Starting any new job is daunting, but starting in a new job in a professional kitchen can come with a whole host of new challenges.
From putting classroom and college training into practice and negotiating the layout of a professional kitchen to working in a team and communicating effectively, there’s a lot a newcomer will need to put into practice in the kitchen, and quickly.
As any new cook will know, it’s best to hit the ground running if you are to earn the respect of the team and maximise learning potential in what can be a fast-paced and intense work environment.
Fortunately, professional chef Paul Sorgule, who spent nearly five decades working in professional kitchens, has a list of tips designed to help new starters on what to expect on day one in the kitchen on his Harvest America Ventures blog.
Check out each of the tips below, and be sure to visit his blog where he expands on each point.
What to Expect on Day One in a Kitchen
GET THE LAY OF THE LAND
It is your responsibility as a cook to find out where and how items are stored, how the equipment works, who to go to for specific needs, how needs are relayed to the person responsible, and the general system of operation that a kitchen relies on day in and day out.
UNNECESSARY QUESTIONS ARE NOT WELCOME
There is a commonly used adage that “no question is a dumb question”. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
PERSONAL TOOLS ARE VERY PERSONAL
This still remains one of the most important rules in the kitchen to learn – a cook or chef’s personal tools are his or her personal tools. DON’T TOUCH THEM, DON’T LET OTHERS TOUCH THEM, DON’T EVEN ASK – STAY AWAY!
IT’S ALL ABOUT MISE EN PLACE
Everyone in the kitchen knows that mise en place is the foundation for success and those who are not organized, not ready – will bring down the rest of the group.
CLEAN AS YOU GO
Efficient cooks work clean. You can look at a cook’s station and know immediately if they are capable of handling a busy, stressful night.
WASTED MOVEMENT WEARS THIN ON EVERYONE
Wasted steps wear you out – plan to avoid them.
LET THEM KNOW WHERE YOU ARE
Professional cooks always announce their presence to avoid collisions: “behind, corner, hot, heads up, lifting, or knocking when entering or leaving a walk-in cooler – all of these cures are critical steps in keeping a kitchen safe.
KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS
It is the cook’s responsibility to know the ingredients he or she works with. Study and inquire early on, but make sure that product ID becomes your new language.
KNOW YOUR COOKING METHODS and PROCESSES
If you know how to braise- you can braise anything; if you know how to grill-you can grill anything, and if you know how to finish a sauce monte au beurre – then it is second nature to do so.
PRIORITIZE YOUR WORK
Set your prep sheet up in this manner – make it a habit.
RESPECT EVERYONE’S SPACE
When a cook identifies his or her work area then respect it and stay behind your own line of demarcation.
WORK FAST, BUT DON’T SACRIFICE QUALITY
Act like your life depends on getting everything done.
LEARN THE CHAIN OF COMMAND
The kitchen chain of command (brigade) dates back to the days of Escoffier. Of most importance is that cooks understand and respect the chain of command.
TRUST IS EARNED – IT IS NOT A GIVEN
Trust is based on how you act, perform, and respect others in the moment. Trust must be earned again, and again – every day. Without trust the kitchen comes to a standstill.
TAKE NOTES – REMAIN A STUDENT
Keep a small spiral notebook in your pocket. Write down what you learn every day – no mater how small – write it down.
EVERY PLACE DOES THINGS DIFFERENTLY
“When In Rome – Do as The Romans Do.” As time goes by you may be able to offer your personal ideas and experiences, and then – feel free. But today you are working in Rome.