via Flickr user McShaman

Working the Line: An Introduction

A young cook shares her experiences in the kitchen.

Dear SideDish readers,

I am your friendly, and sometimes not-so-friendly, neighborhood line cook. I work at one of the many fine dining restaurants in DFW. Week to week, I’ll be sharing my experiences with you: the good, the bad, the funny, and the infuriating. Working as a line cook is not exactly glamorous, but I do it because I love food, and because I’m a bit of a masochist. By now, you’ve probably noticed that my actual name is not on the byline. This allows me to share more insight into my life and work.

It’s still early in my culinary career and I certainly don’t consider myself a chef. That title, along with most other job titles worth bragging about, needs to be earned. In fact, most people who tell you they’re chefs are usually just line cooks. This isn’t to devalue my job title. Without a good line, there is no good restaurant, and no positive recognition for our chefs.

Basically, all line cooks are masochists. I mean, we must be. Who else willingly shows up to work everyday knowing that they’re going to be yelled at and abused? We show up for work ready to start a great day of prep and service. Sure, most days begin deceivingly well. Hot jams are playing on the kitchen stereo, your knife cuts are syncing up to the beat of each song. Heck, you’ve even let your bottom half boogie down in your kitchen Crocs. You think to yourself, “I’m gonna kill it today. Prep? Done. Station? Clean. I’m ready. Let’s do this!”

Then, Chef walks in. He seems to be in a good mood and calls everyone in for a kitchen meeting. “Hey, guys, I just want to say you guys did a great job this week. [The event] brought a lot of walk-ins and you guys really stepped up… So thanks for that and let’s keep doing a good job.” Chef goes on to let us know about a couple menu changes. We’re out of baby asparagus and will be replacing them with rainbow carrots. Easy enough.

Fast forward to dinner service. I plate the rainbow carrots that replaced the baby asparagus. I run the plate up to the expo line and continue on to the next dinner ticket. Then I hear: “WHAT THE [email protected]#! IS THIS?! Are you guys even thinking?! What the [email protected]#!?! What the [email protected]#! did I tell you at pre-shift?!” Rainbow carrots are thrown back at my station. Who does that? After discussing Chef’s childish outburst with my fellow line cooks, we discovered that he wanted them fried instead of glazed.

Did he communicate this to us during the meeting? No.

Did he insist that he did? Yes.

Well, readers, there’s a snippet of my life. I work hard. I get yelled at. I think about giving Chef a piece of my mind but don’t. Even better, I get to go home and write about it for you guys. I look forward to sharing more of what it’s like working the line.