Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kitchen Etiquette 101

I've been sick beyond insanity these days.  Managed to make it into work one day this week.  It blows...  I had a lot of fun for the one day of hacking my brains away while peeling for 5 hours straight.  My right hand has a mark in it from the repetitive motion of peeling yuca with a pairing knife and using my 12 inch chef blade to make them into batonnet.  Genuinely pray that those yuca frites were the best tasting things ever after doing it for hours.

While peeling, I had to distract myself a bit.  The guys and I talked shit about reality television shows and music. The sous chef and I tend to talk about different types of cuisines at time, which is a plus for a food freak like me. He even made a vegetable based risotto that inspired me to make it a day later.  Mine has wine...most of my food is cooked with wine and an assortment of booze but eh, whatever.  Around hour two, I heard at least four people speak to one of my coworkers about his ass crack, which leads me to the beautiful topic called kitchen etiquette 101.

If you are working or at least witnessed a chaotic morning/afternoon in a typical NYC kitchen, it's hostile.  The kitchen is small, tight and the constant rubbing/friction could be easily misinterpreted by HR as sexual harassment at its finest.  Thankfully, we have the official (and unofficial) kitchen etiquette to prevent these daily incidents and sightings from being taken to another level.  

We don't want to see your butt residue.

The gentleman in my kitchen, who I will name, Chef A/C (ass crack for the not so clever), doesn't understand the rules of the kitchen too well.  I try not to bust his chops too much but there are times where we politely bump heads in my short time there.  Chef A/C is a constant offender of ACD:  ass crack disease.  I remember being in school and watching others become a constant billboard of their assets.  Once in a blue, I blended in with this crowd and committed my share of kitchen crimes but I learned quickly once entering my male dominated kitchen.  Sir A/C shouldn't be an exception since he has over two years under his figurative belt.  I became a victim on Wednesday when I bent over to pick up some scrap to put into my compost and lifted my head to see his hairy monstrosity of an ass crack wiggling back and forth in my face.  Chef A/C is not a small boy at all.  If I was a sick individual, I could have blew some air in it because I was that close.  One of my coworkers had enough and yelled at Chef A/C to pull up his "mutha*uckin' pants."  In short, wear a longer shirt, get some chef pants that are loose enough to give you movement room but not enough to see your ass or at the very least, believe in the power of layering.  I practice layering before I go on the line.  

Maintain a clean station and know the power of kitchen manners for equipment.

He is also a chronic offender of keeping a messy station and grabbing items without asking.  Seriously, if I was actually working at this place on the books, I would be a bit more vocal about that.  I cannot stand buddying up with someone who cannot maintain cleanliness.  I don't want to eat anything that you have to make and when I have to clean up behind you because you fail to do it, takes time out of my busy schedule.  I have shit to do...just like you.  Just when you think he cannot possibly get any worse, he grabs your equipment off of your board without asking.  Really?!  Ask before taking.  What if I cut my finger with this blade and I left my station for a minute to clean up and sanitize.  You wouldn't know because you don't care enough to ask me for permission.  My job is just as important as yours.  C'mon man...ask for permission.  

Treat your dishwasher with respect.

Don't talk to this person like crap when you need something.  Empty out your garbage before leaving it at his or her station.  Don't think that this person is a friggin robot.  It's called respect asshole and the dishwasher deserves it.  While we're whipping up wonderful (or what we think is wonderful) dishes for the public, someone has to wash all of our dishes.  Treat this person with respect because he/she is the backbone of our operation.

Know when you cannot efficiently multitask.

Multitasking is a skill and a talent for some.  Some people think it's okay to pick up five things and can do it effectively.  For others, you may need some time.  Be smart about it.  Sure, you want to get out of work earlier but it's not going to happen if you just spilled the main course on a guest foot and the $50 bowl is now in pieces.  "Thanks Chef!  I really wanted to feed my feet today.  My blisters thank you for spilling piping hot 165 degree food on my foot and my $300 shoes thank you for the exquisite meal."  

Gain a sense of humor and borrow some balls when needed.

Everyone is emotional, sometimes irratic and at times, can be a clusterfuck of madness.  Know when to be light about things and when you should address certain things when they occur.  Be wise and respectful.  Please remember: Don't allow yourself to be a punching bag for too long.  Nobody should be a pushover.

Cut your own damn food.

It is helpful when you are tight for time and there's someone that's not using their already chopped parsley but if I tell you that I'm using what I have, NO, go chop your own damn food.  Don't beg me to use stuff that I'm making for my dishes all of the time because you're lazy.  The time you spend Johnny Gilling and Keith Sweating me for some ingredients that are in the damn walk in, you could be doing the same thing yourself.  Don't interpret this statement and run to your sous or head chef and tell them "Hey idiot...I'm not making the side course for your main because you can do it for yourself."  No buddy...that will send you to the unemployment line.  What I suggest is for you to stop finding shortcuts every five minutes and do it yourself.  When you really need the help or an extra five minutes, your crew will know that it is not a cop out.

Practice kitchen manners and say it loud.

"Behind you" goes a long way.  Nobody wants to give you a lecture filled with excuse me when you're holding onto something heavy, hot and can scorch you with the wrong move.  Behind you is a nice way of asking you to clear the space.  Don't take it as a person trying to be rude...just move out of the way.  Offer some help if you can extend it and it's practical.  Scream out "sharp" when you have a sharp object.  I don't want to be on the ten o'clock news because I was stabbed in the face accidentally.  Plus, hold the items down when carrying these objects.  Hand over a sharp object with the handle facing me.  I need to effectively grab it.  

Well, I'm going back to sleep before I prep dinner for a few friends for tonight.  I need all of the rest that I can get.


  1. I love this kitchen etiquette 101, unfortunately too many people think there aren't unwritten rules of etiquette, but you described them to the tee lol. LOVE your new blog, your posts have humor and real life, you don't sugar coat anything and the best part is that it's from a woman's perspective in the kitchen. You have a lovely writing voice Toya =]

  2. Chuckle Chuckle. This was funny. I had a butt crack problem in my kitchen so I started charging the offenders $5.00 for each sighting. When that didn't work I just went to the thrift store and stocked up on about 10 belts and threw them at the offending butt cracker and told them to put on a belt or works. Love to the dish washers!!