Friday 24 June 2016

The rush of the hot pass

Running the hot pass is that unique task that Chefs de Cuisine perform during service where all those years of work finally come to a conclusion.  You have your Trainees figuring out the flow, Junior Cooks learning basics and trying to master their stations, Chefs de Partie running around looking for fires to extinguish, Sous Chefs observing every single detail and the Chef de Cuisine directing the service, playing the cooks like a conductor does an orchestra, controlling every dish, every item, every guest’s multicourse meal, every special request… literally cooking with 40 hands.

The Chef the Cuisine is there, standing at the front of the kitchen and waiting, as guests pour into the dining room, for the sound of the printer to begin spitting out tickets as fast as the ink can mark orders from hungry guests. Numerous dishes, allergies, preferences, moods, expectations and different reasons to come: some with birthdays, some anniversaries, some a special night out, dinner with friends or just plain old hungry and looking for dinner. Whatever the reason, it will dictate how fast or slow guests want their food, how much or little attention they require from waiters or the Chef, and all this will need to be taken into consideration to execute a meal as close to perfection as possible, a meal they will not soon forget. 

Great food with bad service counts for nothing, as does great service with badly prepared food; it must all come together. During service there are no teams, friends, enemies or barriers; it must be everyone for the guest, all staff at full attention to anticipate needs. Chefs must control, they must understand their team and use them like the gas pedal of a car: pushing for speed but not too much to lose control and letting up to slow down and maintain quality and precision. 

Chefs know service time is where hours of work can pay off or be ruined in seconds, where good restaurants become great and great ones can fail. A service turns kitchen staff with potential into super heroes and those without into mere spectators only watching as the magic unfolds. Amazing individuals do not necessarily make an amazing team and a great team is critical to a successful service. It is the job of the Chef to motivate those needing a push, to scold those lacking motivation and to get rid of those who don't belong. No matter how good is today, once it's over the focus is tomorrow and nobody cares about yesterday if they are booking today. 

Chefs know that a guest will judge a restaurant on one meal alone, one opportunity to fail or succeed. Definitely a rush.