What is so wrong with "Old School Tactics"?


Joined Oct 12, 2009
:rolleyes: I see so many kitchens being built in what I would call a closet.
They build a dinning room to seat 150-200 people then build a kitchen
like it was for a coffee shop. Not realizing if the dinning room ever filled up
the kitchen could not handle it. After all that is why they bought 150-200 chairs.
The object of every chef is fill the house with diners that love his style of cooking.
But in most cases the management designs the menu to fit the atmosphere
then purchases the cheapest equipment that the restaurant supply house has
and most of the time has no idea what equipment is needed for the menu.
Then they go looking for a chef and place an ad for "all positions available" in the paper.
And then they wonder why they are not in business next year.
A Chef is only as good as the equipment and staff will let him be regardless what
he has on his resume. Unless they duplicate the equipment and staff he had at one
house he can not do it over in the next house.
In "The Old School" the kitchen was almost the same size as the dinnig room
and sometimes bigger in Country Clubs. With the best equipment money could buy.
If your mixer has a belt drive and your oven has a metal oven burner instead of
cast iron you can believe it was made to sell not to last. And they call us "Old School Chefs"
Well, I for one am proud we knew what we were doing.:thumb:
Joined Sep 29, 2009
I could not agree more. I've seen kitchens where, if the dining room were full, in the weeds would not cover the description. Time to shut it down is more like it.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
I was the only cook at the cafe and when it was busy in the summertime, I would have a rail full of orders and then a pile waiting to go up when I had a chance. The original owner designed the kitchen around the menu so I did have the proper equipment to produce the food, but the one thing he didn't take into account was that in the summer months our seating doubled becasue we had the patio and there was not enough room for a second cook in the kitchen as it was that small.
Joined Apr 3, 2006
I can totally relate to that. My benchtop, when I'm not doing service, is a freezer. And i'd have to lift up my board everytime someone needs to get some stuff out. The cool room (or reach in i think you guys call it) is so tiny, only one person can fit in when it's full (we also have to store the milk crates for the FOH). Our larder fridge stops working every 3-4 hours, and the owner's priority now is to get a prettier looking cake fridge, and new furniture for the restaurant :/.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
It's not "oldschool" way of thinking, it's just that the culinary scene is flooded with non-professionals.

Face it, If I were to design a 200 seat place, I'd get a restaurant designer involved--NOT an inferior defecator, but a restaurant designer. Most of the time this fee is covered if you purchase a percentage of the equipment from the restauarnt supply house. The kitchen I could competantly lay out, I do have knowledge of all the codes, but I'd be stumped when it comes to the dining room.

Most new places only look at seating capacity, then worry about the kitchen only after they've hired a Chef and s/he states that there's no way he can produce with what he's given.

I distinctly remember a certain 5 star hotel in Singapore, it had a revolving restaurant on the 24 floor. It wasn't untill the Exec. CHef had been hired that he remarked it must be a large bar, becasue it didn't have a kitchen! In the end they put a tiny finishing kitchen in the motor room, and freighted everything up via a freight elevator. It's not a revolving restaurant

People want cheap, we'll give you cheap, and all equipment mnfctgrs do have a "cheap line" and most have a "hotel" or "better quality" line. Smart people know better and buy durable.
Joined May 29, 2006
It is not old school tactics, it's idiocy. Im old school and the kitchen came first. I took away any and every exuse they could give me why something got screwed up. They had any equip they wanted and plenty of it plenty of freezer and fridge space, work tables, stoves, ovens etc. Clean Uniforms. Good ventilation and even air conditioning for kitchen.
No Excvuses allowed Do it right and make it good.
Joined Sep 26, 2009
10 years ago I worked as head chef for an Italian Restaurant in Cambridge that was next to the River Cam, a shallow stream that 100's punt down in flat bottom boats, very touristy! During the winter our capacity was about 100 covers which was fine as we had a small kitchen and one tiny walk-in fridge. During the summer the outdoor tables appeared and our capacity doubled! Talk about chaos, we would have 30/40 tickets on for 6-10 hours straight, we had no room to prep during service so occasioanlly we would have to close the kitchen for an hour to re-stock, the walk-in was an absolute nightmare that was stuffed to the ceiling.....never again I told myself.:look:

P.S. It wasn't all bad as I met my wife there:thumb:
Joined Dec 23, 2004
As always, you nailed it, Ed. It's often simple incompetence. It's also sometimes a costing measure the bean counters come up with- to them, dining room real estate generates dollars and the BOH sucks money up. Expectations are often so low where food quality is concerned that the kitchen is an afterthought. It's like a credit card company- the collections reps get big bucks, bonuses, etc because they generate money. Customer service is considered an expense.


