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Can you explain fire sequence to me?


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#1 Doodad

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 11:11 AM

I am fascinated by pro kitchens and did not pay enough attention when I worked FOH all those years ago. But, my question is how the stations coordinate the sequence of events to produce all the table's order up at a single time.

Let's say you have a kitchen with four or five stations. I imagine a grill, saute, fish, saucing/plating and such. It is busy. The tickets are lining up as the rush begins. An order for a four top comes in. One item is a delicate fish entree, one is a steak (med), one is a braised item (obviously is completed and held) and one has two steps like maybe a pasta dish. You have orders in progress and to follow.

How do they complete it if the dance is happening right? And if the following order is a quick one, does it move with and before the order in question?

Thanks.

#2 Qwerty

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 01:08 PM

In most kitchens (at least the ones I've worked in) the protein (not fish, meat) is cooked immediately upon the chit coming into the kitchen. This is done because usually proteins cook the longest and it will give the meat a chance to rest properly. Usually the fish guy will pull the fish out of the lowboy on the order call so that a) it tempers and b) he knows what he has ordered all day.

Once the ticket is fired, (expo will say something like "Fire halibut, strip, short rib, and ravioli) this means that the fish will be cooked (with very few exceptions, fish does not need to rest and is at it's best right out of the pan) and so will any garnishes. The fish guy will call the ticket, so when the fish is about to be plated he will say something like "pickup halibut" and then everyone will know to finish whatever they are cooking for the ticket and take it to the pass. So the meat guy will plate his steak and his braise, the pasta guy will plate his pasta, and the fish guy will plate his fish.

This is referred to the "order, fire, pickup" system and is generally used in most kitchens, at least most "higher end" pro-kitchens.

You will probably have many things on order and many things on fire. Generally, you will only have 1 ticket on pick-up at a time, though sometimes you will have 2 tickets. Sometimes you will hear a "right in" call, which means: "pick up this ticket, then immediately after pick up this one."

I don't know if I am explaining it properly, but I'll try to sum up:

--The meat protein is cooked on the order call (generally with few exceptions)
--The fish is pulled out of the cooler on the order call
--Garnishes/sides are pre cooked, pulled out of the lowboy, or made ready to fire on the order call (generally)
--When first courses have gone out, and the table is cleared or about to be cleared, the ticket is fired (this is sometimes done at the expediters discretion, sometimes it is up to the servers to fire tickets...depends on the kitchen)
--On the fire call, the fish goes down, the sides/garnishes go down, the braises go into the oven, etc.
--When the fish is almost ready to plate, the fish guy calls out "pickup" and then the expo will read out the ticket. This means get the food to the pass.

Hope this helps.

#3 Doodad

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 03:12 PM

Thanks for the generous explanation.

I have a question about the sides. Is it typical to have the sides part done? Half cooked and set out in portions or is it all on order? I can imagine sides being glazed carrots, wilted greens and a mushroom/roast pepper say.

How would you treat those? Parboil the carrots to just the need to carmelize and glaze? Greens stay in portions til called? Peppers roasted but mushrooms cooked on fire? And who typically does the sides for a given dish? Each station whose entree it accompanies, each type of station for a given treatment (who parboils especially before a saute) or a side cook?

How many tables at once can a good crew in our imaginary kitchen handle at one time? That REALLY fascinates me. Is each station as full as possible or is there a flow throttle by the expediter to keep the chaos to a dull roar?

Thanks for any explanations.

