Life as a new line cook

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Joined Oct 25, 2016
I'm not sure how many of you read my introduction post but I am going to assume you have read it. This is a new thread for those like myself who are in need of some tips adjusting to working on the line. Being that I am a culinary arts student I know that does not make me full of knowledge at this stage in my career. But I started as a dishwasher at Grand Lux Cafe / Cheesecake Factory and I managed to stand out and work my way up as a line cook. I started out working pasta and after training was done I had switched over to fry station, and also bread and soup.

Since I study all aspects of culinary I do have a good understanding of how to be a cook. If any of you know Cheesecake Factory; you will know that this is one incredibly busy restaurant. The part I'm getting to is that I am stuck in between proving that I can work a station on the line. I find myself not being "me" while trying to learn how to adapt to a new part of my career.

I can briefly say the issues I am concerned with at each specified station.

Pasta

The pasta station can be overwhelming if you don't know the recipes and cooking procedures for each dish. This is known as one of their "money stations" so the food costs and order tickets are large in numbers.
  • The food being presented properly and in a timely fashion.
  • Knowing recipes off the top of your head and visually knowing ounces without scaling.
  • Working 5 different pans at the same time to get the orders out.
  • Timing an items cook time.
  • Going to the back and restocking as the station gets low.
Fry

In my opinion fry is not as bad as it looks. This station gets the most orders next to the salad station.
  • Memorizing the plating for each dish.
  • Remembering the different flours used for each item.
  • Timing an items cook time.
  • Going to the back and restocking as the station gets low.
Bread / Soups

This is the station that is quite busy by minute. It's mostly dealing with servers cutting bread, and butter.
  • Having enough bread working in the oven during a busy shift.
  • Keeping cut portioned butter to go along with the bread.
  • Having time to restock on low soups.
  • Dealing with servers with strange personalities.
Now I know some of this is redundant but I feel some of it is carry over to each station.
I have no problem cooking my own recipes as rapid as it calls for but I feel working at pasta and having to know the recipes is a bit hard at the moment.

What is an effective way to learn all the recipes so I can continue to work between these stations? I am not trying to remain at the bread station. It's kind of an a true test of humility and the little cocky comments from the line cooks are just weak.
 
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Joined Jun 24, 2017
make them at home first.. and often... very very small portion sizes so youre not making 20-30 large plates.. unless you have 20-30 friends to cook for.. well thats what works for me, since im a visual learner.. cookng at home shouldnt be forgotten.. im constantly tinkering and developing specials any time i have time at home

i work at a small place and im alone on the line a couple nights a week.. grill, flat top, sautee, fry, oven, combi oven, veg, sauces....salamander from time to time and the microwave.. hahaha.. small, but busy.. i earn my pay.. i do have one kitchhand doing salads/breads/desserts and the dishes.. so its doable.. not really, but its our job.. never handled anything like that prior to this job.. was nervous taking it on, but once the tickets started coming.. i said f it.. lets do this.. now its normal to me..

only one way to handle 5-6 pans at once when you havent done that before.... just do it.. youll get it if you dont quit.... n 5-6 will turn into 10-12 etc.. ask for advice in the kitchen and what works there...... someone should be calling out orders.. unless its just on you..

gl
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
Welcome to Cheftalk. When starting a new job "Time heals all wounds", but, make sure it doesn't leave any lasting scars. There aren't a lot of front line cooks that feel a need to help someone else learn what they know. Their feeling is, they were thrown into the water to learn how to swim, so why baby someone else in the kiddy pool. What your going through in the bread station is normal. If you really want to be good at what you do you need to memorize the menu and what happens at every station. When I did this many years ago, I took the menu home and studied it. I made sure I knew much more when I got back the next day. In most cases the front line crew were happy to see how much better I got in so little time. The less ammunition you give them the less bullets will fly your way. It's up to you to make it happen, don't wait for someone to reach out. It would be to long of a wait.........Good Luck.......ChefBillyB
 
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Joined Oct 25, 2016
Thank you! I appreciate the responses. Although the work load is much I feel that it is quite doable. Everyone seems to have their strong points and others took quite sometime to achieve the skill they have now. I'm not sure what the thing is with people forgetting they at one point knew nothing. Many times I look around and I don't feel inferior to the cooks because I know my capabilities but understand the restaurant and the way it works seems to be a learning curve for me.

