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29 signs you worked in a restaurant kitchen


I can relate to all of these except, maybe, the tatoo.

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  1. They forgot some, like you use a grease pencil and write the dates on everything (prevent spoilage), lol.

    1 Reply
    1. re: natewrites

      They do have sharpie listed as #2. I always use a sharpie, not a grease pencil.

      That was funny.

    2. They only list caffeine as the recreational drug through a 14 hour shift.
      They don't mention burn scars or serious cuts.
      They don't mention working through a hangover which'll kill a small goat.
      Or working through a summer heat wave in a 137F kitchen.
      Or the appreciation of a very good server and the complete loathing of a bad one.

      8 Replies
        1. re: porker

          You compare burns and scars on your arms and hands.

          You've been known to wear a chefs coat, side towel and Dansko clogs at home.

          Touching my knives is a felony.

          The ability to cook 2-3 dishes at once.

          Not writing down that you used the last of an item from the pantry will get you hurt.

          You always have a instant read thermometer in your pocket.

          1. re: Kelli2006

            You can't wait to get out of the kitchen, but can't stop thinking about the gang when you're not there.

            Wondering where to have sex on the premises without getting caught.

            Hiding shit in the fridge 'cause somebodys gonna fuck it up.

            Explaining your dish for a third time through CLENCHED teeth.

            Ability to stand anywhere for hours at a time.

            Simply nod and say "yeah, I know what you mean." when some 9 to 5er complains about being sooo tired from putting in an exhausting 5 hours of OT that week when you really want to say "Try working 12 hour days EVERY day for three weeks straight." While supressing the urge to get in their face and scream with flecks of spit flying everywhere "Eh dumbshit!? wanna try that on for size?! "

            1. re: porker

              You've just come off a double and should be tired as hell but are as wired as a crack monkey in a research lab.

              Your current boss at your non cooking job tells you something and you reflexively respond oui, chef.


              Coworkers tell you to get your kidneys checked because you haven't gone to the bathroom since they can remember.

              1. re: porker

                I still haven't figured out how to not buy in bulk, including whole sides of animals.

                I keep a big pot of oil on the stove.

                1. re: Zalbar

                  Ha! I used onions as an example...
                  at the supermarket, 2lb of yellow onions is 99c, thats $25 bucks for 50lbs.
                  Screw that, I get on the phone and order 50lb for $8.
                  Of course 2 months later half is bad and I have to throw 'em out. Still, half the sac is 25 lbs...for $8 is still 32c/lb (or 64c for 2lb worth....)
                  Mrs Porker got tired of it and allows me 10lb at a time max.

                  1. re: porker

                    When I buy large amounts, I cook 'em down and freeze 'em. Not like the freezer isn't already running anyway! But the largest I do is 25#.

                    1. re: coll

                      Oh and relately, I find it impossible to cook for two.

          2. I sure do miss the RobotCoupe and our big immersion blender/jackhammer. And I still get twitchy when I hear one of those printers go off!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kontxesi

              Not only the zzzzt zzzzt of the printers: mrs porker and I would be out having dinner in a restaurant. I could hear the ding ding of an order going into the pass. Meanwhile the waitress, googawing and textoodling on her telephone, doesn't hear a thing. I don't care who's order just came up, I wanna yell at little miss text-a-phone "Hey, young lady, get your head on straight, your ass in the kitchen, AND PICK UP!"
              Instead, mrs porker covers my hand with hers, smiles says "I know, just relax, have some wine"

              Yeah, its the little things you miss, like "hmmmm, I just bought a dressed, whole hog...how do I store it until the weekend?"

              Took me awhile to stop buying onions by the 50lb sack.

              Things were much simpler with a deep fryer at your fingertips.

              You smile when your new boss in this new life asks if the tight construction schedule and overtime milestones are stressing you out and say "you kiddin me? this is a cakewalk."

            2. You are used to smoking near the dumpster out back...:)

              1. That ticket machine on cooking shows drives husband and I nuts, and we never even worked in a kitchen. Something like the NICU pager after your first 12 hours on call. Long after I was done with the NICU, the same sound in a department store would make my heart race.

                1. 27. The sound of a printer triggers PTSD.

                  OMG YES.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: jaykayen

                    Can you explain why jaykayen? I haven't worked in a restaurant kitchen and that's the only item on the list I didn't understand.

                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      Every time that printer starts making the ZZZZZP sound that means that there is another order coming in. When it happens in the middle of an already busy dinner rush and you're already swamped with orders you get a little gun shy.

