Every chef has a list of what infuriates them – the things they hate, that make their blood boil and their blood pressure rise like the mercury in a thermometer in the desert heat. It’s what they might call the cardinal sins of the kitchen. In other words, it’s the kitchen mistakes chefs hate most.
The restaurant industry is tough – we work long hours. We often don’t get paid that great. We are constantly putting out fires and having to adjust to some new issue. Needless to say, it’s stressful, but the more we can control the environment and the people around us, the more we’re able to minimize that stress. With that said, I’ve talked with hundreds and thousands of cooks, chefs, kitchen managers and owners and it’s shocking that the same problems pop up all the time – it doesn’t matter where the restaurant is, how big it is, independent or corporate – the same kitchen sins are committed all over the world, over and over again.
Here are the 15 Cardinal Sins of the Kitchen Mistakes Chefs Hate MOST:
- Showing Up Late For Your Shift: Some say, “if you’re on time, you’re late”, meaning you need to show up early and ready to work before you punch in… If you want to kick your shift off on the right foot, show up on time – things will go a lot smoother.
- Using Your Cell Phone on the Line: This might be the easiest way to get your ass chewed at work. When there’s work to be done and you’re checking your phone, updating your social media – whatever it is you’re doing – all this tells your boss is that you don’t really give a damn.
- Drinks with No Lids: Maybe it’s an old-school mentality, or maybe it’s just a sanitation issue that results in a write-up from the health inspector, but putting a lid on your drink with a straw to drink from is one of the better habits you can create as a line cook. All it takes is one sticky spill all over your co-worker’s prep space and I can guarantee that you’ll reconsider ever doing it again.
- Dirty Stations and Floors: The products that leave the kitchen are only as good as the environment in which we make them. Clean your fricking cutting board. As you prep, you’re going to lose some loose ends to the ground – sweep it up regularly and whenever you get a chance mid-service.
- Sitting Around When There’s Work to be Done: The only thing that needs to be said here is the old adage, “got time to lean, got time to clean”.
- Not Stocking Shelves Properly When an Order Comes In: Break-down the cases of product so that they are easy to get in and out of, especially in the event that someone’s hands are full and needs that product. Does it make sense to anyone to store a full, intact case of anything on the third shelf? All that leads to is having to take down the whole damn box to open it, in order to get what is needed. Along the same lines, and this should go without saying, but I’ve come to the point where I’m never surprised by what I see in the kitchen anymore; rotate, rotate, rotate – and NO, that doesn’t mean spinning #10 cans around on their sides just for the hell of it.
- Not Breaking Down Boxes: There’s a spot in the deepest layer of hell for anyone that thinks this is cool or even a remotely good idea. Don’t be that guy, because that guy is an asshole. I’m not sure who the first person was to think it was a good idea to unload an entire, multi-thousand-dollar order, and then just leaving the leftover, empty boxes just piled in the corner, stacked on top of each other – or worse – right in front of the shelves, serving as an obstacle course to the new line cook who can’t find what they need, because it’s sitting behind your boxes. When you put the order away, break-down the boxes as you go – it takes all of five fricking seconds per box.
- Not Saying Behind: This is just dangerous and a good way to end up on the floor, with a burn, a cut, or doing the same to someone else. You don’t know when your co-worker is going to spin around with a blazing hot pan of pasta that’s ready to plate and all it takes is chancing it one time, getting a chef coat full of béchamel sauce and you’ll think twice about failing to communicate your whereabouts.
- Not Emptying the the Flat Top’s Drip Pan After Cleaning It: Question for anyone that’s ever opened a kitchen in the morning for lunch – is there anything worse than prepping something on the grill, and not even 30 minutes into your shift, you see the drip pan doing something it’s not supposed to be doing – dripping onto the fricking floor – what a pain in the ass to clean. Especially when there’s prep to be done.
- Smoke Breaks During Service: All restaurants have different rules for smoking, but general rule of thumb – make sure it’s cool with the person that hired you and with the people you work next to every day. We’ve all worked with that dude who goes M.I.A. – what’s he doing? He’s choking down a fricking cigarette while the rest of us are getting our asses kicked.
- There are 3 Different Mishaps Involving Plastic Wrap:
- Not properly wrapping your station at the end of your shift.
- Second, is poking a hole through the plastic wrap instead of taking the two seconds to pull the pan out from the sandwich unit to properly remove the plastic – are we trying to plastic in people’s food?
- If you get near the end of the roll of plastic wrap and it starts to tear on you – please, for the love of god, don’t just keep trying to wrap your stuff, thinking the next person up isn’t going to notice it. Un-fucking the end of a roll of plastic wrap is up there with trying to untangle a severely tangled fishing line – you’re better off just starting over.
So, the question is – how fricking lazy can we be? Come on people.
- Not Taking Labels Off Empty Containers: When you go to an event where a majority of the people don’t know your name, it’s probably a good idea to wear a “Hello My Name Is____” sticker – that way you’re easier to talk to and get to know. But, what happens when you leave the event? You take the sticker off, because it looks dumb and you don’t need it anymore. The same is true for sauce bottles and Cambros that are full of one thing, but still has a label indicating it’s something else. Honestly, how many people’s hands does a clean container go through before it gets filled up – almost always at least two – can’t one of these two do the logical thing here?
**Have you checked out my book, Making the Cut: What Separates the Best from the Rest **
- Leaving Your Station Unstocked at the End of Your Shift: This is just one of those Golden Rule types of situations – “prep unto others as you would have them prep unto you”. Easy enough, let’s move on.
- Finishing Your Shift Without Taking the Trash Out: Yes, we all know working in the kitchen is hard and is often not very glamorous. One of the not-so-glamorous aspects of the job is taking out the trash next to your station – doesn’t that just seem like the right thing to do? Don’t be an asshole – the dishwasher didn’t fill up your trash can – you did.
- Breaking Down Your Station Before Service is Over: I know it’s super important that you get out of work as fast as you possibly can, so that you can meet your boys next door for drinks and shots, but when you’re at work – you’re at work. Cutting corners like this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but what it does do is builds up bad habits and diminished quality and customer experience over the long-haul.
What would you add to this list? Leave a comment and share it with your staff – maybe they’ll pick up on the fact they need to get their shit together – one cardinal kitchen sin at a time.. elimanate the kitchen mistakes chefs hate most, one at a time…
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