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Painted in Waterlogue

There are numerous questions that every line cook would like to ask, but since they know that answers will never be forthcoming, they simply wind up stored on that subconscious shelf. Many of these questions can be categorized as “ironic” realities while others are simply perplexing anomalies to the food business that end up being “deal with it” issues.

Anyway, since I don’t have the answers either, I thought that the least I could do was put them to print hoping that someone might be able to solve the mysteries and come up with definitive solutions to those things that keep a line cooks life uniquely challenging.

[]         Why is it that when a line cook burns him/herself they get angry rather than wallow in the pain? We get angry because we know it will slow us down.

[]         Why is it that a line cooks first reaction when they cut themselves is to get embarrassed and hope that no one else notices?

[]         Why is it that tongs (our most important tool on the line) always seem to disappear?

[]         Why is it that owners never seem to understand why every line cook really needs 20 dry side towels for every shift?

[]         Why is it that the item in a cook’s mise en place that is in the shortest supply is always the item that is ordered the most?

[]         Why is it that the night before your busiest day of business is always the night that a cook can’t seem to get to sleep?

[]         Why is it that the 10 top that made a reservation for 6 p.m. to help avoid your rush is always an hour late?

[]         Why does the dishwasher always call out on the busiest night and always 30 minutes before his or her shift is scheduled to start?

[]         Why does equipment always break down on weekends and holidays when repair service is impossible to get?

[]         Why does that silent investors in the restaurant feel that the menu never applies to them and that it is their right to order anything unusual right when the dining room is packed?

[]         Why do servers insist on ignoring the emotional connection you have to your knives and grab that $300 Shun French Knife when you are not looking so that they can cut lemons on a stainless table without a cutting board?

[]         Why do servers insist on pushing an order out of sequence and then when it is plated and in the pass you can never find anyone to pick it up?

[]         Why do cooks schedules seem to change daily so that you are never able to plan anything outside of work?

[]         Why can cooks never seem to find the perfect shoes for work?

[]         Why is it that adverse weather conditions close schools and most businesses except your restaurant?

[]         Why is it that restaurants never seem to consider benefits as an important part of keeping great cooks on their team roster?

[]         Why is it that staff meal is typically a messy sandwich consumed in 5 minutes while still working at your station?

[]         Why don’t employers understand that $15 per hour is not a livable wage for a line cook?

[]         Why is it that a cooks schedule for the day is always up for interpretation? A schedule might read 2 – close, meaning that you really should be in by 12:30 and no one has any idea when you will finish.

[]         Why is it that given the nebulous nature of a cooks schedule as stated above, restaurant owners still complain about paying overtime?

It’s hard to say whether or not all of these questions are unique, in some way, to the restaurant business, but they are real. Every cook that I know feels the need to ask these questions but they generally stop before asking, because this is just the way it is. Interesting, isn’t it? What are your unanswered questions?


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