One of the unsung heroes in terms of “concept” in the kitchen is planning. As much as I have cawed (shameless plug of our logo) over cleaning, we can’t forget the importance of where to put things and on knowing all of our steps. So many of us have had that moment when we realize we have forgotten something we need. That mental mis en place is critical, as critical as where we put the salt.
The efficiency of a cook’s movements.
“Don’t waste a move.” Are we martial artists? The first time I heard that I laughed and looked around thinking “ok, I’m not in a mixed martial arts arena or dojo…” The don’t waste a move motto came from a former sous chef and was a great lesson for the staff. Minimize your movements grasshopper, a brilliant realization.
So how do you minimize your movements? Keeping things in their place is huge. Everything on your station has to be in a sensible place, grouped together by dish, left to right, start to finish. If there’s crossover of an ingredient (herbs, oils, garnishes a lot of times) it should be centered in the station, to allow for easy access for all pick ups. What you don’t want to see is some cook on a Friday night looking like the Tasmanian devil. At Temple Bar the seasoned guys will often chuckle at the newbies in the kitchen “There’s a lot of dancin’ tonight chef” you hear from the vets as they crack up. I usually will let someone go through it for a while, maybe the whole service. Then we will talk about it.
I’ll explain how to group movements, stage several moves, and prioritize steps. Oh and the big one, to finish plating that dish you started. Never do I want to see half picked up plates on a board while a frazzled cook tries to stay ahead of the next pick up. So it always harkens back to the organizing and setting up the station the right way. I’m pretty liberal in the sense that I don’t have so much hubris to think that I’m always right (another big lesson). I’m always eager to see a new, more efficient way to do ANYTHING. I’ll listen to just about anyone when the time is right. But it’s on the chefs to set up for success to begin with, finding a home for “running stock.” Running stock being what you need to get through a shift…
At Russell House our dry storage feels like it’s a mile away. I want all the “running stock” to be in the main kitchen. And figuring out where to put everything is a job here. It’s one that I’m taking a good amount of time with. It has to be right. It has to be set up for quick response, and success.
Now where am I going to put that salt…