Seeking advice

26
11
Joined Feb 2, 2016
So I'm 5 months into my first line cook job after about 1.5 years of commis work. My section is deep fryers, char grill, broil and sauces. I was chucked in the deep end when the sous chef got fired and I had to take on his workload. Today I was frying 3 portions of cod and they were all cooked for the same amount of time. 2 went to one table and were good and the other came back raw. I feel terrible about this and super embarrassed. I have no idea why it happened. Were looking to hire another senior chef to help spread the work and I'm worried that I'm going to be pushed out and lose my section in the kitchen which I enjoy so much and had such a great opportunity to learn how to cook. It's been a real trial by fire and I want to give this place a year so I can learn from my head chef and get a reference. But I'm finding the work mentally exhausting, I can cope with the physical side ok. I'm 21 and doing 60 hour weeks and haven't had a holiday in 2 years. My head chef has to have everything perfect and if it's not he will lose his temper fast which I fully understand. I'm hoping someone can chip in some sound advice to pick me up a bit
 
14
10
Joined Jul 29, 2011
first of all are you sure it was "raw"

Servers have a bad habit of repeating word for word a customers complaint. ie something undercooked may be described as raw which is obviously an exaggeration. Did you personally inspect the "raw" product? Many times in this business you may be forced to eat off a customers plate to fully appreciate what was wrong with the dish, ask the server to see the returned dish.

Apart from that on the technical side of things a few questions for you

was this a pre frozen product?

were the pieces all of the same size

were they all fully submerged in the oil

Be careful with frozen products. If fish make sure they are fully thawed and dried before using. Also make sure that all pieces are consistently cut

good luck
 
26
11
Joined Feb 2, 2016
first of all are you sure it was "raw"

Servers have a bad habit of repeating word for word a customers complaint. ie something undercooked may be described as raw which is obviously an exaggeration. Did you personally inspect the "raw" product? Many times in this business you may be forced to eat off a customers plate to fully appreciate what was wrong with the dish, ask the server to see the returned dish.

Apart from that on the technical side of things a few questions for you
was this a pre frozen product?
were the pieces all of the same size
were they all fully submerged in the oil

Be careful with frozen products. If fish make sure they are fully thawed and dried before using. Also make sure that all pieces are consistently cut

good luck

The fish is delivered frozen but thawed completely before cooking and they were all deep fried together. My head chef looked at it and he told me it was raw so I really couldn't explain it. He got angry with me but told me that I need to move on and learn from it
 
14
10
Joined Jul 29, 2011
​get yourself a cake tester. Its a little thin piece of metal that works like a thermometer. insert it for a few seconds and then touch it on your wrist. Do this until you are comfortable with the process. Also don't be fooled by color. Depending on the freshness of your oil you will end up with varying colors of your product. If the oil is old your product will brown quickly
 
4,769
1,019
Joined Aug 21, 2004
Many times I learn much more when things don't turn out as hoped. Those times cause me to really think and analyze the whys. When things work out as hoped, I am usually too busy patting myself on the back and saying "Of course, what did you expect?"  :~)

Learn and soldier on.
 
2,257
716
Joined Oct 31, 2012
But I'm finding the work mentally exhausting, I can cope with the physical side ok. I'm 21 and doing 60 hour weeks and haven't had a holiday in 2 years. 
First, make sure you're getting paid for all those hours. Other people have posted that they work off the clock for various reasons. Don't be one of those people. But otherwise 60 hours a week is not unusual.

     Second. You're correct. The work is mentally exhausting. Expect it to be. Show up every day expecting to focus completely on the job you are doing. Peeling and dicing carrots, frenching a lamb rack, making a sauce, whatever. Concentrate on making your mise-en-place as perfect as it can be. Concentrate and focus only on the task in front of you to make sure the job is done the best you can do.

Be prepared mentally when you arrive at work to face a mentally challenging day. Don't concern yourself with the rent, the girlfriend,  or any other problem you think you have outside of work.  When at work, think only about work. When doing a task, think only about that task. 

     Over time, this discipline will reward you by becoming easier because you begin to think like this all the time.  The chef is expecting perfection because he wants to know you can focus with laser like precision on your job. Eventually you will but as Cheflayne pointed out, this takes time, effort and overcoming mistakes. Expect that and move on. 

PS. A holiday wouldn't hurt. Find some time to work that out. 
 
1,770
263
Joined Dec 23, 2004
I will chime in that it does get better.  As an example I just rolled out a brand new menu this week; it has been an utterly exhausting haul to Sunday night!  Even though I created the menu every time the printer would go off I would have to expend mental effort to build the dish in my mind.  There's an old cliche/platitude that says you haven't mastered a dish until you've prepared it a thousand times, and there's a kernel of truth to that.  I have a lot of skills/tool in my toolbox to work with after nearly three decades in the kitchen and it's still challenging to adapt to new things.  So it's not surprising that you have difficulty sometimes.  At the beginning of your career you're trying to drink from a firehose!  Everything is new.

Keep an open mind, work hard and be humble.  Accept that you will make mistakes and try to learn from each one.  You really do learn more from screwing something up that getting it right the first time.
 
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Joined Mar 13, 2017
The thin metal skewer is definitely a good start... I use them and I know really good chefs that use them all the time... knowledge of heat distribution and exposure-time does become instinctual over time and you'll get to a point when 99 times out of 100 you just know...
But something can always slip passed you just to mess with you...
Man i've had meatballs in sauce simmering covered for ages, checked 2 of them and they were searing hot... checked another and it's cold to luke-warm... there's a lot of variables to the process so if it takes an extra 2 seconds to be sure.... then it's worth it..

But as chefwriter said... paying attention 100% of the time is the real key.... weird stuff happens and occasionally things with heat unevenly but in most cases it's usually because the chef took their eye off the ball...

And don't stress.... you're supposed to screw up being new to it and your Chef should expect it and preempt the mistakes... it shouldn't have left the pass.
 
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