Three Lesson I Learned as a Cook

This is a continuation of a series of posts about lessons I learned from my past jobs. The first jobs were: Vineyard Laborer, Wine Labeler, Bookkeeping, Barista.

I worked as as a barista and server at the cafe during the summer of 2014, which is the busiest season of the year. In the fall, less people were coming to the restaurant I felt the itch to try something new. I had a good relationship with the kitchen manager and knew they were looking for someone new in the kitchen, so I asked him if I could make the switch and he said yes.

Since I was young I was interested on cooking and had been practicing and improving my skills at home for years, so it was fun to make a transition into working in it full time.

Three of the most important things I learned from working as a cook are:

  1. How to put in long hard hours at work. We would work 10 hour days with very little breaks. Since there were only three people working in the kitchen–two on line and one on prep–you couldn’t lose someone for more than a few minutes during the lunch rush from 11am to 3pm. During that rush there would be small lulls, where you could catch your breath, so you quickly learned to manage your energy and to dig deep with┬ádetermination to keep making good food even though you are exhausted.
  2. How to work under pressure. It can be stressful working in the front of a restaurant during busy times, but working in the kitchen is another level. During a busy lunch hour we would have eight or more tables with orders in at once. The restaurant was often very busy, but we were a three person team in a very small kitchen. Even though it was just the three of us, we had to work fast, but not sacrifice quality. The restaurant had a great repuation and high standards, so you had to learn to make things very well very fast.
  3. The importance of preparation. Prep was everything as a cook. If we didn’t prepare well before the day it would be a mess when it got busy. When we got to work in the morning you knew exactly what it would feel like later in the day if you didn’t prep well, so there was a ton of motivation to get ready.

Overall I learned that there is a big difference between enjoying cooking at home and doing it as a profession. It is very hard work and while waiters are rewarded with tips, at many restaurants cooks are doing extremely hard work for not very much money. From my time working in a kitchen I have learned to have a lot of respect for people who can last in that enviroment.

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