#4 Jakea222

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 08:16 PM

I have worked order fire and if you get slammed the expediter is the air traffic controller. A GOOD expediter is worth more than you can imagine. They calm the kitchen keep the service staff in control which is very important. It is very difficult when you get slammed for temps with FoH taking things out of the window to serve the tables they are assigned. The grill is the tough guy. The temps are hard to keep track and the place I was he had his own tape that only said his orders. The French kitchen I worked was no paper other than the expediter and it was tough on me and I did not stay long - it was stress - rather have root canal than not have to remember 35 orders at once. I have worked with many talented line guys that basically is all they want to do is the rush and nothing else. One place the only thing he did was cook - no prep. But he could work as many tickets as you could call. He had 8 burners, broiler, 2 ovens for flash cook and his line and to watch him in a rush was very graceful and precise. I have worked for CMCs that worked it, but this guys did not sweat and would smile as each one of his plates went up or pans were passed for the center to plate. To get back to your question about the different stations - it gets to be routine when you hear it. I knew that I had about 1-2 minutes to start somethings to complete an order and the expediter sometimes would call to amke sure I had things in the oven because he did not see it or whatever - but just as a good waiter knows the timing of things. If you are that facinated - go to a busy place and ask if you can watch it is amazing to see ESPECIALLY if the line guys don't speak the same language! that is always more fun.

#5 Alchemist

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 09:19 PM

Firing food
A kitchen at full throttle is a beautiful thing to behold. I am not sure what Querty is talking about having only one or two tickets fired at a time. In my experience you start rocking when the whole restaurant is on fire. On of the most challenging things for a chef is to create a menu that is great and is balanced for the line. One must consider how many apps and mains come off each station so as not to put one person in the weeds too much. But many places fill up upon opening so all-night it is like being caught in a set of waves on the north shore of Maui. Every time you come up for air you get pounded again. If you are lucky you have time to wipe your station, swill some water and give the person working the grill some grief about something or another. I can’t believe I just said that without cursing. I would have been run off the line on a rail for such niceites.

As for sides the line knows what sides go with which proteins, so they are fired automatically. Part of prep is to get the sides to a point where they can be finished in the same time as the meat. If it is carrots they will be blanched if the “pick up” time for the meat is fast. So we will take a line in a busy night at 7:45.

Expo: Fire two shrimp, three blossoms, a tongue, and a calamari. Ordering three porterhouses, a bass, four chicken, and two pasta.

Line: repeats the order.

Another ticket comes in so.

Expo: fire two porterhouse, that makes five all day.

At this point the grill man pulls out 5 porterhouses and seasons them. He tosses a broiled beef tongue on the fire. The chicken’s go in the oven. Sautee starts heating a pan to wilt some spinach. Pantry dresses some watercress for the tongue. Some lotus chips are taken out of the water to dry slightly so they can be flashed just before the plates hit the pass. The squash blossoms are dropped into the fryer to go out “on the fly”. As the plates get to the expo. They wipe the edges, and make sure the right plates go tot the right tables. Beating back the waiters, who will just grab any plate that strikes their fancy, is another job the expo does.

It really is amazing to watch it all come together. And even cooler to be part of something that moves in unison, where you are one being with multiple hands and legs



A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

#6 JoshRountree

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 09:59 PM

I don't have any questions but I'm very fascinated by all of this. I have often wondered how in the hell a high-end kitchen makes it all come together. I would like to visit a kitchen, better yet, I wish there some YouTube videos of a high-end kitchen rocking and rolling through a rush.

#7 rjwong

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 10:17 PM

I'm fascinated by all this as well. It reminds me of a dining experience I had a couple of years ago.

It was a Sunday night of a three-day weekend in Los Angeles, either Jan. or Feb. It. Was. Cold. Grace Restaurant was having their regular "Burger Night" and I decided to go there that evening. It shouldn't be that crowded. When I got there, the ENTIRE restaurant was slammed! They ran out of the burgers by 7:00 p.m. I ordered something else from this one little spot at the bar area and watching the whole thing.

Even though I didn't get to see the kitchen action that well, I could just feel this "poetry in motion" going on throughout the restaurant, the BOH and the FOH working together, even though it was very busy. It was amazing to see it and experience it ... :shock: :smile: :smile:
Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

#8 Qwerty

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 05:00 PM

Firing food
A kitchen at full throttle is a beautiful thing to behold.  I am not sure what Querty is talking about having only one or two tickets fired at a time. In my experience you start rocking when the whole restaurant is on fire.

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I never said only one or two tickets fired, I said one or two tickets on pickup at a time, that is a huge difference. Please read more carefully next time.

