This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure statement.
A Typical Day In The Life Of A Chef
A typical day in the life of a chef is a hard one. So, what does a chef do every day? Here it is right from a chef who has been in the industry for over 25 years. Two words describe it, Controlled chaos.
A normal day in a professional kitchen, for me starts at 7 am, I say hi to the breakfast and function chefs and I then make sure all our deliveries have come in.
If they’re all not here I get on the phone and ask two questions, “where is it”? and “when will it be here”.
I then go to my office which I share with the function coordinator she gives me a list of menu requests for three possible functions we could get in the coming weeks.
She needs prices by 3 pm today I look at the first one and say “how much do they want to spend”? “That’s going to cost them” I throw them on my desk.
I go and change into my chef’s jacket and apron, grab my knife case and enter the kitchen to find the function chef stressed.
I ask “what’s up” and get told that the function for lunch is at 12.30, they want to move their lunch to 12.00 and it has turned from 50 to 60, she thinks that the chicken skewers are not enough.
Now I tend to listen to my function chef as she does this every day, so I rip open the box of chicken breasts which were for tomorrow and start making skewers.
After that, I get on the phone and order more chicken breasts to replace the ones I have just used so I don’t forget. All good disaster diverted.
I start powering through the lunch prep and some of the dinner prep to take the pressure off my sous chef who starts at 2 pm.
The early lunch orders start trickling in from the bar, so I do them. The restaurant informs me that they have just taken a booking for a 20 top at 12.30 today.
I quickly check what prep I’ve done and make sure we have enough and set up the front line. My next chef starts at 11.30, so I help the function chef push out the function at 12.
I then help with lunch, cook mains, call, and plate, lunch service seems to be busier than usual, with large groups of casual diners.
We do the 20 this is now in the middle of it, controlled chaos, the waitress doing the 20 top forgets to put through the sides for the table, which slows the kitchen down.
My fry guy starts to panic so I get the function chef to help for 20 minutes, so, we can get on top again.
A 4 top orders 4 well-done steaks, I quickly char mark them and throw them in a pan and slide them into the back of the scorching oven. It goes on like this for the next hour and a half, relentless.
It’s now 2 o’clock and the function chef has finished her prep for the next day and asks if she can go home as she has been here since 5 am this morning.
I say that’s fine as my sous chef is here now. I go through the prep I’ve done with my sous chef and start an order list for tomorrow, double-check the function sheets, making sure I haven’t missed anything.
Go to my office and do some online ordering, check my e-mails, and cost the function menu requests for next week.
It’s now 3 o’clock, I go back into the kitchen and bone out the chickens, with the chef who started at 2, we make desserts for dinner tonight.
It’s now 4 o’clock and my sous chef comes back from the afternoon briefing and tells me we have an 8, 10, and 12 top booked at 7.30.
On top of that, we have a function of 100 which one of my chefs is doing.
Now I need three things soda water, an energy drink and Panadol as my stomach is starting to feel like a foul churning mess, and I need something to get through tonight.
Love The Fear
Over the many years of cooking, I have learned to love the fear.
The fear that only a chef understands, some can handle it, some can’t. For some chefs the fear becomes overwhelming, all-consuming, I’ve seen kitchens go down because of that fear.
When I say go down, I mean food stops coming out of the kitchen and people wait hours, game over.
I’ve seen chefs crack under that pressure. Some never recover, and end up leaving the industry, a sad thing to see.
That fear is the fear of failure, failure to produce the goods. I have learned to love it, embrace it, control it, and the other chefs around me feed off my positive reinforcement.
It is now 5.30 pm and here we go again, from 6 to 9.30 pm I run the pass and plate mains, help larder.
The 12 top turns up half an hour late, so that takes some of the pressure off, but we still have to deal with casuals.
My sous chef she’s a machine. Cooking steaks, chicken, and lamb to perfection, she doesn’t miss a beat.
The function we cut it really fine with the roasted lamb amazingly the chef manages to control the portion sizes and makes it last. Dinner starts to slow down at 9 with some late casuals coming in.
Now it’s 9.45 pm
My feet hurt I have just realized I have eaten nothing all day and feel really hungry.
I will eat when I get home. I do the last of the ordering and check the functions again for the following days, think about specials for tomorrow, check on my chef’s and pot washers everything is ok now.
I go to my office and peel off my sweat-drenched chef’s jacket, put on my street clothes, check my phone 1 text and 2 missed calls from my wife, she’ll be asleep when I get home.
I have to do this all again tomorrow, and you ask why? Because I love it, it’s part of me in my blood, in my soul, everybody comes to me for the answers.
I solve the problems my kitchens are the heart of the hotel. My sous chef is my right hand, an excellent cook, calm happy, and friendly.
My chefs and cooks, the backbone of my kitchen the workhorses who put up with my mood swings.
All hungry to learn, some showing lots of promise, my pot washers, my kitchen would not function without these people who work tirelessly washing dishes, changing bins, peeling vegetables, and doing basic prep.
I really care about them, they’re my second family, and thank them for the hard work.
Getting Food To The Customer In A Timely Manner
Running a kitchen can be daunting at the best of times. Managing stressed people with sharp knives, now there’s a challenge.
Getting food to the customer in a timely manner can be a tricky business as well, especially when it’s 10 or larger.
Steaks generally are in between, well if it’s well done that would take the longest, people who order well-done steak should just order something else, it tends to taste like a dead cow that has been killed twice.
I usually will risk personal safety to get the food on the plate, and stick my arm into a scorching oven to hook that pan out with the chicken in it that I slid in there about 10 minutes ago.
Quickly take a med-rare steak off the 400 degrees celsius char grill with my fingers because I’m worried it will overcook, 400 degrees celsius yes, I’ve checked.
Crazy you say not really if you were sitting in a restaurant and the steak you ordered med-rare came out med well all because the chef wasn’t paying attention or too afraid to get a little heat on their hands now do you understand.
Yes, before you say anything there are tongs for that, however, sometimes it’s quicker to use my hands.
I want to give the customers in my restaurant what they pay for if that means getting a little hot oil on my hand or brushing one of my arms against the inside of the scorching hot oven so be it, they leave satisfied and I get the job done, simple.
I love salt the most underrated ingredient in the kitchen, with the salt police running around saying don’t eat that.
Why the hell do you think food in some restaurants tastes so dammed good salt my friend’s salt.
I use three kinds of salt in my kitchen good old iodized salt, pacific sea salt, and Himalayan pink salt.
When a new chef starts in my kitchen, I go through in great detail the use of salt and where to find it in my kitchen.
If you are thinking of becoming a chef I have Practical Steps to Becoming a Professional Chef.