A LINE COOK’S “FOOD FOR THOUGHT”

Painted in Waterlogue

With all that is going on in the world it is understandable that people have many unanswered questions. We seek answers to questions from the time we are born – some remain unanswered or poorly addressed for some time and others may never satisfy our need to “know”. As I contemplated the larger issues that are before us, I couldn’t help but reflect on those questions that I, and many other cooks and chefs, have that make us scratch our heads in wonder. I pose them here and continue to seek some words of wisdom that would shed light on the perplexing questions that seem to get in our way on a daily basis.

[] WHY IS IT THAT THOSE WHO ARE NOT COOKS THINK THAT OUR PERSONAL TOOLS ARE THERE FOR ANYONE’S USE?

There isn’t a cook anywhere who hasn’t wondered about this dilemma. When a server grabs your $200 Henkel French knife to cut a lemon on a stainless table without a cutting board we are ready to turn into combat warriors.

[] WHY IS IT THAT REASONABLY INTELLIGENT PEOPLE ARE UNABLE TO STACK PLATES IN AN ORGANIZED FASHION AT THE DISH DROP OFF?

Check it out during your next shift. How hard can it be – really?

[] WHY IS IT THAT CUSTOMER TIME AND REALITY NEVER SEEM TO MATCH?

It seems that many guests interpret a ten-minute actual wait time as a half hour. Just read a few Yelp reviews to see how common this is. My guess is that after years of marriage or a business relationship with the person across the table, there is little or nothing left to talk about. Time slows down very rapidly in those situations.

[] WHY IS IT THAT PEOPLE TEND TO GRAB THE SALT SHAKER BEFORE THEY EVEN TASTE THE FOOD THAT YOU HAVE PREPARED?

Saltshaker’s elbow is a disease that plagues the dining public.

[] WHY IS IT THAT EQUIPMENT ALWAYS SEEMS TO BREAK DOWN AT 5 P.M. ON A SATURDAY?

Who says that equipment can’t think? I believe that your dishwashing machine is planning a coup against your operation right now. Either that or your repair service has programmed it to only fail when they are able to charge time and a half.

[] WHY IS IT THAT YOUNG COOKS ARE UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND THAT A WET SIDE TOWEL AND A HOT PAN ARE NOT A GOOD COMBINATION?

Steam burns are probably the most common in kitchens.

“Common sense is like deodorant. Those who need it most never use it.”

-Author unknown-

[] HOW IS IT THAT POT WASHERS CAN THINK NOTHING OF STACKING POTS AND PANS ON THE CLEAN RACK THAT ARE STILL SLICK WITH GREASE?

Have you ever reached for a “clean” pot or pan only to have it slide out of your hand? A better question is “how many times has this happened to you today?”

[] WHY IS IT THAT A CUSTOMER WILL ORDER A BEAUTIFUL 12-OUNCE, DRY AGED, USDA PRIME STEAK, AND ASK FOR IT WELL DONE?

Really people, if it has to be well done, then order something else – like a cardboard box, or maybe dry cereal – not a $50 steak.

[] WHY IS IT THAT THE LINEN VENDOR FINDS IT PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE TO SEND YOU UNIFORMS AND TABLE CLOTHS THAT ARE STAINED, TORN, OR POORLY IRONED?

So much for quality control.

[] WHY IS IT THAT PRODUCE VENDORS FAILS TO CHECK THE QUALITY OF THE INGREDIENTS SENT TO YOU, YET FULLY EXPECTS TO BE PAID FOR THEIR SERVICES?

Their method of operation must be that the furry strawberries and rotten potatoes belong on the bottom. Somehow this garbage produce slips by their meticulous quality screening.

[] WHY IS THAT NO MATTER HOW MANY SHEET PANS OR 2-INCH HOTEL PANS YOU BUY – THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH?

You would think that 100 sheet pans would be enough. Sometimes they just grow legs and walk away.

[] WHY IS IT THAT THE POINT OF SALE PRINTER ALWAYS RUNS OUT OF PAPER AT THE PEAK OF THE DINNER RUSH?

This is yet another example of the machine world getting back at us. This could be a perfect Stephen King novel.

[] HOW CAN IT BE, THAT AFTER ALL OF THESE YEARS, WHEN ASKED TO FETCH A BUCKET OF STEAM – NEW COOKS ALWAYS RUSH TO FIND THE SOURCE?

This is another example of common sense not being so common.

[] WHY IS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT A PAN OF ALMONDS OR PIGNOLI NUTS IN THE OVEN WITHOUT BURNING THEM?

This one always frustrated me. Am I the only one that can’t seem to get this right?

[] WHY DO WE TEND TO BURN OURSELVES OR CUT A FINGER AT THE BUSIEST TIME OF THE NIGHT, ON THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR, AT A STATION FULL OF ACTIVE ORDERS?

We live with pain, but at least we should be able to time it better.

[] WHY IS IT THAT NO MATTER HOW FULLY EXHAUSTED YOU ARE AT THE END OF A SHIFT – THERE IS ALWAYS A NEW BURST OF ENERGY WHEN SOMEONE SAYS – “LET’S GRAB AN AFTER SHIFT DRINK.”

Ah…it is hard to find a line cook who is barley able to drag his or her ass to the locker room at the end of a 12-hour day who would refuse that after work drink or two.

[] WHY IS IT THAT THIS BUSINESS WITH CRAZY HOURS, UNPREDICTABLE SCHEDULES, INSANELY HOT WORKING ENVIRONMENTS, UNPREDICTABLE BUSINESS, RELENTLESS HOURS ON YOUR FEET, AND STRESS ON THE SAME LEVEL AS A AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER, IS STILL THE BUSINESS THAT WE LOVE?

This is the most perplexing question. With all of its faults – working in restaurant kitchens is a passion and a job that invigorates as much as it frustrates.

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

Harvest America Ventures, LLC

Restaurant Consulting and Training

“Be something special – be a cook or chef.”

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