Monday, May 11, 2009

Golden Kitchen Rules

photo from Eat Duck I Must blog

It's been an interesting weekend to say the least. I haven't dealt with so much attitude and annoyance from multiple facets of my life in so short of a period of time in a long time. And despite all the tumultuous problems, the weekend actually was a working success. Of course, the funny part is that these things are normally completely unwarranted and uncalled for. Sometimes all it takes for people to show civility to one another is to just understand boundaries and keep their mouths shut.

Recently, I've been speaking with a chef friend and we were discussing different issues that arise in the kitchen with certain cooks, chefs and staff alike. And we've always flirted around with the idea of this set of golden rules that chefs should adhere in most cases to maintain a good kitchen working environment. Here are some of the ones I've lived, known or have come from other chef friends. A first rough draft list I guess...

Golden Rules of the Back of House:

Consolidate or die. (contributed as far back to chef Cole Mayfield apparently)

The best response from a linecook is simply, "yes chef", "no chef".

Leave your work area cleaner than you found it.

It is hard to admit/ask for help, but it should always be easy to offer help regardless of what position you hold in the kitchen.

You are never above the food you cook. People do not dine for your face, people dine for your meal.

There is no such thing as a rock star in a kitchen and there is no such thing as a rock star out of a kitchen - this is absolute perpetuated Top Chef bullshit. It's nice to be known and recognized, but none of that should stand above the food.

You are only as good as your last meal/plate served/cooked.

Always ask when borrowing another cook's tools/knives and always return it in a clean condition.

Minimize your trips and time spent locating items/tools for prep.

Save the drama for your momma, bad attitudes and personal issues are not welcome in a kitchen.

There is a rule and standard for quality - the bottom line for which is the basic principle of providing safe food. Everything else is solely a reflection and mirror of your integrity as a cook/chef.

Always know how, what and why you are doing something. Ask questions in the honest purpose and sincerity of learning.

Playing victim and excuses should not be tolerated in the kitchen.

You are never past the point of learning, the second you stop wanting to learn or feel above learning is the second you should stop working as a chef.

Do NOT talk shit about the other cooks in the kitchen when you are in the kitchen.

You are allowed to talk shit about other cooks out of the kitchen, so beware of your conduct in the kitchen. Chefs talk to each other about other chefs/cooks and it normally kind of goes like this, "hey, did you ever have this guy in the kitchen with you, how was he/she..."

Never cook bacon without you pants on. (as from chef Charlie Kleinman)

Don't call in sick unless you are in jail or dead or your wife got into a car accident - all of which are acceptable. (part of which is from chef Sarah Cox)

Taste everything you are cooking all the time. Adjust/season, taste, adjust/season as necessary at every step. (as from chef Lauren Kiino, via twitter lkiino)

The spoon is your best ally and friend.

Keep your nails clean and hair short. Facial hair is okay, but nasty crusty hippie beards are not.

Clean up as you go. (as from twitter whmwall)

Do not take your sweet ass time cleaning at the end of the night, other cooks/chefs notice and will resent or lose respect for you.

You may own one station, but you should learn all the other ones - whether someone wants to show you or not.

If you are not helping someone in the Weeds or in the Jungle, don't bother expecting help in return.

Hoard towels and hide them as you need to. When asked, you always only have 1 towel left.

Clean your cutting board before you walk away from it.

It's fine to sound stupid when you ask questions, especially considering how stupid you may or may not look most of the time.

Do NOT second guess how other chefs do their prep work unless you are the sous, chef de cuisine or executive chef. Mind your own work.

Label and date everything.

"Behind, beside, corner, hot and knife" should be a few of the only things that cooks need to yell.

No leaning, no standing around, no sitting.

Keep FOH constantly moving in and out of kitchen as fast as possible.

Don't be a douchebag & mind the "bag of dicks." (unofficialy, the former Orson slogan, thank you chef Joe Zoebel, chef Ryan Farr)

Don't fuck up when your chef is having bad day (part of previous rule), be invisible.

"On the fly" does not mean "I need this redone as soon as you can in a few minutes." It means "drop your shit and haul fucking ass to git'er done, I needed this 15 seconds ago."


  1. Ah yes, the good ol' days of working in a Kitchen. Can't say I really miss it.

  2. "If you can lean, you can clean" - something always needs to be done.

  3. we have one guy that is constantly talking shit about other cooks all day during service through the night. He's been making everyone absolutely miserable every time he works. mind you this guy preps all his plates out and leaves fish out in the open for an hour+...anyways...

  4. AnonymousMay 11, 2009

    good rules, but hard to find a kitchen these days where there are any rules at all.

  5. AnonymousMay 11, 2009

    Don't loose the intensity