Joined Oct 12, 2009
:rolleyes: That's generally where the problem starts. The restaurant supply houses want to sell the equipment that they make the highest commission or profit on and not which
equipment will last longest. After all they are in the selling business. That why they will design it free. They all say the same thing "This will be your equipment, The Chefs
may come and go." Well the reason they come and go is because the kitchen wasn't designed to produce that Menu for that seating capacity. And it's usually too expensive to redesign. That's why they usually fail and the restaurant supply houses get to do it all over again for the next owner.
As an Experienced Chef and Consultant I am asked many times to analize the problem
as to why the previous restaurant failed and it is always the same.
You can build a restaurant anywhere but, the Menu is only as good as the equipment you buy and the people you hire to use it. It's the most expensive lesson an owner ever learns, because most think they already know all they need to know about the food business.:thumb:
Joined Aug 27, 2009
The restaurant I work at (in a casino) has a main floor and an upstairs seating area. Our kitchen has a tiny walk-in cooler and freezer that are usually filled with speed racks so that if you need anything you have to pull one of the racks out. We also have another walk-in cooler & freezer in the basement that we share with the high limit room and the employee dining room that we always have to watch for them using our product. In between the top floor and the basement is a very slow elevator that besides us going to the basement to get more product and FOH taking orders upstairs, is used by everyone from housekeeping to the IT Dept. to anyone coming or going to lunch. Also there are no restrooms on the main floor, only on the top floor and the basement. So a "quick trip" to the bathroom takes about five minutes. And this was a restaurant that supposedly was designed by the chefs at our casino.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
That's only part of what I wrote, I also wrote that I am fully capable of doing the kitchen myself, and have done so with both of the businesses I owned/currently own in Vancouver. Dining room design is where I don't want to go. To layout a kitchen you need practical experience, good knowledge of the various codes, and good knowledge of the equipment and thier characteristics.

When I visit other kitchens it's easy to see if a restaurant supply house "did" a kitchen, and I usually smile. Yes, they like to sell equipment, and it shows: Sufficient refrigeration, good dishwasher AND tabling, adequate ventilation, handsinks, toilets located within 50 feet, etc. It's true, they don't design around a menu, but they do try for flexibility.

Where the problem starts is when the owner sees the quotes and starts to "trim down". Whatever the customer doesn't see gets trimmed, and the kitchen is the first place to start. One of the most expensive pieces of infrastructure is the ventilation system, and this is one area you can't cheat--or you don't get occupancy or a business license. Many newbie restauranteurs get fatigued after paying for the infrastructure costs, and then end up buying residential appliances and equipment for the kitchen.

Like I said, it all boils down to experience, and face it, here in N.America, all you need is money to open up a place. l


Joined Oct 12, 2009
:rolleyes: Granted, not all Chefs are intelligent enough to design a kitchen. I have seen some "so called chefs" that could not make a soup without a recipe. But the problem of split-level kitchen is building design and not the kitchen lay-out out of equipment. I have had the misfortune of working in one kitchen where the walk-ins were not on the same floor as the kitchen and I said NEVER AGAIN. It's up to the owner to find out if his Chef has ever designed a kitchen before or has has worked in enough kitchens to lay-out a functioning kitchen. They are not universal to any type of menu. Most owners think they know it all, or don't care about the kitchen design.
Joined Oct 18, 2007
I've been involved in a few start ups, and they have all been handled the same, typical way.
Owners bring in a consultant/designer, get it all built, then bring in the Chef, and the equipment doesn't fit the needs of the restaurant.
Chef has to eliminate some equipment, bring in others.
I was once told the kitchen was already to go, and upon inspection I asked where their cold tables were.
They didn't have any idea what I was talking about.
I said "you know, to hold the items you need to build omelettes, sauces a'la minute, etc.".
They said "well, there's a standing reach-in refrigerator down there", pointing about 20 feet away from the line.
I asked if they really expected the cook to run that far, put ingredients for one dish in a bowl, then run back and make the dish, etc. etc. etc.
Of course we then purchased the appropriate equipment.

I've even seen it translate out of the kitchen.
One hotel built a really nice decorative wall across the front of the property, eliminating one entryway.
This entryway was a straight shot to the receiving area.
Once on board, I asked if they really wanted a large truck weaving it's way through the guests cars in serpentine fashion.
They had to reopen that entryway, sending good money after bad.

