Following my ambition, tell me what to know for day 1

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by obviologist, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. obviologist


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    Hey Everyone, I am new here, let me give you a little background. a year and a half ago I had weight loss surgery, at my highest weight I was 545 lbs, I am now 250 lbs. Since the surgery I have had to cook a lot more to so that I can eat foods that meet my new biology's requirements. As I have lost weight and can actually stand in the kitchen to make the food without wanting to die after 10 minutes, I started to find that I really liked it, then I found I Loved cooking, particularly cooking for other people. I have been working in a telephone support job sucking the soul out through my pours, and I need a change. in thinking about this I have been talking with my girlfriend about the idea of pursuing cooking as a career. she has encouraged and helped me make connections, and through that, I now have a job offer to start at a mid-high end Italian restaurant here in salt lake, as a line cook. I am so excited, but also nervous. i have been told time and time again how good i am from the uninitiated that I cook for, but what do I need to know when it comes to actually working in a kitchen? how to I make the best impression, and how do I get the most knowledge out of this?

    TL;DR: I got a job as a line cook to follow my passion, what do I need to do to not mess it up.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 9, 2018
  2. Pat Pat

    Pat Pat

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    Chef Emeritus
    Line cooking is a very taxing job. You just need to stay fit and be in top condition. Other than that, just do exactly what the chef wants you to do and how the chef wants it done. You'll get better with time.
  3. chefwriter


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    Professional Cook
    Ok. I'll start. You have no experience in a professional kitchen, correct? But they hired you as a line cook?
    There are many threads here about how to act in a commercial kitchen and you should look for those and read them.
    Given your health history, I'll start by saying you will need to be able to stand on your feet and endure some heavy stress for eight hours or more. It will most likely be very hot and you may feel uncomfortable for most of the day. WEAR GOOD SHOES. Comfortable, sturdy ones that support your feet well. If you don't have them, Buy them now. If you don't have chef pants, buy them now. They may provide a jacket or not but chef pants are roomy and cooler than wearing other styles. You will not regret wearing them.
    Get a copy of the menu and study it. When you work a station, you will be responsible for preparing specific dishes on the menu, not all of them. This may be challenging or easy depending on the restaurant, menu, the chef and other factors. Focus on what kinds of meats, seafood, vegetables they use. Sauces and combinations. Try and gain some understanding of what the place is about before you begin.
    On the first day, and every day after that, begin by washing your hands. First when you arrive, after handling any foods, any time they become soiled for any reason. Learn to keep washing your hands until it is a habit.
    Hopefully you will be given instruction. If you don't know how, Ask. Don't fake it.
    Bring a small notebook with you. When shown your station, record the prep you have to do and the placement of each ingredient on your station. Make yourself a map so each ingredient goes in the same spot every day. Make a prep list every day. Record any recipes of any kind. Make notes about what happens. Don't worry about others making comments if they do. Write it down.
    Work Clean. Which means, As you peel the onions, get rid of the peels in the trash can immediately. Organize your work so your area always appears clean as you work. Get rid of boxes and other wastes immediately. If you spill anything, wipe it up. There is no later for keeping clean. Only now.
    Be alert at all times. Pay attention to others around you. If you approach someone from behind, Say "Behind you!" in a clear, strong voice so they won't turn around suddenly and hurt you or themselves. Please and Thank You should be said frequently.
    Always do your own prep. Never take a product that someone else has prepared. The other cook's chopped onions are the other cooks, not yours.
    Never touch another cooks' knife. If necessary, Ask. The restaurant may have house knives you will use. If not, ASK.
    Be aware of the obvious. Go in ahead of time if possible to get a look at the kitchen. So you know where the walk in is, the other refrigeration units, the pots and pans, the store room, etc. If asked to get lettuce, don't ask where it is. They aren't keeping it in the oven.
    You are now in a professional kitchen. Don't turn your nose up at any of the foods. This isn't about you. If asked, taste it. You need to know how things taste according to the restaurant's style.
    Don't argue. Shut your yap and listen to what you are being told. You are there to learn and perform a job for which you have little to no experience. Your time may be tough or not so tough but don't make it worse.
    Don't complain. Everyone's feet, back, legs and face hurts. They are all sweaty, tense and possibly hungover. It's tough for everyone. You will most likely suffer cuts, burns and bruises. These are part of the experience and give you war stories to tell years later.
    Be respectful and polite to EVERYONE, all the time. You are part of a team. The waitstaff, dishwashers and everyone else are there working hard and deserve your utmost respect at all times. The walk-in cooler is for screaming and/or crying. Otherwise, keep your cool.
    There is one way to do things. The way the chef/restaurant does them. You can do it your way any time you like, as long as it isn't on the job.
    Notice everyone wrapping, labeling and dating every thing they put away. You should be doing that too.
    Be willing to do anything that needs doing. You are now a line cook but you haven't forgotten how to sweep the floor, wash a dish or help clear a table. If asked, do it. If you have completed your work, ask if someone can use a hand.
    That's enough for now. Congratulations on your weight loss and improved health. Keep it up.
  4. markos sdranis

