For an apprentice chef, your first role in a commercial kitchen is a valuable learning experience. Here are 5 tips for apprentice chefs:
1. Work Neatly
When you’re cooking for yourself or entertaining guests at home, you have ample time and space to cook and clean up afterwards. But in a commercial kitchen, you are sharing your workspace with a team of people in a fast-paced environment.
You should always be cleaning as you go Wipe down bench, and move used bowls and utensils to the sink or dishwasher as soon as you can. This keeps your work hygienic, and maximises the bench space available to the others on tour team.
Restaurant kitchens can become busy very quickly and a communication breakdown can create unnecessary levels of stress and chaos.
Don’t be afraid to be loud. While it may be considered rude in a majority of situations, it’s standard in a busy kitchen for chefs to shout orders. The kitchen can be a particularly noisy environment, and chefs, as well as wait staff, need to hear the orders clearly.
If you make a mistake, own up to it straight away. Although it can be daunting, admitting your mistake immediately means that others are aware of it and that it can be fixed in a timely manner. If you’re asked how long something will take, you should always be honest, even if you’re behind. That way, a more experienced chef can step in and help if needed.
3. Dress Appropriately
Uniform is essential for ensuring safety, comfort and hygiene standards in a restaurant kitchen.
Professional chefs and apprentice chefs in Australia are required to meet with the national uniform standard according to the Workplace Health and Safety Act.
This includes strong, enclosed footwear and industry-compliant protective clothing, including Chef Pants and a Chef jacket. Make sure you also have the appropriate Chef hat and apron, and remove watches and other jewelry. Your uniform should also be clean, ironed and presentable when you arrive at work.
If you’re unsure about any part of the clothing requirements, it’s always a good idea to clarify with management prior to your first shift.
4. Maintain a Safe and Efficient Workflow
On your first day, pay close attention to the layout of the kitchen and the way others navigate the space. As you gain more experience and practice good time management, you should find yourself fitting in with the workflow of the kitchen. But you should also be thinking about the space and workflow from a safety perspective.
Thousands of workplace injuries each year are attributed to slips and spills. Commercial kitchens are one of the leading causes of these injuries. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep clear pathways.
5. Take Care of Your Tools
Chefs are passionate about their knives, and rightly so. A variety of good quality knives are essential for prepping ingredients quickly and consistently. Take the time to learn how to properly sharpen the knives in the kitchen, and familiarise yourself with which knives are best suited to each food.
Ensure that all other utensils – spatulas, tongs, ladles, and cutting boards – are cleaned, kept in good condition and stored in the correct places.