What to do when there’s nothing to do in the kitchen

27Aug08

Doing nothing in the kitchen?

Certain start-up restaurants have this case, or some medium-sized to big restaurants, or kitchens in hotels face this problem – There is nothing left to do in the kitchen: So what should I do? If we’re talking about home kitchen, it’s advisable to move on and just do something else. But when it comes to commercial kitchens, there is a problem. Worse still, some even run into the walk-in chiller to get some cold air.

There are tons of things to do when you’re in the kitchen. Whether or not we realize it, or come to even think of, often there are many things that need attention. Here are a list of things you can do when you’re too free:

  1. Get talking and learn your food science

    This is the best time to communicate with your ‘seniors’ or superiors. Go talk to them, ask them about their history, how to handle certain special products, what have you read over the internet and not sure of, how types of lobsters are available in the market and what’s most famous in restaurants around, etc. Chat them up – Get more insight on their personal life. Many people like to talk about themselves – And if you can charm their friendly nature into your mind, you’ll be a go-getter!

  2. Lurk around those who are busy and learn their skills

    Cracking up a lame joke isn’t always the worst thing to do – It channels creativity and at the same time give a childish-like ambient in the kitchen where you can benefit. Sure, people might think of you as someone who does not know ANYTHING – And that’s the best part of it. That’s when you lower your ego and learn something new. Look at how people cook, how they portion and slice, how they manage foodstuff; you’ll learn many things by just looking.

  3. Food experimentation

    You do not need to be a scientist to experiment crazy food mixes or try out that simple thing you learn by looking at someone else doing it. Go on, pick up your pan and flip something – Many bosses love proactive staff and most of the time it’s rewarding to both your employer and you, the employee. If you’re in a situation where you’re worried you might screw up or cannot do that, be advised – Do not make the situation worse. By all means, do something else.

  4. Run along and help your mates

    Helping your mates not only boost their morale, but also their perception towards you. But make sure you will draw a line to these ‘help’. Simply helping blindly can let them take advantage of you – Worse still, in events of emergency, do not return you the favor. Doing this can also enhance your knowledge and challenge your skillsets – As you go along, the more you do, the more you learn.

  5. Help out your kitchen steward / Dishwasher / Prep Guys

    Helping your kitchen steward may not only give you the chance to communicate better with people, but also gives you the chance to learn something you never thought you’d ever learn. By talking to these people, you gain better insight of what their work is, what is their feeling, give them the sense of friendliness, etc. Best ever, they will share their knowledge with you regarding their culture and stories from abroad, or local (if they are local). Being in the kitchen isn’t just about food – It’s about being more than just food.

  6. Be sharp and look around you

    If your kitchen mates do a good job in the kitchen, you may not need to worry much. Still, there are things that can be missed – Arrangement of kitchen items, fridge/chiller problems, hygiene problems, floor problems, mise en place, kitchen invoices, kitchen orders, kitchen checklist, spoilt foods, damaged ingredients, etc. There are many things around the kitchen that need attention – And you need to give these some attention.

Don’t DO THESE when you’re too free:

  1. Ask someone “What else is there to do in the kitchen”

    On the negative point of view, asking this could mean many things. It’s either you’re not very sharp in the eye, not clear of the restaurant’s duties, not understanding your nature of work, not being at all diligent enough, etc. Take note that many seniors could take advantage of you when you say this – Simply do whatever you think you need to do, and if you have nothing to do, refer to the above.

  2. Play in the kitchen

    Not only you’re endangering yourself, but you’re also endangering others. Throwing food and water at each other could be fun, but wait until the waiter walks in and trip. That could be even funnier – But dangerous. Keep in mind that the kitchen is a very dangerous place. The kitchen comprises of natural elements like water and fire which could be hazardous if not used properly. Worse still, what could happen if someone tripped and land his face onto the hot grill?

  3. Walk out to the service area during restaurant hours

    Walking out to the service area not only shows your unprofessionalism, but it also shows that you are taking Restaurant Ethics lightly. Your Head Chef can do that because he’s well dressed for the situation, and do not have as much dirt on his body as you: Or at least he has the honor to do that because it’s his job. Another addition of ‘human’ to the service area increases chances of accidents, least space (mentally) and pest-y.

  4. Play with fire

    Playing with fire is fun. No, seriously. It is very fun. On the other hand, think of the dangers. In life, anything can happen. Imagine you’re taunting (or dancing in front of) the fire and suddenly it burns you. Worse still, burns someone else. Worst, the whole kitchen. In many incidents, playing with fire can also mean heating up a metal utensil on naked fire, then listening to the “SSSSStttttt” sound when it’s place under water or worse, in a soup. Or burning a box of matches with one matchstick lit and placed into the box.

  5. Loiter too long outside

    Loitering is considered resting, or resting is considered loitering; depending on how your Head Chef perceives them. Leaving the kitchen too long can lead to unwanted mishaps such as spillage of soup due to overboiling, sticking of foods to the pan due to ignorance of time to add water, etc. Such events are wasteful pieces of art and can take a huge toll in your job (if your Chef finds out).

  6. Gossip and start the kitchen political war

    In events kitchen management or any other management out there, those who better together and have stronger relationships do a better job at the end of the day. What the Head Chef should always avoid is politics. Yes, it’s virtually impossible to stop these petty little talks, but at least inspire those who are in there and create a kitchen culture where such things are not talked about, MUCH. Too much of these can lead to much misunderstanding, lowered food quality and so forth.

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