I feel like a failure

Joined May 13, 2017
I interned at a Ritz Carlton working in a casual dining restaurant for 4 months. Now I'm interning at a Remington hotel for the rest of the year in a somewhat fine dining. I had great performance back at Ritz when I was working grill when I was cooking burgers (different temperature) and French dips etc. But once I moved to Remington everything changed. It's my first time cooking steaks (filet mignon and NY strip) and I have consistent complains over cooked and undercooked steak and lately I heard the sous chef was talking to one of the other line cook about my performance. I am here for a month already and my performance is still crappy.
Joined Aug 21, 2004
Guess you might as well shoot yourself. Your life is over...I hope you know I am kidding. So what can we change?

From my point of view, they improperly trained you before cutting you loose on the grill. That is on them. Nothing we can change about that.

Now let's look at your part, you are struggling with a new situation. What can we change about that?

Feel, touch, prod every single steak that goes out. Commit the feel to your memory banks. Now if a steak comes back for being improperly cooked, this is your greatest learning opportunity...because it has been cut into! This allows you to see the direct results and compare them to your stored away impressions of the touch test, thereby increasing your true practical hands on knowledge.

If a steak comes back, don't despair, don't fuss, don't cuss, don't get down on yourself, instead focus on touching, feeling, prodding the steak before cooking it more or grabbing a new steak. Don't waste this learning moment. Commit this touch knowledge to your memory banks

If someone else is working the grill, ask them if you can touch every steak before it goes out. Commit this touch knowledge to your memory banks.

As to filets, they are difficult for everyone at first, even if they think they have excellent touch memory banks, because filets are softer than other steaks so their touch is different from other cuts. Most people initially overcook filets because of this. Then they start to undercook them because they are afraid of overcooking them.

You didn't mention flank steaks or skirt steaks, but I will throw this out anyway. They also feel different than other steaks due to the fact that they are long with the grain steaks as opposed to shorter grain steaks such as N.Y.s, sirloins, porterhouses, etc. They are not as soft as filet in their touch test, about halfway between the feel of say a N.Y compared to a filet.

How do I know all this? Because I learned it as I went. You can do the same. A mentor of mine told me early on not to sweat my mistakes, just learn from them because you won't be a chef until you make your first 5,000 mistakes.
Joined Dec 23, 2004
 Yeah, that's a tough skill to master.  You might try using a cake tester or a Thermopen.
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Like cheflayne mentioned, to intern - is to learn. Take advantage of this time to learn how to cook meats. Focus is the key to learning any type of production. Focus on the product and the complete procedure from the time you first see the meat, to the time it's consumed. Not what the sous is saying. Meats have become inconsistent over time so there is no set rule. Like mentioned before. Close inspection, poking, prodding, bending, etc. Know what you're working with, prime, choice, corn fed, angus, etc. Marbling, muscle and connective tissue are important. Filet are lean, but no fat, protein, etc. usually has little flavor. To much marbling or strips cut from close to the rump may have the connecting tissue running higher. Connective tissue is impossible to cook to doneness and is chewy and tough. Cut it off before cooking. Ask other chefs how they test for doneness, body parts, visual, sound, time, etc.
'The complete procedure'. You need to remember the complete procedure of all your steaks. What temp did it go on the grill, when you turned, did it go directly to the window or get passed to another station. I mention this because your steak will continue to cook after you remove it from the grill. If it goes to your counter, it cools quickly, if it goes to the window, it keeps cooking. I personally feel the most important part of cooking a steak is the pick-up and what the steak has done during the time, from removal to setting it before the customer.
so, I guess I'm trying to say, it's not just about cooking the meat. You may never cook another steak after you leave there. But the knowledge of timing is the most important lesson. Timing is crucial in every aspect of food service.
For me, I think timing knowledge is what separates the great chef from the good chef. Not just in food preparation, but everything they perform.
Jumping down from my soap box, I will now hand you my sword grasshopper.
PS, Technology? not quite convinced. I have some younger generation working with us. If they don't have a spell check/grammar check, I look at a note, and I can't tell if they are requesting a day off, quitting, injured or telling me my zipper is open.
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