Doodad, it really depends on a number of factors for the sides and garnishes. In some kitchens, damn near EVERYTHING is done to order. Veg are cooked to order, purees, etc. You might find this type of thing in a Michelin 3 star, but probably not in most places, even the high end ones. There is probably a big bain of potato puree being dipped into throughout the night--a pot at a time taken out, heated, adjusted, etc. Veg are probably par cooked. Sauces are made ahead of time (unless it is a pan sauce, but even then its taken as far as it can go before deglazing).

Some places do a combo of the above--they may roast or glaze veg to order, but don't make potato puree to order, for example. Things like roasted peppers are going to be done ahead of time.

Some kitchens have dedicated side cooks (these guys are referred to entremetiers--and I may have spelled that wrong) that do everything but cook the protein. Some kitchens the guy who is cooking the item also does the sides and garnish. It depends on the style of food, the kitchen layout, the size, and a number of other factors.

There is no clearcut, right-or-wrong answer.

No matter how good a kitchen crew you have, there is a limit on the number of dinners they can push out during a given time. This is why the dining room is usually sat (ideally) in stages. The max limit just depends on too many things, but if the entire dining room is sat within 10 minutes, you can bet the kitchen is going to be in the shit. What you want to have is a steady stream of orders.

#9 317indy

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 12:26 AM

The food is Ordered, you mark off your steak, pop your meat to be braised, its been par cooked earlier in the day by the butcher(at my place we braise lamb shanks, they are marinated in chineese mustard, next day they are grilled off, and popped in the oven to braise for 3-4 hours, then cooled) in the braising jus. you place marked off steak on cooling rack above the oven. Your fish is sauted off, and done the same as the steak. Just get a hard sear on it and place it to cool. Then when its picked up, you pop it all in the oven for 5-6 minutes, plate up your startch after 4 minutes, usually its being kept in a 1/3 pan in a steam well. You saute off your veggies, or cook then in a stock of some sort. If none of this is done you call to your fry station to fire whatever you need for said dishes. The pasta dish is going to be cooked off within that 5-6 minute period and they will saute off their veggies and proteins. All should arrive in the pass around the same time to the entree window. On a 300 cover night our ticket times usually are 6-10 minutes for Aps, 3-5 minutes for Garde Manger, 12-15 minutes for Entree and 15-20 minutes for Pastry.

All for dishes are done by two stations depending on startches and veggies. Grill and Saute. Otherwise Fish is done by Wok.

Edited by 317indy, 29 February 2008 - 12:28 AM.


#10 Doodad

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 05:40 AM

The food is Ordered, you mark off your steak, pop your meat to be braised, its been par cooked earlier in the day by the butcher(at my place we braise lamb shanks, they are marinated in chineese mustard, next day they are grilled off, and popped in the oven to braise for 3-4 hours, then cooled) in the braising jus. you place marked off steak on cooling rack above the oven. Your fish is sauted off, and done the same as the steak. Just get a hard sear on it and place it to cool. Then when its picked up, you pop it all in the oven for 5-6 minutes, plate up your startch after 4 minutes, usually its being kept in a 1/3 pan in a steam well. You saute off your veggies, or cook then in a stock of some sort. If none of this is done you call to your fry station to fire whatever you need for said dishes. The pasta dish is going to be cooked off within that 5-6 minute period and they will saute off their veggies and proteins. All should arrive in the pass around the same time to the entree window. On a 300 cover night our ticket times usually are 6-10 minutes for Aps, 3-5 minutes for Garde Manger, 12-15 minutes for Entree and 15-20 minutes for Pastry.

All for dishes are done by two stations depending on startches and veggies. Grill and Saute. Otherwise Fish is done by Wok.

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Wow, I would like to watch that. I have serious delusions of grandeur and am not sure I could hack that. Chef Walter Mitty I guess.

#11 phlox

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 10:10 AM

I worked in a restaurant with an open kitchen for a little under two years, and watching the intricate ballet of pans and fire and plates coming up on the pass all at once never got old. The OFP system is pretty standard for good reason - it works. The place where I work now is much, much smaller and there are no heat lamps, so strategy and planning become more important. And if someone isn't there to grab food the second it comes up, chef is not happy!
"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

#12 jace

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 04:40 PM

I don't have any questions but I'm very fascinated by all of this. I have often wondered how in the hell a high-end kitchen makes it all come together. I would like to visit a kitchen, better yet, I wish there some YouTube videos of a high-end kitchen rocking and rolling through a rush.