    markos sdranis

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    what chefwriter said. I just wanna add a couple of things

    I suggest getting a small waterproof notebook that fits in your jacket's pocket. You always have it around you, doesn't take extra space, won't get ruined if wet.

    A lot of people wear birkenstock but I find sketchers to be much more comfortable.

    Don't buy the cheapest chef pants you can find (or shoes). Comfort is everything.

    Don't peel onions/carrots/anything over the bin. Have a small container nearby you peel over/throw peels and other trash in and then take that to the bin. Peeling over the bin means you'll probably get shit all over the floor.

    best of luck
    drirene likes this.
  5. panini


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    Just want to add to the above(which is all spot-on) Buy your shoes now. Start wearing them and standing on your feet for at least 9+ hours. If there doesn't seem to be an issue, go buy another pair. You'll want to switch them out daily.
    On the note pad issue. Sit and think of some way to develop your own type of shorthand. For me personally, I would practice on getting my note pad out quickly as not to be seen as someone who is writing everything down. I used to write, just the trigger points so I wouldn't forget what I wanted to retain. When I got home, I relaxed and elaborated on the triggers I wrote. It was two fold, I was able to commit what I thought important to memory.
    This was just my way, I'm sure you'll develop your own. If you're young, you might be able to do it mentally. Eventually the ole noggin gets full, then when you go to the pad, most won't have recall of the things they mentally remembered.
    Best of luck in your new venture.
    And BTW, a big CONGRATULATIONS!! on your weight loss! That's not an easy thing, don't hide it, be proud of it.
    PS. not all kitchens and chefs are the same. It is not a negative on your resume to have movement on it. Your search now should be focused on finding a chef who appreciates your personality, attitude and dedication, over your cooking experience/performance. Please don't stay in a facility that makes you unhappy, you'll be right back in telephone support. I don't have many peers who found a home on their first job.
    drirene likes this.
  6. sgsvirgil


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    Retired Owner/Operator
    If your story is true, and I am not saying that it isn't, make sure you pay attention to every syllable of what Chefwriter said. That's some of the best advice I have ever read in this forum.

    I have spent about 1 glass of wine trying to think of a way to say this without coming off as offensive or cynical, but, how in god's green tomato did you land a job in a mid-high end Italian restaurant as a line cook with absolutely no experience in a commercial kitchen whatsoever ?? Are you sure you understand the job offer correctly??

    Anyway, if your story is true, congratulations on both your new job and your astonishing weight loss! :)

  7. chefross


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    Former Chef
    This is a very interesting thread. Many of the Pro's here are probably reading this thread with negativity.

    EVERYTHING that chefwriter wrote are items that are taught as standard operating procedures in school.
    We endlessly banter about the pro's and con's of going to culinary school versus learning while on the job.
    Experience is not always the best teacher.

    While I admire the OP for successes in weight lose and the willingness to work in the restaurant field, I will remind everyone once again that cooking at home for family and friends is not the same thing as working behind the line for many hours with others to meet time and quality requirements. I give the OP lots of Kudos and wish him well