                      I spent most of my time as a baker and in the pastry closet so I didn't pay much attention to the ZZZZZZZZZ of death.

                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        Most kitchens have a similar type of printer which has a very distinctive sound.

                        As Kelli says "When it happens in the middle of an already busy dinner rush and you're already swamped with orders you get a little gun shy."
                        Linework is incredibly stressful and the sound of that printer adds to the stress by leaps and bounds and gives a feeling of impending doom.
                        One of my line cooks called it a fire-breathing dragon...

                      2. re: Breadcrumbs

                        for years, if not still to this day - there were very narrow (in terms of paper width) printers that we used even in non-restaurant retail- called KP as in Kitchen Printer ----

                        KP were usually thermal and had white and yellow copy - this was way back 90's (haha before the turn of the century) -----

                        I have also worked in healthcare - and the similar printer noise also incites PTSD as JayKayen says above

                        1. re: Georgia Strait

                          In the 70's it was all written chits. About the time Space Invaders tables came into the bar I worked at, we got this little printer with one of those adding machine-sized rolls. It used to dump chits all over the worksurface in any old order so we went back to written chits with the time on them.

                    2. I remember how much I enjoyed winter because you could open the door that lead out back and that cold air would rush in and cool everything off in the kitchen when you opened it up. Best feeling ever.

                      On the other end, there's being rushed to emergency room with 2nd degree burns on my arms from hot oil.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Bkeats

                        "being rushed to emergency room"

                        Lost the tip of my little finger in the potato cutter (of course I was rushing because line cook didn't show up...not only a hospital trip, but a small side trip to bail her out of jail so she could work...).

                        Sliced open the wrist rushing an order...doc said an inch over and maybe I'da come in unconscious.

                        3 days working with a dis-located jaw

                        ...ahhh the good ole days, lotsa fun, lotsa camaraderie, lotsa frustrations (lotsa booze too)

                        1. re: porker

                          Lost the very tip of my middle finger, but it grew back somehow.

                          1. re: coll

                            Maybe there's a stone crab in your family tree...

                            1. re: Veggo

                              I would like to have a little outside genetic backup, now that you mention it. It does sound plausible, since I just watched The Fly.

                              Anyway when it happened a cop happened to be there, so I joked that I didn't have a fingerprint. He said with a straight face, don't worry it will grow back. Don't know how he knew, but maybe he gave me luck.

                            2. re: coll

                              "Lost the very tip of my middle finger, but it grew back somehow"

                              Same here. They stitched mine back on to stop the bleeding, but it fell back off later and then grew back.

                              Sorry for the gross factor.

                              1. re: coll

                                I grabbed a metal-handled mop from where someone had leaned it up behind the fryer. I heard my hand sizzle and noticed the plastic grip on the end of the handle had completely melted about half a second before the pain hit.

                                Spent the rest of the night plunging my hand into a pickle jar full of ice water every few minutes.

                                1. re: hal2010

                                  I hate when that happens (I used to keep a big jar of aloe in the office, works like a charm in these cases).

                                  1. re: hal2010

                                    I had an old timer Italian guy show me ho to do rotisserie chicken. It involved a custom charcoal-burning oven with rotating spits.
                                    You had to nudge the spit outta the sprocket to stop it from spinning, then using baker's pads or mitts, lift the 600F+ spit of chickens out of the oven and onto a rack or into a warmer.

                                    One day he opened the oven to look at a single spit of chickens. In a panic, he nudged, grabbed, and set the spit on the rack WITHOUT USING THE MITTS.
                                    While running his burned hands under the tap, I asked him "Carmine, what the hell you doin? pulling the spit out barehanded?"
                                    "What?, you rather the chicken burned?"

                                    I think it was an unconscious decision on his part, just a quick reaction, but perhaps embarrassed, he downplayed it and acted cool as a cucumber.
                                    He was OK after cooling it down and applying creme...
                                    Never saw anything like it.

                                2. re: porker

                                  I did the same thing chopping up carrots. I was more pissed I had to throw a whole tray full of carrots away than I was about the half nail and fingertip.

                                  My chef has a rule: "Six stitches to go home early and you can't die until your shift is over. "

                                  and ya the post shift drinking that sometimes gets a tad outta hand...