View Post


Good luck with that pal. Most kitchens are very efficient because they're behind those doors. There's a reason for this, cooks and chefs alike are very territorial, piratical, and foul mouthed. That's OUR home. Intruders are rarely welcome. Even new hires are chastised or ignored until they have somehow proven themselves to be accepted. Servers will NEVER by any form be tolerated on the line.
The thought of a customer or a film crew on the line is not only not gonna happen because of pride and space, but also because it's a dangerous place to be if you don't know what you're doing.
There are other options for you, though. I would suggest dining at an "expo" restaurant, i.e. someplace with an open kitchen. There are tons of them in every metro city across the U.S. and it gives a good idea as to what we're up to back there. Request
a table near to the action and enjoy the show. Ask questions if you want, but do yourself a favor, don't try to yak at 'em when they're in the rush. We HATE that. Even from other cooks.

#13 stealw

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 09:20 PM

Simple demonstration of this would be on Gordan Ramsey's show Hells Kitchen on Fox. Not exactly an..efficient kitchen crew, but sorta portrays what you're pondering.

#14 phlox

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 06:43 AM

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There are other options for you, though. I would suggest dining at an "expo" restaurant, i.e. someplace with an open kitchen. There are tons of them in every metro city across the U.S. and it gives a good idea as to what we're up to back there.  Request
a table near to the action and enjoy the show.  Ask questions if you want, but do yourself a favor, don't try to yak at 'em when they're in the rush.  We HATE that. Even from other cooks.

View Post


I worked in one of these restaurants for about a year and a half and spent most of my down time watching the kitchen. It was really fun and I learned a lot from just watching at a slight distance (you could see the kitchen perfectly from the host stand). During the mid-afternoon dead periods I would ask questions, and usually the same people who'd snarl at you during service were happy to talk to someone interested in what they do. I'd watch the sous-chef break down fish and meat, learned all about charcuterie.

Now that I work in a smaller place, it's even more like that. On one of my first days I asked one of the cooks about a mushroom I'd never seen before. The next time I turned around, he had not just the mushroom I'd asked about, but all of the mushrooms they used for different dishes lined up on the counter so I could compare. Unsurprisingly, he also makes a kick-ass family meal!
"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

#15 Loosecanon Dolph

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 02:48 PM

I am fascinated by pro kitchens and did not pay enough attention when I worked FOH all those years ago.  But, my question is how the stations coordinate the sequence of events to produce all the table's order up at a single time.

Let's say you have a kitchen with four or five stations.  I imagine a grill, saute, fish, saucing/plating and such.  It is busy.  The tickets are lining up as the rush begins.  An order for a four top comes in.  One item is a delicate fish entree, one is a steak (med), one is a braised item (obviously is completed and held) and one has two steps like maybe a pasta dish.  You have orders in progress and to follow.

How do they complete it if the dance is happening right?  And if the following order is a quick one, does it move with and before the order in question?

Thanks.

View Post


Constant communication, experience, and a good expediter

#16 Loosecanon Dolph

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 10:33 AM

better yet, I wish there some YouTube videos of a high-end kitchen rocking and rolling through a rush.

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totally, im a professional cook and I would love to see some youtube videos of busy lines i love watching other kitchens work its fascinating, someone should start a thread and people should start posting videos from their friday sat nights. Am i right or am i wrong ? :-)

[Good luck with that pal. Most kitchens are very efficient because they're behind those doors. There's a reason for this, cooks and chefs alike are very territorial, piratical, and foul mouthed. That's OUR home. Intruders are rarely welcome. Even new hires are chastised or ignored until they have somehow proven themselves to be accepted. Servers will NEVER by any form be tolerated on the line.
The thought of a customer or a film crew on the line is not only not gonna happen because of pride and space, but also because it's a dangerous place to be if you don't know what you're doing. ]


Film crew, c'mon you're getting ahead of yourself, I'm talking about one camera set on the pass.