Struggling as a line cook.

Joined Sep 22, 2018
Hello everybody, first post here. I guess I should start off with my experience: I worked as Dishwasher/Prep at a nicer quality, not-so-busy restaurant for about two years. I did well as a prep-cook, but have always been forgetful. I would often forget to throw appetizers in the oven. They allowed me to have some pantry experience, but i was constantly kicked off for being too slow.Fast forward a few months, I worked as a fryer cook while going to culinary school in Oregon, I have about a month left of culinary school. It was a corporate restaurant, that would have decently busy dinner rushes. I did alright there, but really lacked speed and efficiency. Now I am working at a very high paced restaurant that is well known in the area. I started off as a prep cook and they quickly have moved me to grill (mostly flat top, but small gas grill that is about a foot wide. Plus two fryer baskets. ) since the line cooks thought I was doing a great job on prep.I have been on grill for a month now, and am struggling. The morning rush is very busy, but my station is easy to do in the morning, only having to plate toasted biscuits, and cook pancakes+french toast. I can do it efficiently without problems . At lunch time i will grab two pieces of bread, put sauce and cheese on them, put them on the flattop. Then let my protein cook right next to it, when it is done I put it together, and put it in a holding oven. When the back expo tells me to sell it, I cut it in half(drop fries if need be) put it on a plate and put it in the window. When its very busy, ill likely have 4 or 5 sandwiches down, 2 pancakes down, and perhaps a sausage being browned on the flattop. With perhaps a piece of meat or two on the grill (hamburger or salmon cut). When it comes time to sell, the bun is usually ready with all the toppings on it on the cutting board. But when lunch comes around I go downhill. The cooks do a great job of taking care of me, and since the expos are great they really don't let any plates go out with mistakes. I have a hard time memorizing 4+ calls (no ticket machine on my side, line works together as a team and listens to the calls.), I constantly forget certain ingredients (specially modifications such as Rueben, no sauce), and I often don't have meals ready or even fired when it comes time to "sell". The cooks do a good job of making sure I have things fired, but I frustrate them by constantly having to say "nope! I don't have that fired yet". The lunch gets busy enough to where someone will jump on grill with me, cutting and plating the sandwiches that I have prepared on the flat top. They all have to baby me, and it frustrates me. Not that they don't trust to let me work alone, but that I suck so bad that they have to baby me. Today was open of the worse days I've had, I should have this down it has been a month. And its like I could barely think, I was overwhelmed within a few orders, and regrettably lost my temper I little bit when one of the cooks told me that my lunch pancakes were coming out undercooked. I shouldn't have argued but I was just so upset with my self and overwhelmed by the speed at which we were going. Even worse I'm going to culinary school, so I should be somewhat capable of doing my job. I feel like I sound like a broken record constantly apologizing to my lead line cook at then end of the day for my performance. Its not that I don't lack the motivation to work, I get there early everyday, I truly try my hardest. But I just come up short so much, and almost everyday I'm going home mad at myself and embarrassed. The line cooks always tell me at the end of the day that its fine and ill get the hang of it but I feel f***ing stupid. All I want is to be able to do my job efficiently.

Any advice is appreciated. Sorry for the rant just had to vent.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
Welcome to CT. First of all, be happy you have understanding and helpful coworkers. In many places the front line isn't like that. When it is, it's like an Symphony with every member hitting every note. When you worry about something as much as you are, it puts to much pressure on you. You wind up dreading when the busy time comes. A person who worked in this business and is proficient at working the line welcomes the rush of adrenaline. Watching and working on a well tuned front line is fun and exciting. I've seen two good cooks that work well together do the job of four.
That being said, talk with your coworkers and tell them your struggling and ask for their help in getting better. I think you are getting flustered and lack the confidence right now. Just because your going to Culinary school doesn't give you much advantage on working the front line of a busy restaurant.
Don't try going from one to ten on getting better. All you need to do right now is just get a little bit better every night. Don't put to much pressure on yourself. Go in today and try to relax and not get flustered. When you build up your confidence a bit everyday you will start to get proud of your achievements.......Good Luck.......ChefBillyB
Joined Mar 1, 2017
First off, welcome to CT! :)

There is only 1 rule in this business and its a harsh rule: this life is not for everyone. But, the good news is you are the person who gets to make that decision.

If you are having issues with your station, ask the cooks with more experience for some advice in terms of what you can do to improve your efficiency.

If you are having trouble remembering orders, then, obviously you need to work on that. Figure out a system to help you remember. Write down the orders if you have to. Its better to take a little longer and get the orders right than be fast and get them wrong. Naturally, you want to be both fast and accurate. With practice and persistence, that will happen.

Good luck. :)
Joined Sep 26, 2017
You need to find yourself a studying buddy; someone with the knowledge of the menu would be ideal, but not crucial.

Let your buddy call out the orders, then you go through all the steps verbally.

Start with something simple and only move to something more complicated once you nailed the simple stuff 100%.

For example, your buddy would call for an order of toasted BLT, and you would say something like: grab 3 rashers of bacon - fry the bacon - grab 2 pieces of bread - toast the bread - grab a tomato - cut the tomato - grab 2 leaves of lettuce - take the toast off the grill - spread with mayo - top with lettuce, tomato, and bacon - cut in half - put on a plate.
Joined Mar 8, 2015
I agree with Pat Pat about getting a study buddy. Sounds like your co workers want you to "get it" so having the BLT exercise is a good idea. Did you see the Michael Keeton movie about McDonalds. He had a good idea in acting out the motions without having anything there but chalk/tape lines. Everyone learns in a different manner, (kindergarten teacher in me) So this method will help kinesthetic learners. For visual hint that an order is modified, write it on a colored post it. that way you know when you get to that order something is different. You can do it. Good luck.
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