Is it normal for line cooks to not get breaks?

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Joined Oct 3, 2006
Break? Maybe once every three or four days I will step outside for a quick breath of fresh air if time permits.

I know yes technically I am entitled to one, but I don't really care. If I am the only cook on the line, do I tell my customers they can't eat because I am on break? I'd rather work it all the way through and leave 30 minutes earlier.
 
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Joined Mar 29, 2008
Most cooks I know feel this way, it's tough enforcing something you don't believe in.....
 
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Joined Jul 7, 2009
i work in a truck stop, and it's by far the most unpredictable place i've ever worked. i'm normally the only line cook on duty during my shift, so i often don't get an official break. when the opportunity presents itself, i scamper off to the break room and suck down a cigarette, but that's only when there's nothing else to do. if i have something that needs prepped or a ticket in the window, my nicotine fix must wait. when someone on my crew starts whining about their break, i giggle. there's rarely more than three people in my kitchen at a time...line cook, prep cook and dishwasher. so if one's missing and we get hit, the whole machine gets outta whack. most days, it's not a problem getting my crew's breaks in. but there have been many days where we're balls out from clock in to clock out. i personally believe breaks to be discretionary.
 
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Joined Jun 12, 2006
By law we have to give breaks two 15 min and one 30 minutes for shifts over six hours. My cooks and myself do not take a straight 15 min or 30 min but through the course of a day everyone takes 5 min here 15 min there that all add up at the end of the day. Your not straight out for the full shift if you want to spread out the time 5 min for a smoke 10 min to run to the store so be it. We are all grown people take your time as it fits into your work day
 
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Joined Jul 1, 2009
Personally, I find breaks are more of an interrupution than anything else. I rarely take my breaks that I am entitled too. I'd rather spend that time getting my head into gear for the oncoming service and making sure my mise en place is set up the way I want it. I just don't feel that spending 30 minutes outside or somehere else is the best way to relieve stress or prep myself, I'd be more stressed if I were outside constantly thining, "I've gotta do this then that then this...."

I gotta admit it is a little bit of a macho thing aswell, but only because I am proving to myself that I can tough it out. I love the long hours uninterrupted in the kitchen. I'm addicted to it and feel at home in the kitchen, so why would I want to leave.

But ****, when close is finally done I love that first smoke of a marlboro red and a glass of red or white wine, wind down time :)
 
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Joined Mar 3, 2007
I was working in a 72-room hotel, with two function rooms (seating 100ish and 175-200). We started off with 8 people working the kitchen. Head chef only did prep sometimes if we were in the sh!t, so make that 7. One chef walks out. One chef's wife has a stroke and passes away so he goes on sick leave for about six weeks. One chef heads to college. Wedding season starts. Suddenly I become the pastry chef, the pastry chef is on breakfast, and my split shift (10-2 and back for 5-10) turns into a 12-hour shift. I'm the lucky one; one of the guys does breakfast some days straight through til the end of service. No one new is hired. If anyone gets a break it's usually to run down to the shops to get soft drinks for everyone. Yes, you take a break when you can, but sometimes it's better to just work through it instead of only having 3 brulees and no petit fours left for service on a friday night. Then I left the hotel (visa expired, not much I could do). The kid who left for college comes back for a couple months, but the only person that they've hired in this entire time was a 16-year old apprentice going for his svq2, and he went on holidays for 2 weeks on the same week that I left.

When wedding season really started up we had to get agency chefs to come in every weekend to help out. That alleviated the problem a bit, but with some of them you really had to keep an eye on what they were doing, and with others they'd become the chef's pet and you'd be stuck doing the work anyway!

Most people who were working in that kitchen (in fact, everyone who wasn't working breakfast) were supposed to be on split shifts, but it would be rare to find anyone leaving for more than an hour unless we had everyone on.
 
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Joined Jul 1, 2009
Nothing is like the wind down time after service... Nothing.
If I can take a break and want to, I do it. I dont have my **** together, unprepped and so on, I dont. Being unprepared costs me so much more than not taking the break.
Bu prepping vedgetables and etc is kind of a chill down time for me. When you can disconnect and do the no-brainer prepping. Or baking bread or something. Those kinds of jobs are relaxing to me in a way.
I dont know how the laws are here in Norway, but I dont think I can sue my workplace if I dont take my breaks. Seems pretty harsh.
But again, its you guys. The land of lawsuits. :p
 
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Joined Jul 27, 2009
If the kitchen station is running well, take a break, if you are under pressure don't.

