There are many steps to follow in a chef’s work to produce quality food up to promised standards while doing it fast and organized. This article will teach you everything there is to know about how chefs work in a restaurant and everything they do after, during, and before cooking.
As a chef myself, I have worked in dozens of restaurants, so I know how everything is done in different types of restaurants, and I will share my coworkers and my own personal experiences about the chef’s work and day. Let’s get started!
- Look at the big picture
- Prepare ingredients well advance
- Keep things organized
- Focus on efficiency
- Work with the team
- Keep things clean
- What does a chef do in a day
- How long do chefs work daily
- What skills should a chef have
- How hard is it to be a chef
- How much money does a chef make per hour
- What is the difference between a chef and a cook
- Do head chefs actually cook
Look at the big picture
When a chef comes to the kitchen for a shift, the chef needs to talk with others so they can communicate and update the day and upcoming events.
After everyone is up to date, it is time to look at cleaning schedules, mise en place list, and ingredient stock to determine what needs to be done in what order. Looking at the big picture and putting daily tasks in important order will help everything throughout the day.
For example, if a big order is coming in 2 hours, it is time to prepare for that in any ways possible, not start cleaning behind the deep fryers. Understanding how much time each task will take enables scheduling that will further aid the effortless task flow needed in a restaurant kitchen.
After the big picture is clear and the time for most things has been determined, it’s time to make sure that food items will last and are done in advance.
Prepare ingredients well advance
This starts by looking at the mice en place list that shows all the current ingredients, preparations, and foods that the restaurant has to have. These can include sauces, preparations for big orders, specific parts of a dish, ingredient processing, and everything needed that the chefs have all done and ready for use.
Morning shift chefs often prepare ingredients for the evening shift, and the evening shift prepares foods for the morning shift. By doing things this way and communicating through the mice en place list, everyone can be up to date, help each other, and have all they need so the day can continue effortlessly without problems.
Sometimes something will be forgotten, or you can’t make something because there isn’t the ingredient at the house at the moment. In these situations, improvisation and fast action are needed, and chefs are really the masters of that.
Keep things organized
As the day goes by and the tasks begin to stack up, it is important to keep things organized even when multitasking. The second chefs have difficulties finding sauces, ingredients, food items, spices, and you name it, is when things become hard and complicated.
Keeping spices clearly at one space, veggies at one, meats at one, and needed food decorating items eases the dish assembly significantly. Organization skills are needed also when working at the grill; for example, grilling steaks, chicken, fish, and vegetables in their own sectors will help the chef calculate how much is needed because the orders keep coming in constantly.
Chef’s job includes a lot more than just cooking; therefore, freezers, fridges, dry storage, and ingredient drawers need to be well organized to keep things flowing forward. Keeping things flowing effortlessly is the key to proper kitchen work.
Read also: 11 Amazing Chef Benefits
Related: 15 Disadvantages of Being a Chef
Focus on efficiency
When the kitchen is organized, ingredient stock is full, and the day’s big picture is clear, efficiency will automatically be part of the work. Still, a beginner chef might not have mastered multitasking which is the most important part of efficiency in the kitchen.
When chefs are working efficiently, they can have 5 servings of fries swimming in the deep fryer, 8 burger patties on the grill, two sets of pulled pork and ribs on the oven, and 3 servings of veggies coming on the pan simultaneously. That is extremely efficient, yet it does require a lot of practice.
When a chef can work at that pace with cool nerves and still produce quality dishes, the work will be enjoyable and so efficient that nobody will need to cry in the middle of everything. Believe me, all chefs have cried at some point in their career either internally or really visibly.
However, cooking isn’t the only part of the job where efficiency is needed. A chef needs to be efficient when processing ingredients, cleaning floors or range hoods or running to get some ingredient from the store nearby.
Work with the team
Chefs have to do many things on their own; however, working in a restaurant requires a tremendous amount of teamwork. It is doubtful that one chef does all the work; therefore, communication with other chefs, waiters, and managers is important.
Usually, one or more chefs do all food preparing and cooking, whereas another one assembles the cooked ingredients into the plate in addition to some cooking such as deep frying. This means all the chefs need to constantly communicate and be on the same page when the cooked ingredients are coming and when the order should go to the customer.
Communicating between the kitchen staff is important enough, but that’s not all. Communicating with the waiters about the anticipated volume and customer satisfaction is important as well.
