A Beginners Guide to Surviving Hospitality....... Part 1
If I had a dollar for everytime I've heard this, I'd be one rich son of a bitch.
Sure it has its moments where you start to question your sanity and the choices you make in life. Those moments where you dream about service - not a great service. A service where you picture yourself sitting back, almost paralyzed, as the docket machine churns out order, after order. The stove is empty, nothing is cooking, and still the orders keep coming like some kind of insidious snake weaving its way to you, as you sit there, helpless!
I have memories as an apprentice, waking in the middle of the night, sitting up in bed, semi conscious, acting out a service. I laugh at this now, but in the moment, laughing was the last thing on my mind! This is cold sweat stuff.
Most chefs/apprentices that I talk to have similar stories, especially the sound of that evil machine that sits in the corner vomiting out thin pieces of paper that hold so much weight and determine the outcome of our day.
Amongst all this is always the threat of not being ready for service!
I will set the scene:
The day starts at 8am. If you are one of the smart ones, you have placed your food orders the day before and have filled out your MEP list (Mise en Place - putting in place) the night before.
Let's talk about the MEP list. This list is an integral part of a kitchen and not using one is like steering a ship without a compass. Generally the list is mapped out in a way that prioritises the way in which you prepare for the day.
Start at the stove and oven, while things are cooking, get on with the smaller stuff until service begins. Now this is the perfect world scenario and most of the time it works and works extremely well.
Service begins and we are off and running!
Now, we are working in a very organic world and not every service runs the same. The orders are different; one section gets hammered more than the other; someone cuts themselves or cops a nasty burn - off to hospital; you run out of MEP because you didn't forecast well enough or you just had a table of Vegetarian/ Vegans take all of your eggplant gratin. You get the picture!
This is just one service, if you are an all day dining venue, it never stops, just has pit stops along the way.
So back to the beginning of the day. Add to all this, your food orders don't arrive because the truck broke down, stock unavailable; you missed the morning run; you forgot to order a product because 3 people were talking to you at once when you were writing out the order, etc, etc......
This really is only a snapshot of what goes on in kitchens and I have only just scratched the surface.
There are an incredible amount of ways that it can all go pear shaped...........but we get through it, it really just gets down to 'how well'!? And this is one of the keys to Surviving Hospitality..........
Next post - Part 2 - 'So why do we do it!?'