Nobody can stop you going to the "toilet", and no chef will stand for 16 hours straight
 
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Joined Jul 29, 2009
I met Thomas Keller about twelve years ago during a special event. Later that night when he saw me walking past when all the chefs were outside on the pateo he stopped me and invited me to join him with a glass of wine.

How often does Thomas Keller sit a young chef in training to give him advise? I think the conversation went on for a few hours. He told me of a time when he was in France working in a restaurant 16 hours a day and there was lull in the afternoon so he sat down on the counter for a moment. He was reprimanded by the chef and was told that a chef never sits down.

That's right. According to Thomas Keller, "A chef never sits down." Don't forget it.
 
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Joined May 23, 2008
If time doesn't allow for a break, a break can't be taken. How is this not normal? In the middle of service your head chef will stop and say "table 28 can wait, the fry cook has been on his feet for 5 hours straight!"?
 
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Joined Aug 4, 2009
In the past, during banquet season in a nice hotel I will often work 16 hour shifts 5 or 6 times a week, with just quick smoke breaks and quick meals in , part of the dues you pay as a chef. If there was a big breakfast to be done I was the one to be there to open up at 5 am and still work my lunch and dinner shifts. I say suck it up or someone hungrier than you will be there to take your place, in my career I have often been that "someone" I worked longer and did better work than everyone else and it has paid off in a big time way. Now I call my own shots and I look for that next hungry young chef. I realize there are labor laws and such but the culinary career is a whole different world. This is a marathon and if you don't have the stamina, as well as the talent, you will be left behind in the dust. Thomas Keller was right.
 
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Joined Aug 18, 2009
While I do agree that breaks should only be taken when at all possible, as a sous chef running my line back in Toronto, I had to be aware of my staff. I have seen guys who will refuse to take a break while hovering over the grill for 12+ hours. It can be very bad, I have seen a guy almost pass out on the grill. I will try to shift people around my line to either give the guy a break or at the very least get him/her into a lower key station, such as salads to at least cool off.
 
1,632
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
At the restaurant I work at we are paid for our breaks and are entitled to a half an hour break as well. That just said I think I have only taken a full half hour break a handful of times. Most of the time I take enough time to gobble something up and then I'm washing my hands and I'm back online.
 
1,632
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
On Mondays and Tuesdays we have two of us on the line and one on the lunch so breaks are a little hard to come by at times. I'm the opener so I usually get a break and most times it's just enough time to eat and then I get right back at it. I'll take it at 9am when the lunch person comes in so that the other line cook has someone he can look to for help. The fruiter we have in on that day does know the line as well (we're corporate) and the location he came to us from trained them on all the stations so he can help as well. Our place can be pretty unpredictable too.. Tuesdays are usually deader than dead but not this past Tuesday and we got clobbered... and that was the day I worked from open to close because I couldn't leave them with so much prep to do.
 
1,632
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
I worked at a small cafe before the place I'm at now and there I was the cook and by the cook I mean the ONLY cook, so I had to take my breaks on my feet and I agree with what's been said here... sitting down is bad! Sometimes you have to sit down ... I have just started opening and because I don't drive (I can but I hate it) I have a fifteen minute walk uptown to the GO station and then a twenty minute walk when I get off the GO bus in Burlington, so it's taken some getting used to. I made the mistake of sitting down yesterday to eat and it was even harder to get back up onto my feet again!
 
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Joined Aug 14, 2009
Every restaurant I have ever worked in, whether it be as a Pantry Cook or a Line Cook, I have always been told to use my own judgment. I don't smoke, so I don't go outside before or after each rush. I generally eat my staff meal on my station, while getting prep done for the shift. So when it comes down to it, I am ok with not getting a 2- 15 minute breaks and 1- 30 minute for lunch, like a normal Monday-Friday 9-5.
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
Wasn't Thomas Keller sitting down when he told you that story.................So much for advice from Thomas Keller.............................As for line cooks getting breaks....A line cook is hired to manage his/her station. That also includes breaks...............A Chef worth anything will make sure their cooks get a break. Going back years ago all cooks smoked, I'll tell you one thing they made sure they got their smoke break every hour....Bill
 
5,272
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
"A Chef never sits down".

This was brainwashed into me as well.

I completed a 3yr cook's apprenticeship in Luzern, Switzerland waaay back in the '80's. We were reprimanded if we ever sat down, if we stood on one leg during long mundane vegetable peeling sesions, the other leg was kicked out by the chef de partie or Sous.

Later, during my Swiss army bootcamp, I was detailed to the kitchen--same attitude prevailed, a cook never sits down.

25 years later, I can not-so-proudly state that I suffer from flat feet, plantar facsicitis, and must wear custom orthotics--but I still find it hard to sit down......
 

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