Station cooking Behind the scenes111

Joined Mar 14, 2010
I want to know how restaurant get fod out so fast.
I have heard of station cooking,but if one person is grilling and another is frying how do they put all those orders together into one plate.
For example if someone orders roasted garlic filet with French fries will one cook do the whole meal or will the split it up,and how does the coo remember what to cook?

Please Explain the whole process to me I'm very interested I'm a high school student looking to go in the culinary feild.
Joined Mar 3, 2010
well it depends on the restaurant. the pace where I'm doing my internship the grill person also does burgers and the fries and he has to assemble it on a plate and send it out. at my job we do have different stations but no one really splits it up maybe sometimes, saute does their own thing and broiler and grill do theirs but they all assemble their own stuff and put it in the window, all saute has to do is put it in a pan which its already cooking in. grill and broiler has to plate specials and sometimes other stuff. when i worked at red lobster a person would call out orders like if it had something for a broil person or grill and fry, then he would tell the grill person to make the steak and then when little time passes he will call the fry food because that steak is gonna cook longer than seafood like shrimp or piece of fish. i think it depends on the type of restaurant and the layout of the kitchen, not all are alike. and just what kind of food you serving making it convenient for the cook to prepare the food and send it out quick.

people are quick because they are trained and you have to move fast so you don't end up in the weeds or get too much food and it starts getting cold.its really about experience and being quick on your feet. don't be intimidated, that's how most feel but once you know the food and get your own rhythm you will see how well you cook. its all about rhythm like knowing where a certain sauce or condiments are so you don't even have to look to get it or you know exactly where to look. for me i am always intimidated by this when i started training for saute i was like man that's alot of stuff to know but once you do it its cake and you remember alot more.

a day as cook is harsh also depending on what type of restaurant and type of position. the line usually busts their ass and it really hot and peoples tempers flare sometimes especially when busy. i try to help everyone so when I'm not busy i help others. PREP is really important to a station, i know when I'm not working pantry at my job i can always see the person running back and forth getting stuff when if he would have just prepped right he would have  no problem and its not only few occasion its always. this is where experience and planning ahead comes in. but ill let someone else share
Joined Aug 21, 2009
Good points, Skatz!  There is nothing worse than not having enough prep done and ending up in the weeds because you didn't think/work ahead. 

I think the person calling the orders has to be the most organized of all and it is hard work to run a service.  I'm comfortable doing it now but when I first moved up, I found it very challenging.  I've since learned how to do it, and if I am unsure that a plate in the window has been sold or not I will ask expo if they have a chit for the plate in question. 

A typical day as a cook.. hmmm.. I think all of the days manage to run into themselves...but here is a typical day as a cook on egg station at my place...

Show up for work, sign in, and then before you do anything else check your low boy and line and make sure you have everything you need.  Get spinach, mushrooms, onions and omelette bases out of the freezer and date them and put them in your low boy.  Work on any orders that come in as you are doing this.  Keep an eye on the meat and potato station as the guy working that station isn't due in for another hour and a half so in the meantime you have to meat and potato your own plates.  You also have to garnish and set up your plates as the board caller (either the KM or AKM aka me) is either not in yet or busy working another station and will move to board once everyone is in.  Between orders work on prep jobs.. there is always a prep list and there are lots of jobs that can be done on the line between orders.  Cook eggs and omelettes to order, get frustrated at least once or twice because eggs break and can't be saved, complain to the high heavens about whites only omelettes and insist they should be banned based on the fact they eff up that spot on the grill for the rest of the day.  The board caller will make sure you have all of your plates and will tell your what eggs etc go where but of course you forget something so it's a good thing the rail is right behind you and you can quickly scan the tickets and see what goes where.  Then of course an order will come in and the KM or AKM will have to leave board and deal with that but not to worry.. being an egg cook means you are one of the strongest in the kitchen so besides eggs you are going to have to garnish your own plates until they return.  The meat and potatoes person can help but don't depend on it as they have their own set of stuff to deal with.  If it is the AKM who is in, and depending on how she feels, she might have to ask one of the cooks to put the order away for her and she will take their place until it is done.  If you're lucky she might ask you and you can cool off while you put stuff away.  Then go back to cooking and banging out plates.  Keep hydrated and drink lots and lots and when I say that I mean water and straight water.  I alternate it with straight fruit juice just for some variety and I do advise everyone to drink fruit juice as well.. not only does it help hydrate but it does keep your blood sugar up when you're knee deep in the stuff and cant take a bite to eat.  Get through the rush and when things slow down start to break down your station and the rest of the line.  What is not necessary can be taken to the dish and start cleaning as you go. Get rid of the inserts in the crepe station, and if the KM or AKM hasn't done it, ask if you should be making the prep list for the next day.  Wash, rinse and sanitize all work surfaces and make sure you keep your eye on the door for last minute larrys who like to turn up fifteen minutes before close of business.  Grumble and grouse when they come in.. you have to admit it is a piss off when they show up at that time and expect full service.. but make your way through it and continue cleaning the kitchen.  Make sure you are pulling your weight with the big jobs like cleaning the floors, and when the time comes, shut your grill down clean it and .. go home!  Get lots of rest because guess what.. the same shit but in a different storm awaits you tomorrow!

