice. IF you choose to pool eggs, they should be cracked individually before pooling. Whisking then Straining the pooled eggs helps make a smooth mix. Then in a bain marie and put in an ice bath deep enough so the ice comes at least half way up the pan.
11. As with knife skills, techniques are all important. A bit slower at first while you get the hang of it, speed later. Don't sacrifice quality for speed, ever.
12. It is vital to learn to work clean and neat as you cook breakfast. Keep a towel(s) in sanitizer water to wipe up eggs spills, butter, etc. as you go. Put things back where they belong right away. Do not allow clutter to interrupt your muscle memory and organization.
13. Open bread packages correctly. Undo the tie and open from the end. Don't rip the plastic bag to get out the bread. Seemingly convenient, but not professional. You can't close the bag properly and too often the package doesn't get wrapped correctly and you lose the remaining bread. It may be mass produced factory loaf, but it's a product being paid for and therefore worthy of your respect.
14. Put all tools, food items in exact same place every single time. Muscle memory is vital. Don't waste time searching. You should be able to reach for your spatula, whisk, etc. blindfolded.
15. Don't Panic, ever. Remain calm and unemotional at all times. Time slows and expands when all else is correct. It only feels like minutes have passed when it's more likely seconds. When something unexpected or unpleasant happens, react immediately with your time and energy devoted to correcting the problem, not being upset that it did. If you devote your energies to recovery, the situation will be more of a blip than a challenge.
I might think up more later but that's all for now.
 
3
0
Joined Oct 27, 2017
Spot on I must say, couldn't have said it better myself.
DEFINITLEY get your eggs and omelettes down (worked for a French master chef who would FLIP if they were brown) and cleanliness is key, so key. no one wants to get a pancake with a bunch of potato or onion scraps!
 
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