If each restaurant were a play, the servers would fill the lead roles, memorize the lines, put on all the makeup and wear the shiny clothes, giving off the impression that they are the stars of the show. This is far from the truth. Servers may be the ones to dazzle you and cater to your needs but behind every good server is an even better cook. Remember the people in plays who wear all black and do all of the heavy lifting and behind-the-scenes work when the lights are low? The people who don’t have any lines and don’t get much credit? In the restaurant world these people are the chefs and line cooks and should be considered the real stars of the dinner production. Check out what a day in the shoes of a chef looks like:
9 a.m.The morning cook opens up the restaurant around 9 a.m., makes a fresh pot of coffee and gets straight to work. The list of things to do is long: Make cheesecake, prepare crab stuffed mushrooms, fillet the fish, cook the prime rib, weigh and portion the crab legs, make a raspberry sauce for the cheesecake, throw together a soup of the day, make sure there will be enough food for dinner service, etc. And often all of these tasks are being done while cooking food for lunch service. Multitasking at its finest.
2:30 p.m.By mid-afternoon the restaurant is closed for lunch. At this time, the server on a double (working lunch and dinner) will have the cook prepare them something to eat and go on their merry way to enjoy their break. The cook, however, gets to stay inside the restaurant, on his or her feet, and continue to prepare for dinner service. The worst part is that after preparing the ongoing list of food, the cook probably isn’t even hungry. Imagine that, a cook who doesn’t eat. Its not uncommon.
Dinner service When 4 p.m. rolls around, most of the food for the day has been prepared and the cooks begin to gear up for happy hour. For six hours the ticket machine does not stop. The rush begins when the famished 9-to-5’ers stroll in for cocktails and half-priced appetizers. Once the bar is full, the overflow travels into the dining room to enjoy dinner, drinks and good service.
A full restaurant is great! But for a two-man kitchen there is barely time to breathe. Pans are sizzling, all eight burners are going, food is being plated, dishes are clashing and the grill is searing hot. If you’re the one cooking, you better expect to be burned at least once a night. And you better be a master at managing your pain because there is no time to apply burn cream in the middle of a dinner rush.
As mentioned before, all cooks on the line have to be good at multitasking and, of course, listening. I can’t tell you how many times I (the server) have run up to the kitchen and said “Woopsie, forgot to tell you that plate needs to be split,” “No blue cheese on that fillet mignon,” “Can you please sauté spinach for the veg on this dish?” “Can I have a side of sour cream, please?” “There cannot be butter on any of this dish,” and those are just a few requests/orders from one server. Multiply this by five, and then we’re talking. Ah, the life of a cook.
At the end of the night I think of the endless requests I put in to the kitchen, and I am always amazed that everything is taken care of kindly and in a timely manner – and they aren’t even working for a tip. Now that is five-star service.
Closing timeFinally, the clock strikes 10 p.m. and it is time to lock the doors. A sigh of relief leaves the kitchen as the cooks step outside to get their nicotine fix before disassembling the line. After six hours of constant work, it is finally time for the kitchen crew to clock out, drink a beer, go to bed and get ready to do it all again the next day.
Whether you work in the service industry or you are dining out, let this be a reminder to thank the unsung heroes of the restaurant for their long hours, quick delivery and delicious food.
Taylor Ferraro provides five-star service and entertainment at the Red Snapper. She is also a massage therapist and KDUR DJ. Contact her at [email protected].