Grace Darling head chef Richard Spenser tells you what you need to know.
If you want to make a great first impression, turn up 15 minutes before the shift. That will give you enough time to find your bearings, get changed, and work out your new setup. It is vital that everyone in the kitchen is ready to go at the same time.
Ensure your section setup is clean and neatly assembled. The setup should include a selection of specific chopping boards, knives, two tea towels, prepping equipment, a cloth for wiping down benches and clean dishes for transferring. Also, remember to bring your own knives.
Involve yourself in the action and try to help out where you can. Kitchens are about teamwork, so check your ego at the door and be cooperative. Also, use positional cues like “behind you” or “watch your back” when you’re running around.
Keep to the set recipes. While you may have good ideas for recipe variations, your first day isn’t the time to bring this up. Most restaurants are reluctant to change their recipes given that product consistency is what drives many patrons to return.
Wipe down your section regularly; clean your knives at the end of the shift with hot soapy water (not just with a tea towel) and, when refrigerating, ensure you label and date everything clearly. Remember that chopping boards used for cutting meat are always a one-time use.
One way to amaze the head chef is to show good heat knowledge and control. Before you arrive, take the time to learn ideal heating levels for particular foods. Not everything has to be on full bore.
If you’re working in an open kitchen, remember that you’re essentially performing your job to customers. Try not to shout, throw things or have a tea towel draped over your shoulder. As well as being smart and professional, you should also look smart and professional.
Finally, if you feel that it’s getting a little too hot in the kitchen, stand back for a second and take a few deep breaths. Then get back into it. If you can handle the pressure, you’ll go a long way to winning over your new boss quickly.
Grace Darling is located at 114 Smith Street, Collingwood, Victoria Australia, 3066
Photography: Jake Roden