Also, communication with the management is crucial because when a certain ingredient finishes, it’s best to notify it immediately to the manager to order more. After all, in the high tempo, it’s easy to forget about such things.
Keep things clean
Last but definitely not least, cleaning. Cleaning is the single most important task in a commercial kitchen after producing the customer’s orders. Chefs clean all the time, not only on the designated task, such as cleaning the floors but also cleaning countertops, keeping handles out of grease, and sweeping the floors constantly.
If the countertops and floors are full of food bits, all the utensils and handles are covered in oil, and the trash bins are pouring over is the second everything will go sideways. Keeping the nerves cool and surroundings clean and clear will make working so much easier when compared to complete chaos.
In addition to the constant cleaning that keeps the fruit flies away, there are daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning tasks that need to be taken care of. These include cleaning the floor properly after day’s work, cleaning the freezer, range hoods, and de-liming sinks and faucet aerators. Cleaning is just so, so important in a kitchen.
Read also: Commercial Kitchen Ultimate Cleaning Guide
When a chef works keeping these 6 things in mind, the day will be pleasant, and the work will feel like intended when they first pursued a career as a cook. However, if a chef fails to work by these rules, the job will be chaotic, and every workday will feel like endless agony…
What does a chef do in a day
Chefs have many, many task to take care of in the course of their workday. I have listed tasks below that are always done in most restaurants.
- Prepare & process ingredients
- Cook food from orders
- Cook for the buffet table
- Fill the buffet
- Overall cleaning
- Order more food or update the situation with a manager
- Cooperate with other chefs and waiters
- Receive food supplies
- Interviewing, Hiring, and Training new employees
- Menu designing
- Inspect equipment
These tasks are the most important ones, and each task you see above includes a lot of small things to know, so I listed them as general tasks instead of listing all the hundreds of small things chefs may do in a day.
How long do chefs work daily
Generally, chefs work 8 hours a day as the rest of the employees; however, it is usual that chefs spend additional hours at work due to large quantities of customers and unfinished tasks. Restaurants are famous for keeping the employees at a minimum; therefore, chefs often work +50 hours a week, if not more.
What skills should a chef have
There are so many skills that a chef should have to perform well in a busy commercial kitchen; however, there are some skills above the rest, and I have listed the 10 most important ones below.
- Cool nerves
- Problem-solving skills
- Willingness to learn
- Time management
- Real passion
- Cooking skills
How hard is it to be a chef
In short, starting as a chef is hard to even after culinary school, however after a couple of months, things get much more familiar, and your skills get better, which makes working as a chef easier. The chef’s profession is always filled with challenges, but with experience, nothing is too hard.
I still remember when I went to my first internship and thought I was doing all right. However, at the end of my culinary school, I went to work there. I realized how bad I really was and actually talked about this with my boss, and got confirmation that I really wasn’t good right when I started, which is understandable.
A chef’s job can be even harder if you haven’t been to culinary school but are pursuing a chef’s career as a self-taught chef. If this is the case, there are definitely some learning curves along the way, but there are so many self-taught chefs in the industry that it certainly isn’t impossible or too hard to accomplish.
How much money does a chef make per hour
The average hourly pay for cooks in the United States is $13.10 per hour. However, the average hourly pay for chefs is $28.24; therefore, after a couple of years of experience, you can expect an hourly wage of around $20,67 when you transition from a humble cook to a highly skilled chef.
Read also: Can a Chef Be Rich?
What is the difference between a chef and a cook
Unlike the contrary belief, a chef and a cook aren’t the same things. A cook is defined as a person that prepares and cooks food, whereas a chef is a skilled and trained cook who works in a restaurant. This is also shown in their salaries while a cook’s average hourly wage is $13.10 whereas a chef’s is $28.24.
Do head chefs actually cook
Even when head chefs have more of a leadership role that guides and observes, they still cook quite a bit. Head chefs are chefs as well; however, they do have many tasks in addition to cooking, such as doing orders, interviewing, menu and recipe designing, and overseeing the restaurant performance.
When working as a chef, you need to have the big picture, preparation, organization, efficiency, and cleaning skills to really succeed in your work. As I personally know, acquiring these skills into great condition takes time and effort. However, if you are passionate about your work and are willing to learn, you will own these skills in no time.
I hope that this article gave you real value that you can implement into your real life, whether you work as a chef, are considering a career as one, or are just an interested reader!