Kitchen Rules to Live By, and more...
Depending on the chef you are, there are no shortage of rules that we come up with for working in the kitchen. Generally speaking there are a dozen or so that transcend the chef as a person and are universal to almost every professional kitchen. Here's our list... what say you?
- Live by the List - there is nothing more sacred that the list. You do not alter the list, you do not ignore the list. The list is your holy book for the time you are here.
- Don't mess with my Mise - Service lives or dies by the mise, the result of hours of mincing, chopping, measuring and organizing products so they are at hand when on order. In the heat and stress of service often there is no time to "look" where you are reaching - my mise better be where I put it.
- Don't touch my knife... - there are a dozen ways to finish this, most of them NSFW (unless of course you work in a kitchen). This is my knife, there are many like it but this is mine... this creed borrowed from the Marines about sums it up. Don't ever borrow a chef's knife.
- You work every bit as hard as you party - A hangover is no excuse! Still a little wasted after a night out but have to work brunch - you better show. And you better give it 100%. This is not a job you can "slack off" for the day because you overdid it last night - even if, or more accurately - especially if - you were with the boss.
- 3 ways - the right way, the wrong way, and Oui Chef. You may or may not have learned it 100 different ways - in school, at your last job, or the way your grandmother did it does not matter. Chef's way is THE way, and you need to get used to it fast.
- Label, Date. Label, Date. Label. Date - everything. Nothing gets put away without it's name and the date made as well as the date it needs to be tossed written legibly on whatever medium the chef has provided. Rule 6B. You never don't have a Sharpie... how else do you plan to Label, Date everything?
- If its metal, its hot. Hell, if its wood, its hot. Everything is hot. This is why you never hear a chef or cook complain about getting a burn - he should have known better. That isn't a battle scar, its proof of a rookie mistake.
- F.I.F.O. - nope, not a giant at the top of a bean stalk. It's what you live by when putting away stock, mise, prep or back ups. First In, First Out. Margins are slim in the industry and one batch of expensive prep that isn't used in time because it was behind the new stuff could be the difference in bonuses or lay-offs... yeah, its that serious.
- You start it - you own it. Catching a smoke while the bacon is in the oven is a dangerous endeavor. Many chefs actually can time their prep by the time it takes to puff one down, wash their hands and get back just seconds before their meticulous prep turns into a burnt mess.. You start it... you finish it. No excuses.
- Burn it - Clean it. KPs are one of the most abused, but important positions in the kitchen (FYI - a dishwasher is a piece of equipment, not a position). He or she has enough shit to do without fixing your mistake. This is an addition to the rule above - you still own it until it is back to usable condition.
- Communicate, don't talk. Kitchens are terrible busy and usually quite cramped. I would rather add a piece of equipment than a walkway. This means you better over communicate with everyone. The difference is talking is noice clutter - keep that out back or at staff meal. One word usually will suffice. Examples include: HOT, SHARP, BEHIND, CORNER, OVEN, FIRE, etc.
- Speak like you mean it. As much as they are cramped, kitchens are loud. Fans, ovens, fire and running water all add up to a beautiful chorus of a busy service. But when its time to communicate, you better speak up like you own the moment. Don't yell, don't scream, just be heard.
What did we miss? There are thousands of unwritten rules to life in the kitchen. Let us know your universal kitchen rules in the comments below.
- Chef Adam Scott