How to excel in your first month as a chef
There are multiple paths to becoming a chef. Maybe you started as a busperson, worked up to a chef’s assistant, got promoted to a line cook, and now have finally earned the official “chef” title. Alternatively, you could have undergone professional chef’s training, completed an apprenticeship, or even gotten a four-year degree.
But by the time you step into the chef role, your background doesn’t matter anywhere nearly as much as what you do next.
Be on time (which means early!)
Kitchens may be chaotic, but they also depend on structure. If a member of the team is missing, the entire operation can be thrown out of whack.
So for that reason, it’s important to show up to the job when you’re expected (which means ten to twenty minutes early). That’s especially important for executive chefs—the rest of the kitchen staff will be depending on you to make sure all the inventory has been delivered, check in with your vendors, explain any specials, and so forth.
Don't take time off
Along similar lines, you shouldn’t stay home unless you’ve got a contagious illness. It’s incredibly difficult to find a last-minute replacement in the restaurant world; when you’ve just been hired and are still establishing your reputation, not showing up will breed a lot of resentment.
It’s pretty hard to avoid getting sick. Lessen your chances by getting enough sleep, eating a fairly healthy diet, and not overdoing your alcohol intake.
Since you’re new, raising questions isn’t just tolerated: It’s expected! You’ve got roughly one to two months to ask the “obvious” questions. After that, people might start thinking (or even saying), “Don’t you know that already?”
So, if you’re wondering how the chicken is usually plated or how long to wilt the spinach, you should absolutely ask. When you have a second, write down the answer—you can review your notes later, which’ll help you avoid asking the same thing twice.
Conserve your movements
The best chefs move as little as possible. So, whatever you’re doing, try to streamline the process. For example, if you’re walking over to one station to check on the rice, go grab the herb you need out of the pantry at the same time so you only need to cross the kitchen once.
Being efficient is important for two reasons. First, cooking environments are dangerous—as you well know, there are sharp instruments, heavy equipment, hot water, and flames everywhere. The less you move, the safer everyone is. Second, conserving your movement helps the rest of the team work more efficiently as well. It’s much harder to focus on chopping, piping, stirring, and so on when you need to be aware of people whizzing behind you.
The first month in a chef role is pretty demanding. However, if you take the right measures, adapting will be far easier. Before you know it, you’ll be the one answering the new employee’s questions.