Hoping I can work my way up to learning to do multiple stations at once.. That takes a lot of focus and determination!
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2004
Make flash cards of each recipe on index cards. One recipe per card. Name of dish on front. Ingredients on back. Quiz yourself at home.

At work keep a cheat sheet version, dish & ingredients on a piece of paper in your jacket pocket.

I was working a new job one time and the executive chef was showing me the ropes at the saute station. I had my pocket note book and was writing things down fast and furious. The chef asked me how long I had been doing this. I answered thirty years. He called a young guy over and said "Layne has been doing this for thirty years. See what he has in hands. What does that tell you? File the lesson away. Now go back to your station."
 
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Joined Jul 7, 2017
All good advice. Especially the flash cards. Just remember that being an effective and speedy cook takes years of repetition in the kitchen. Don't try to master everything in one day. My goal growing in the industry was to be the fastest and most accurate on 1 station before I looked to move to another. That way, when your big break comes and you get an opportunity for a sous chef position, you will be confident that you can lead and set the example for those coming behind you. And they need to have that confidence in you.
 
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Joined Oct 25, 2016
I feel that I should focus on the fry station for now even though I've spent most of my time learning pasta. The recipes are quite large for pasta so I'll have to figure a way to make them into flash cards. After I switched between station I wrote the recipes into a .docx / .odt documents so I can read and study the methods and quantities they are calling for. What made it even more complicated in the first place was that some of the recipes have a lunch / dinner portion and the counts are much different and sometimes removes an item from a dish!

I'll try the flash cards for fry station now. I'm certain that will work wonders.
 
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Joined Jun 24, 2017
flash cards, cheat sheets, notebooks are all great tools to use.. great advice

if you want it, you just gotta do the extra work to better yourself.. that means working at home (studying the menu and cooking if u need to polish up some things) and coming in off the clock if need be.. keep studying, keep learning.. its never ending.. at some point youll realize a steak is a steak no matter the cut, how its prepared, how its dressed and the price tag attached to it.. fish is fish etc etc.. idk i may start to ramble... just focus on learning your techniques..

focus on the station you are at.. focus on standards and time.. after awhile your mind will be able to drift and then look around see what else you can add to ur load

imo theres nothing wrong with having a cheat sheet at work either.

gl
 
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Joined Oct 25, 2016
I appreciate all the advice given here! I'm hoping this thread can stay active for others also in need of extra guidance working the line. At one point yesterday I realized that it's all just food. It just comes down to knowing how to prepare for whatever they ask of you. I'm just a young cook learning the entries of working the on the line.
 
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Joined Oct 25, 2016
So I'm figuring that note taking is essential for line cooks. I would believe that making a check list for the station and organization.

"Mise en place" or everything in place goes a long way with preparing for the shift.

I am putting together flash cards for fry recipes now. I'll study them on my way and while at work before the shift beings. I should have it down within a week at that rate.
 
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Joined Oct 25, 2016
It's been awhile and I feel an update would fit well. Hopefully this thread continues to pick up.

It came a point in time that I realized theres no reason I shouldn't get to where I want to go. I see that a lot of the overwhelming days in the beginning have fallen short and paid off. I've just decided to take in my role as the fry cook and to learn each day to master and perfect my station. The restaurant now has a new EKM and I feel that this is the chef I want to work for to start my career. Being that it is corporate the standards of the restaurant are far more than just expectations from the EKM. I think the standards our EKM has for us has helped up my skills and gave me more of perfectionist stand point. I preform better in class and also look to elevate in other ways of cooking as well. I'm looking now to certify on that station and really continue to move up in my culinary career. This has given me less stress learning because I will soon have this under my repertoire.
 
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