                              2. 20 years out of the restaurant biz and I still have the callous at the base of my index finger.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: chileheadmike

                                  I have to admit that my hands, arms, and feet pretty much softened up since my kitchen days.
                                  I was at a bar a few years ago and a coupla whippersnappers had a challenge: see who could hold their hand in a bucket of ice water the longest (they didn't know I worked a line). Bartender supplied 3 pitchers of ice water.
                                  To prove a point (not sure what the *point* was, but it seemed cool at the time), I kept my hand in the water after tough guy #1 and #2 wimped out, then asked the bartender for a newspaper, read it, drank a few beers, and waited until the ice melted.

                                  1. re: porker

                                    I think part of John Bobbitt had a similar experience.

                                2. I'll add one. You absolutely cannot stand to have someone cooking alongside you in your home kitchen who hasn't also worked in a restaurant kitchen. They just don't get it, man.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: charlesbois

                                    Or going to a dinner party where part of the evening is sitting in the kitchen while the hosts "prepare" dinner.
                                    I kinda eased up now and just go with the flow (with plenty of wine to dull the senses), but there was a time when I'd have to clench my teeth and look the other way, or leave the room...

                                    1. re: porker

                                      The thing that distracts me most is when people chop vegetables with a paring knife or maybe even a steak knife and each cut is a completely vertical up and down slice with the knife at the rate of maybe a cut every 2 seconds. I just can't look away!

                                      1. re: hal2010

                                        can't fricking look away, can't stand it w/the round edge thing called a knife...

                                        So i say....ummm, can i help with that?

                                        oh thanks, the knives are over there (points)

                                        (looks at junk in a drawer that wouldn't cut if i slashed
                                        for days) oh thats ok, i 've got something in the car.

                                        (i go to car to get my 8" ugly as shit Sabatier carbon - and a travel sharpener i keep)

                                        (host looks after me weird) - she keeps a knife....? what the ??

                                        1. re: kariin

                                          ...and you go on to sharpen every knife in the junk drawer!
                                          HAHA, love it!

                                          Speaking of knives, hehe, no matter where I go, no matter what kind of place, the prep person, host, friend, whatever, is happily chopping on their board, the birds are singing and life is good.
                                          They finish the chop, then sssssss-crrr-aaaaaa-pe the board with the knife edge, pushing whatever they've been chopping into a bowl.
                                          The birds stopped singing (in fact they died on the perch), day turns to night, its worse than well-manicured nails being dragged over a blackboard for me - turn the fucking knife OVER to sssss-cr-aaaa-pe, its not a godamned paint scraper for crissakes.

                                          You know, this thread is kinda therapeutic. I'm letting go some of the demons.

                                  2. You complain about being tired at around 1:00 AM..but when the restaurant closes, you get a second wind and hang out at the bar for a few hours!

                                    1. My brother In law is a chef and a few things I have noticed when he cooked in my house. He used tons of paper towels. He used all the bowls , utensils, pots available because he is not the one who is doing the dish. He is always on the phone with his cooks.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Monica


                                        I work as a restaurant manager, and as such, all things cost-related are part of my area of responsibility.
                                        It frustrates the F**k out of me watching chefs grab a new, fresh linen towel, wipe the already clean bench once, then casually throw the towel somewhere near the linen basket, knowing that one of the wait staff or just anyone else will get it into the linen bag at some point.


                                        1. re: rasputina

                                          I had to go around our place with solvent and sticker remover almost every day until we fired a (female) manager for other reasons and the penii mysteriously stopped appearing.

                                          1. re: rasputina

                                            Not just drawing penises, but making food in the shape of a penis. Got a little extra pizza dough? Cock & balls. Got two onions and a carrot? Cock & balls. Got extra time and goodwill and making gingerbread cookies for staff? At least one needs to have a penis on it...

                                            1. re: babette feasts

                                              And its usually offered to the most timid of waitresses first.

                                              1. re: rasputina

                                                Along with the penis (and the hairy vag), kitchen staff might also tend to speak like sailors on shore leave...

                                              2. "86", "all day", "in the weeds", and "on the rail" mean something to you.

                                                And when interviewing for a non-restaurant job and a male superior mention he doesn't want to see any crying and you answer rather plainly, "you can't break me" and mean it.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Crockett67

                                                  It is truly like boot camp, and in a good way.

                                                2. 1 - not wanting to eat in a restaurant?
                                                  maybe I'm from the old days
                                                  but regardless of price point - some if not most of it in my 80's and 90's era experience makes me cringe - no offense intended to any of the hardworking people out there

                                                  I hope that people who go out to eat these days have a greater appreciation of the work from farm to server that is involved in their plated food.