Struggling as a line cook...

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Joined Oct 19, 2009
Working the line can definately takes its toll on your spirits. I've learned to never take things too personal but always take things seriously. If ever you do find yourself in the weeds always remember to breathe, this will help you to stay focused and keep things in perspective. Cheers
 
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Joined Jan 15, 2013
Don't listen to anyone tell you that its not for you I had the exact same problems as you when I was starting out I even questioned whether I was cut out for it I even got fired from my first job. But I was passionate and persistent and I never gave up. Now I am seriously the cook chefs dream about having on staff. Find a mentor a fellow coworker a sous chef some one who will be patient and answer your questions I promise you things will work out.
 
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Joined Sep 3, 2012
You need to do what everybody else did roflcopter. Go to Line Cooking School. For me it was a pancake and pie place when I was 19 years old. I started where we all begin- making pancakes or some other menial task that led to another more difficult station that led to another more difficult station. At the pancake house if you were on the egg station, you were at the top! If I would have tried to get a job at anything besides an entry-level job I would have been laughed out of the place. Why? Because I didn't have line cooking experience. But after a year at the pancake place I was cooking the egg station and feeling comfortable and that eventually led to a job at a steakhouse that led to a job at a vegetarian restaurant that led to a job at an upscale fish place etc etc. So think about starting at some place that is set up to train you. Its not where you start that is important on your resume, its how you did when you were there and where your goals lie. Good luck in your endevours.
true dat!!!!!!!
 
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Joined Jan 19, 2013
I can Echo the statements of Line Cooking school and pantry work or even the dreaded fast food place that does nice volume and hopefully has at least a few in house made items.  Volume line cooking is the only way to get the tools you will need to properly run a kitchen some day, and anyone who skips this step pays for it later on.  Starting at the bottom in the dish room will teach you to work fast enough and the mental discipline/humility that you will need as you advance in the culinary profession.  The old school way means starting in the dish pit and working your way up.  All too often I see people advancing without doing their time and mastering each step along the way.  Ideally getting this early volume experience somewhere while in high school or shortly after before going to culinary school is something aspiring chefs should be told (although the culnary school commercials on TV wont echo this message).

A busy Subway can teach the required skill set for learning pantry or fry station. 

As a sous chef, executive chef, or really any supervisory or management position in the culinary industry any decent crew will out you if you don't have the experience or skill set that has been developed over time and practicing each stations set of skills for years until you get competent.  There are some people out there who are naturals and it doesn't take them as long.  That does not mean with hard work others can't catch up or even surpass those peoples careers.  Alot of things impact the careers of chefs and cooks.  If you have ever worked with a 40 plus year old broiler cook who masters his station and gets paid proportionally you realize the romantic ideas people have about kitchens are way way off.  We pay our broiler cook who is in his mid 30's 18/HR.  We also surpass 20 million in sales per year and have fish coming off that station that cost 20$/lb, and the broiler station accounts for approximately 38% of the food coming out of the kitchen based on item sales.  When you are doing 600-800 covers per night and that cook has nothing coming back maximum maybe two items per week are returned and those were cooked correctly 9/10 times and the server or guest just misordered.  Cooks like that get paid well for a good reason.  They earn it.  The point I am making is it is way too soon to judge your career.

I am a 35 year old sous chef who makes a good salary considering my benefits.  I attended a reputable culinary schol in my mid twenties and graduated with a A- average(which would have been better if not for a commute and full time broiler cook job).  I have over 20 years of professional kitchen experience- and when I go through training at new stations; whether it be for job change, or new restaurant opening, It takes a few shifts to get mediocre at each station.  I work hard at it and study outside of work.  I do mental practice.  It takes effort.  This is just to get decent.  I will most likely never master any station other than middle/expo/inside expo/wheel or whatever you want to call running the line at my current restaurant.  Saute and broiler are the toughest stations in most restaurants.  They require skill and experience.  They should be built up to over the course of years.  Respect these stations and the line as a whole.  But do not fear them.  Fear will only make you want to give up if you don't face it.

Find a kitchen that is busy and high volume wherever that may be(better to work in a super busy Mcdonalds than a dying steakhouse downtown doing fifty covers a night).  Start at the bottom.  Work hard and maintain a positive attitude while you do the shittiest most benign and dirty jobs the kitchen has to offer.  Smile while you do them.  You will be fine.  Also realize the team you work with is your one and only real resource to getting better.  Listen carefully to your trainers and take notes your first few days.  Watch what the good people do and compare that to the ones who get behind the fastest.  What are they doing differently?  What are you doing well and what are you missing?  Your first few jobs have been a nice taste of what you can look forward to once you earn it.  For now focus on earning respect by working your way up from the bottom.
 
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Joined Dec 19, 2012
Chefscott34 nailed it. I started as a dishwasher in a busy seafood steak turn and burn 20 years ago. At that time the broiler cooks were excons not aspiring chefs. They didn't care about anything but being able to handle the load. When I worked my way up to broiler in 4 years I was proud even though I had just finished high school and was heading to college in the fall. I couldn't see myself in them and I didn't think I would wind up a chef, but today I am thankful for what they taught me.