Hope I didn't scare you with my little story but honestly.. that is a day in the life at my place of employment
Joined Apr 12, 2010
Having all your prep done before service starts (or atleast before it gets busy) really is the biggest thing to getting everything out quickly and easily.  Running out of prep means that you're going to either have to prep to order (which is really annoying and can get you stuck in the weeds even when it's not real busy) or may make you have to take an item off the menu.  Also, what helps to get everything out so quickly is that everything thing you need should be stocked, organized, and in a cooler or refrigerated table right at your station so you do not need to leave your spot to get it.  And considering that the cooks make these items many times day in and day out, it becomes almost second nature so when a ticket comes in it only takes seconds to get everything started.

At the place I work we have three stations and each is responsible for different menu items and generally have everything there that they need to make the entire dish. In certain cases like for a chicken caesar, both the person at the salad station and the person working the grill/fryer station will get a ticket that reads "chicken caesar" and the grill cook will grill one and bring it over the the salad guy.  For something like a sub fry or sub side salad, in addition the to proper station getting the ticket for the item, another ticket will be sent to either the salad station or grill/fry station that tells them "1 sub side salad" or "1 sub fry" and that person will either put it on a small plate or the waiter may just bring the entire finished plate over.

A typical day for me is pretty much the same as what leeniek described.  Come in, go to your station and look at everything on your line and in your coolers and start a prep list of everything you need on the line right away as well as back ups.  Also, the kitchen I work at is in a hotel that is fairly secluded from town, so we most of the people there either have reservations or staying at the hotel, so it always helps to check the house count, reservations, even the weather, and if there are going to be any banquets that night so you can have a good idea of how many may be eating in the restaurants and how much you're going to need to prep for the night.  You can usually also get a pretty good estimate of the numbers for the next day or two so you know if you should do extra prep for the next day, especially when you think you may be low on items that need to be done the day before.  Not to mention, if I know I'll be on that station again the next day, I'll try to prep more so I have less to worry about when i come in, you just have to be careful not to over prep as well, which can be challenging sometimes because we can have a few days where we're real busy, then the next couple days are dead.  I usually have about three hours to get prep done before it gets busy. Also like Leeniek said, sometimes when i come in there are only two people for 3 stations so I'll get my prep list started, and keep and eye on the 3rd station and try to get that prep done as well until that person shows up.

If there is anytime between my prep and orders I will help other people with their prep or often there is a lot of prep to be done for a banquet the next day.  Then usually about and hour before we close and we aren't getting too many orders we begin to clean up start to break down the line so we are out of there as soon as food service ends.

This pretty much consumes my entire shift, so its not uncommon to go 8 or so hours with no break or a chance to sit down.  It can get pretty exhausting sometimes, but again, like Leeniek said it's important to keep drinking water and also to try and eat something when you get a chance.
Joined Mar 14, 2010
Ok thanks that helps allot and gets me ready for what I'm going to be in store for.
Seems like a very fast pace job but it also founds fun.
On your lunch break do any of you get free food?
Joined Aug 21, 2009
Lunch Break?  What's that? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif  

Seriously though we can have bacon and eggs for free but if we want any of the more expensive menu items they ask us to pay half price.  I bring my own food anyway though as I'm allergic to eggs and can't eat most of what we sell. 

There is never a dull moment in the kitchen that's for sure! 
Joined Sep 29, 2009
Lunch Break?  What's that? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif  
That's the five minutes in between ticket 140 and 141(round about) when you have time to drop a piece of chicken that was butchered wrong, and therefore is waste, and eat it, burning your fingers playing the "toss it from hand to hand because that oil is silly hot but I'm i a hurry" game./img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif

It's very similar to a smoke break.  You know.  Taking out the garbage or carrying out the grease bucket.

All joking aside, this business, BOH or FOH, takes dedication and passion.  There's lots of time when most people would just throw up their hands, pack their knives, and head home.  Those are the times that separate people in it for a check and people in it because they couldn't imagine doing anything else.
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
As a non smoker I've never done the smoke break thing.  When I break it's to eat and that's about five minutes where I scarf something down and don't even take the time to taste it and then I'm back on the line.  Tuna sandwiches are great scarf down food... I do keep my juice and lemonade on the line though.. it's great for the blood sugar and I share it with the guys on the line too. 

I think there is a definite line between those who work in this business for a cheque and the others who love it and have the passion.  I have some of the cheque takers in my kitchen and it shows.. they don't take the job seriously and they think it is a joke.. yes we are a chain so we have alot of stuff shipped in but we do have alot of room to add our own touches as we do make alot from scratch as well. 

We just lost one of our fruit stand workers yesterday and honestly I knew he was going to leave.  He was bored at our place and we were willing to spend the money for crosstraining him but he couldn't give the KM or I a definite answer as to what his plans were so we said eff it.  He is going to a new place that has overhired and will do the cuts that we did for our place when we opened.  We have to replace him so if he doesn't make the cut there will not be job waiting for him.   If he was smart he would have done the trials at the new place but still kept his job with us in the event he was not hired on.  I like him but he has a huge ego and I think this new experience will be good for him.
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