So You Want To Be A Waiter

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How to piss off a Chef

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As you know, I’m not big on “tales out of school”. But sometimes they are object lessons that can help a starting waiter so, here we go.

Last night, my last table (and the last table in the restaurant) ordered 3 steaks; in fact each was the largest of our steaks. They didn’t order a salad course, which meant that I didn’t need to wait a long time for the steaks. However, it’s a little harder to know exactly how long the bigger steaks take, especially when there are no other steaks cooking. You see, most of the time, we’re ordering steaks for people who are enjoying an intermediate course, plus, a good broiler person will bump up a steak that he or she intended for another table if it helps the kitchen flow better (after all, he or she might not need that steak for a few more minutes). Timing a steak can be a little trickier at the beginning or end of a shift. So, I asked the broiler dude when I should call for the steak, telling him that they didn’t have salads. He told me to check back in about 10 minutes.

Now, I should state right now that it’s the policy of The Chef that all instructions and questions should flow though him or the expo. This is a good policy as the broiler person doesn’t need to be distracted during service. However, this was the end of service, so I thought that it would be OK.

And it would have, except that the broiler dude anticipated my needs (a good thing) and when I came  back at the appointed time, started setting up the steak plates instead of waiting until I fired the order. And, he put the cherry on the top by doing the normal kidding thing of proclaiming, “Dying steaks in the window”!

Well, that was news to The Chef, who was acting as expo and sauté cook due to having a deficit in cooks due to a no-show last week from his normal sauté chef. I only had one side dish, a side of garlic mashed potatoes that had to be prepared by the sauté cook, but that didn’t really matter. Not to mention that it actually could have been something that took longer.

Fortunately for me, making garlic mashed potatoes is about a 20 second process. But The Chef was visibly disturbed by my by-passing of the chain-of-command. And I can’t blame him. He needs for all information to flow through him. He made sure that I knew that he wasn’t pleased by my by-passing that chain-of-command.

Later, I made sure to tell him that I hadn’t actually fired that order and I explained what happened, basically saying that I wasn’t blaming the broiler dude and that I thought that they had already communicated with each other and that I hadn’t intended to short-circuit or sidestep the usual procedures. He understood, but I could tell that his thought process went like this – “Why are you talking to the broiler dude in the first place – didn’t you consider that the side dishes need to go out at the same time – who is doing sauté right now, you me, or the broiler dude – how can I run my kitchen when I have a waiter mucking things up”? 

So, my advice to you is simply this – The Chef is the god of the kitchen. You serve The Chef as much as you serve the guest, no matter how long you’ve been doing your job. Watch out for unintended consequences and mind your p’s and q’s when you’re in the kitchen.

Oh yeah, always capitalize The Chef.

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2 responses to “How to piss off a Chef

  1. waiterextraordinaire June 4, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Oh yeah I know. My thing that pisses off the chef is when I am ready to run the food out and it is still missing something like a garniture. Wait they tell me.I just smile and wait……..

  2. brian marx May 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    trying to find site on servers who stack tickets before puting them in and how it effects the kitchen and ticket times, and btw pisses off the chefs

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