I really wish the Chef was brought aboard sooner, but it always seems to come down to money, and they think they are saving money by waiting until the last minute to put this (hopefully) highly paid person in place.
Joined Sep 5, 2007
"A Chef is only as good as the equipment and staff will let him be regardless what
he has on his resume."-OP

I kinda have to disagree here.. First off, a "Chef" can assess his situation and adapt his methods, he is not merely as good as his equipment. Sometimes you have to take what you get as far as a kitchen goes, I've had fantastic "fine dinning" meals at a place that had 3 propane catering burners, a convection oven and one 48 inch sandwich prep fridge -and the place was packed. I've had an oven fail at a private dinner and had to heat a cast iron skillet, red hot, and place it over a frittata to melt cheese. Ever do a food demo, and their idea of a kitchen is a two burner camp stove -and you have to do appetizers for 100? My last restaurant had a 6 top stove with conventional oven beneath and a convection oven to the side. Thats it. It was little more than a galley built in the 30s -we used a table top "nemco" pasta boiler and we turned out 130 covers regularly, and not just slopping pasta on plates mind you, pan seared veal chops, roasted quail -you name it.

It's a luxurious thought to me to imagine "designing" a kitchen. Us small restauranteurs have to often take what we can get, usually there is little budget to to major remodeling. You simply have to craft a menu to fit your circumstances, and prep accordingly. Sure, a two man line is going to go down with a 100 seat place unless they are pulling it all off the steam table, but I'm just defending the ingenuity of true "Chefs" they are not merely as good as their kitchen equipment and space, they rise above, out think the situation and pull off amazing feats everyday -
That is what defines a "chef" not staff nor kitchen.

-c'mon, Escoffier could pull of banquets for fifty with a fireplace and a wood table, THAT'S OLD-SCHOOL!

BTW, I'm opening my next place this March, and check out La Lucciola Supper Club -- Santa Fe, New Mexico to see how I'm raising capitol..


Joined Oct 12, 2009
:rolleyes: Escoffier wasn't being paid $60,000+ per year to feed 50 people either.
It's that type of thinking that causes 90% of new food business to fail.
Chef are not magicians. Chefs do not preform miracles.
A chef/owner may be able to work with limited equipment.
But if you hire a Chef don't expect him to work for an optomistic future of your business growth. He pays his expenses every month regardless of your high hopes.
I have served banquets of over 5,000 and believe me that takes a lot of equipment.
Good Luck if you think you can survive with 3 propane burners, a convection oven
and a 48in. sandwich prep fridge. ("We will see you at the auction"):thumb:
Joined Sep 5, 2007
Actually, that place has been around for over ten years and still remains one of the best Restaurants in Seattle.

Clearly, I've never been a Chef for a hotel group or any other type of corporate gig. I've been a Chef/Owner at small places (30 -50 seats), and mostly always worked at small-boutique-ish, upper-end places. So I'm sure I have no idea the hardships it must bring to merely have 12 burners, two fryers, tilt skillets, steam kettles, a bank of ovens and multiple walk-ins

I understand the point your making with your post, but don't be so quick to write off your skills as a Chef, there's more to this than just a big staff, big kitchen and doing 100+ covers a night.

BTW, most great Chefs I know ARE magicians, ever seen Daniel Boulud work?
Joined Oct 10, 2005
I made things work with a minimum of equipment, and yes, it gave me a great feeling of satisfaction of acomplishing the allmost-impossible.

Cramming and organizing all perishables needed for a 50 seater in a 48" undercounter does work, but after a few years of doing so I came to a conclusion:
More energy was expended in cramming and oraganizing said fridge then was actually warranted. You also pi** off your suppliers......

I am handy with my hands and have been known to repalce a 55 gal greasetrap AFTER Sat. night service, replace thermostats and thermo-couplers, JB-weld the condensate drip pan to said 48" cooler. And I came to a conclusion:
More energy was expended in fixing objects and scavenging parts and time for repairs then was warranted.

Owner too cheap to replace the hose on the spray gun at the dishpit? It can be repaired with hose clamps and bicycle innertubes--for a while. Then more time and energy is expended in another repair. The freaking hose only costs $25.00 No one's saving any money in the long-run.

Don't get me wrong, I learned alot from repairs and such and have applied these lessons in virtually every decision I make regarding equipment, repairs, and maintainence.

If you want to do the job right, you need the right tools to get the job done.

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