I guess I can sum it up like this, learn the work first then the artistry. I have friends that aren't chefs but they can write one hell of a menu and talk about what the big boys are working on. The thing they can't do is hold down eggs during brunch. That makes you a cook. Spotting talent and giving that talent the tools to hold down eggs so you can run the kitchen makes you a chef.
 
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Joined Feb 21, 2017
I just called a local restaurant,asking if they were hiring cooks,she asked how much experience i had,i told her i worked for a franchise for 4yrs as a area mgr,and i have been cooking for four years,she told me,no i dont have enough experince to work in her kitchen...why??? I am 25 and have 8yrs of experience in kitchens why dont i have enough experience???
 
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Joined Feb 21, 2017
We were all in the shit when we started. It's a right of passage. Grab ur balls and just try your best. Speed comes with experience and when it starts to come together for you it will feel great. Quiiting and failing should never be comsidered as viable options. It's not easy and u have to be prepared to work harder and longer than your peers to gain their respect. If u give it every ounce of your effort people will forgive mistakes.
 
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Joined Feb 17, 2010
If you called me looking for a job I would have told you no even if I did need someone. If you can't get off your ass and pound the pavement, that shows me that you are not serious.

Shower, put on clean clothes, comb your hair and pull up your pants, then bring me your resume. You just might get an interview.
 
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Joined Jun 23, 2015
We were all in the shit when we started. It's a right of passage. Grab ur balls and just try your best. Speed comes with experience and when it starts to come together for you it will feel great. Quiiting and failing should never be comsidered as viable options. It's not easy and u have to be prepared to work harder and longer than your peers to gain their respect. If u give it every ounce of your effort people will forgive mistakes.
"Grab ur balls" ? I hope you washed your hands afterwords. Spelling, good language, and proper writing come with study.  These skills are needed to communicate with employees, vendors, management, and customers,   
 
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Joined Feb 21, 2017
Why so pedantic? Are you American per chance? This is a forum so the use of colloquialisms was presumed acceptable. I am perfectly able to use proper English however I know many successful chefs who are not. It's not nearly as crucial as it would be in other professions. My opinion only.
 

kuan

Moderator
Staff member
7,116
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Joined Jun 11, 2001
Creative euphemisms only when all else fails please.
 
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Joined Oct 29, 2016
We were all in the shit when we started. It's a right of passage. Grab ur balls and just try your best. Speed comes with experience and when it starts to come together for you it will feel great. Quiiting and failing should never be comsidered as viable options. It's not easy and u have to be prepared to work harder and longer than your peers to gain their respect. If u give it every ounce of your effort people will forgive mistakes.
I have got to say, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes you know it in your heart but you just need to hear someone say it out loud. A chef doesn't give up!
 
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Joined Jun 28, 2016
Why so pedantic? Are you American per chance? This is a forum so the use of colloquialisms was presumed acceptable. I am perfectly able to use proper English however I know many successful chefs who are not. It's not nearly as crucial as it would be in other professions. My opinion only.
Yes, lol
 
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Joined Nov 18, 2016
To me the grill is not a place to start when you're new to the kitchen. i have NEVER seen a newbie on the grill in any place I worked, the cost of protein is just too high to fuck up... And Grill sets the pace for the whole kitchen.

I figure if they put a newbie on the grill the restaurant has issues. No one else wants to run the grill. why?

It's OK to fail, as long as you learn.

Like some other suggestions, try larder or pantry or whatever it's called where you work. Talk to yourself as you read the dockets. Talk to the crew. KNOW THE DOCKETS!
 
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Joined Mar 3, 2017
You need to pull yourself up and work closely with your company workers, if your station is slow help the other guy vice versa. Don't be afraid to ask for help and improve everyday, discipline yourself and focus and concentrate. Drink water, stretch, study the menu, firing times, work on mise en place.
 
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Joined Nov 11, 2012
 
To me the grill is not a place to start when you're new to the kitchen. i have NEVER seen a newbie on the grill in any place I worked, the cost of protein is just too high to fuck up... And Grill sets the pace for the whole kitchen.

I figure if they put a newbie on the grill the restaurant has issues. No one else wants to run the grill. why?
Exactly what I was thinking when I read the OP.

I've worked in places like that.  Whats going on is they are going rock bottom on labor costs--10 to 14 percent, no joke--they are looking for the guys who can run half a line at once, so they can have 2 cooks on instead of 5.  Its more of a natural skill than something that can be taught, its a manner of thinking and working that comes naturally to some but not to most.  So if they can't do it after a few weeks then they aren't going to ever, and if thats all you are looking for in your staff well then theres no point in keeping them on any longer.  This generally isn't an avenue to a successful kitchen however, but when the area manager is complaining that your 12% labor cost is too high you know its the kitchen staff thats going to get cut.

But to the OP, I know this is years after the fact, but don't take that personally.  They were looking for a robot, not a cook.  Some people can work like that, but most can't.  And that kind of work will burn you out faster than anything, mentally and physically.
 

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