Head Down, Mouth Shut

Food — By Crust on May 12, 2009

When I first arrive in a new kitchen it’s hard to know where to fit in. These are a few things that I do to try and make a good impression in the kitchen.

Number one, head down mouth shut. When I first start a new job I try and stay focused all day, and pound out my prep list as fast as I can. When ever I find myself getting distracted or wanting to jump into the conversation with my wordy opinion on whatever topic is going around. I say to myself over and over, “head down, mouth shut, head down, mouth shut.” It works great for me and helps me get a lot done in the first awkward days of a new job. It’s okay to ask how to do things but you should write down what the chef is saying so that you don’t have to ask twice.

Do it nice, or do it twice! Speed, accuracy and cleanliness. Focus on these three things. Each means nothing without the others. Do every job as fast as you can, as perfect as you can and as clean as you can. Speed is very important, but if your end product is shit, speed means nothing. You are either going to have to do it again or risk looking bad. Over time you will learn what jobs you can rush through (sofrito for a rustic pasta dish that is going to be cooked right down, doesn’t need to be a perfect brunoise, get’er done! fast fast!), and what jobs you should take the extra time to get the perfect product (cucumber brunoise for that oyster special, look at all those perfect little cubes). Always keep your work area as clean as possible. Cutting board clean, rag folded. It only takes a second to fold your rag and it makes all the difference in how clean your area looks. Keep your shoes, apron and whites clean to. Nobody likes a dirty cook.

If you cut or burn yourself don’t cry! If you cut yourself grab a band-aid, some masking tape or some super glue (I keep super glue in my knife roll for the ones that just won’t stop bleeding), discreetly stop the bleeding and keep on cutting. If you burn yourself don’t flinch just keep going.

Be a team player, when the order arrives jump on that shit to help get it in the walk in fast. Look for opportunities to help out co-workers. For example, the meat guy is always going to need help dumping his steaming pot of spent stock bones into the dumpster. Be at his side with a dry rag ready to go. Always downsize, label and date everything! Downsizing helps when it comes time to do the orders, if everything in the walk in is labeled and downsized the Sous just needs to poke his head in and check a few boxes on the order sheet. Keep your station organized, labeled and dated so when the tournant gets on the station on your days off, he can open your fridge and know exactly what is going on. These things save everybody time.

If you’re just in for a stage, often the first job that the cooks will get a stage to do is cut shallots and herbs. They can tell alot about you as a cook by how well you do this. They will know how clean you work, how sharp your knife is, how you organize yourself. How fast you are and how nice your product is says alot about you as a cook as well. How you handle this simple task will determine if you will be chopping miripoix the rest of the day or if you will get to have some fun.


  1. nicole says:

    Now how come your work cleanliness can’t transfer over to your foot hygiene??? Go wash those stinky bitches right now!

  2. crust says:

    hahahaha! My life changed when I moved in with Ben, he has hundreds of pairs of socks so I can wear a fresh pair every day instead of ever week.

    And to be fair that was in Montreal after my strung out modeling days, when I was still trying to feel what Vision feels. But thanks for that Nic!

  3. knottytrevor says:

    oh man, i thought i was the only one to note the coagulative properties of super-glue, right on crust.

  4. ac says:

    Super glue has a long history as a first aid item, you might also consider a styptic pencil…

  5. Matt R. says:

    .. or keeping your fingers out of the damned way.

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