1. To Be On Time
If you’re not on time in the kitchen you will quickly lose the respect of your co-workers. Being on time is a non-negotiable, in fact, it is common to hear the phrase “15 minutes early is considered on time in the kitchen”. Follow this rule and you’re on your way to being a decent cook.
2. To listen properly
If you don’t learn to listen properly in the kitchen, you’re not going to survive. Chef’s are short on time and short in temper, so they will only tell you what to do and how to do it once. Listen carefully, to all of the instructions. I find repeating back the instructions helps me get it right. If Chef says, “Get three carrots, one daikon, three chilis. Thinly julienne carrots and daikon. Finely dice chilli.” – I will respond with “three carrot, one daikon julienne, three chilli fine dice. Yes, Chef”. This allows you to confirm with Chef that you have heard the instructions properly. It allows Chef the chance to correct you before you’ve made any mistakes. It also helps you to remember the instructions properly. I find most chefs won’t mind you doing this as an apprentice.
3. To cook
Pretty obvious, but learning how to cook is an essential life skill and there’s nothing better than learning how to do it properly. From making the perfect fried egg to the creamiest mash potato, life in the kitchen will equip you with life-long cooking skills.
4. To respect authority
The kitchen is a tough, militaristic environment. As a kid I questioned authority constantly, I think it can be a healthy thing. But in the kitchen, especially as an apprentice, the only option is to respect those above you (i.e. everyone) and to obey orders.
5. To think for yourself
Sometimes in the kitchen, you will find yourself standing at a bench, alone, wondering what the f*** to do. Everyone is busy, you don’t dare interrupt. What do you do? Any chef will tell you, the last thing you want to do is nothing. The old adage goes “if there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean”. When in doubt – clean! But look for other things to do. What jobs do you know how to do and that you know need doing. Do sauce bottles need refilling? Do it. Does the cool room need cleaning? Do it. You’ll find that as you get on with these self assigned tasks, chefs will find you to do other work. Don’t worry, that’s what you want. To always be busy and to not need babysitting every second of the day.
6. To be a perfectionist
Good is not good enough. Okay is terrible. Whatever you do strive for perfection. Don’t cut corners and if you did it wrong, do it again. Work clean, work fast and never give up.