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Pastry Chefs, born or made?


greenbean
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I recently started my first pastry job and so far it has been a real struggle. While I am able to perform all of the tasks that I am assigned, I am always behind. I can't seem to master the speed/efficiency/thinking two steps ahead thing. Is this something that comes with experience or is it something you either have or don't have? I hit the ground running everyday; I am scrambling from the minute I get to work to the minute I leave, but when I look back, I wonder what I've done. I definitely feel like I am dragging down the rest of the crew because people always have to help me get my work done. This is very stressful because I don't like to feel like I'm not pulling my weight, but I just don't get it. What am I missing? Am I in over my head or do I just need to give myself some time?

Thank you,

Greenbean

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I can't seem to master the speed/efficiency/thinking two steps ahead thing. Is this something that comes with experience or is it something you either have or don't have?

I am sure it will reassure you to know that those skills do get better with time. I felt EXACTLY like you do when I first got into the biz.......and you know, sometimes I still feel that way now. Here are two things that help me "stay out of the weeds":

1) Becoming somewhat "psychic". I'm sure anyone that has done this as long as I have knows what I'm talking about. Maybe it's not so much "psychic" as the skill of "anticipating". You learn to look at factors that affect your workload that maybe you didn't pay attention to before. For me, it was looking at weather reports (yes, weather reports! In some places the weather determines what kind of customer flow you will get that day!), upcoming holidays, local events (we have a lot of "festivals" where I live), who you work with and how much they support you (ie, if your co-worker starts coughing and sneezing and saying they feel like crap, anticipate that they may not be at work the next day). You'll know what to "anticipate" when you've been at a certain place for a while. You'll see the "danger" signs.

2) Learning to have more than one thing going at a time. It was really hard for me to do that at first. I'm pretty good at it now. I am usually working on a minimum of three tasks at a time. For instance, let's say I have to make a big mocha cookie dough, macaroons, and muffin mix. I have to melt a huge amount of chocolate for the mocha dough, so I throw that in bowls in the oven (yes, the oven) to melt while I start scaling out stuff for the macaroons. I get the butter and sugar melting for the macaroons while I'm scaling out the rest of the stuff for the macaroons. While I'm waiting for the butter and sugar to melt and the chocolate to melt, I start slicing apples for the muffin mix......and so on. I make sure I consolidate trips to the walk-in.....like if I'm putting butter away, I also grab the apples out. With time you learn to make every step, every moment count...all your movements become choreographed and efficient. You'll know when you hit your "rhythm".....and :laugh: boy does it make me irritated when somebody "trips me up".

These two skills are really important I think. I get better at it every day. Also with time, and repeated tasks, you get faster at them because you've done it so darn much. I always gain speed when I memorize recipes because I don't have to keep referring back to something. Now, mind you, I don't actually TRY to memorize recipes, it just comes when you do it over and over and over.......

Also, pastry itself is the most time consuming station in the kitchen. It's one of the things that distinguishes us from the "hot siders". If you feel that you are too slow and are concerned about it, that is a good thing.....you're aware that you need to polish skills (as we all do, even with experience under our belts), and never stop thinking that you can learn more. You'll pick up your most valuable skills from experienced co-workers......learn from them too.

As long as you have the attitude that you want to succeed, you will.......! :smile:

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Greenbean, first of all congratulations on your first pastry job and condolences as well on it's being so challenging. I think it is a matter of experience and giving yourself time. I mean I do not know anything about your work history. Ultimately it is how much time your employer will give you too, y'know? Hopefully you will get this all under control in time. It could be mismanagement on your employer's part too. Nothing like disorganization to screw up a work flow.

I know my own little 6'4" chef-boy worked in several restaurents and one hotel before he went to culinary school and now has a great job in the hotel world. He can maintain the pace for the most part because of his previous experience, but he works his scrawny tail off. Oh yes 'hits the ground running' and goes in way before opening to get his station prepped & rolling. So even with good experience under your belt, it's a tough tough gig.

An idea for you>>When away from work, I would focus on one item you make/serve, were respnsible for in one way or another. Take it one step at at time, break it down & keep it simple. In your mind take it from start to finish, look at places along the way where you can tighten up the process. Like even just putting the bowl on the other side of the pan, use scissors instead of a knife, use parchment instead of greasing the pan or vice versa, as soon as you arrive, get the butter & cream cheese out of the walk-in to come to room temp while you get chocolate melting on the stove blah blah blah or whatever. See where you can economize a few minutes of time and you will start to create a tiny bit of control in that out of control atmosphere. And it will gradually over time breed some more control in that roller coaster dynamic of food service.

I say give it as much time as your employer will allow you in order to get your bearings. Can you come in 30 minutes early & set plates out on sheet trays stacked up waiting for you to fill or something??? Sometimes starting backwards helps. Any thing you can do at end of shift to help it go smoother the next morning???

What do the other folks have to help you with??? How fast are you moving your arms/hands. Bet you could move a bit faster with practice. You'll get there. What takes the longest? What is labor intensive? What item that you make has a lot of downtime in the process?? Kinda play dominos with your responsibilities & see where everything will fit like a collage or a patchwork quilt, y'know????

You can do anything you really want to do.

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Congratulations! How long have you been in your job? Are you working in a restaurant, bakery, or what?

I've been there - I've been in my first pastry job for three and a half months now. I know exactly how you feel, and it does suck. But you will get faster. If you have tasks that you do every day, try to set yourself a time goal. If it took you an hour today, try to do it in 55 minutes, then 50 minutes, etc. Even if it's just mechanically moving faster, that will help.

Like Anne said, the repetition will make things faster. Also, as you get more comfortable in your kitchen, you'll know where things are without having to look for them and how to maneuver efficiently (like she said, getting several things in the walk-in at once, or grabbing an offset when you have your hand out to get the rubber spatula or a scraper).

I will try various tricks to try to speed up some of the more time consuming tasks I do and then stick with what seems to work. K8memphis' advice to think through some of your tasks when you're not at work is great as well.

You might want to ask your chef if he or she has any suggestions as to what works for him/her on any particular task. I've gotten great hints from all my co-workers on ways to speed up.

Hang in there! It will get better! It took me about two months before I really felt like I was in a groove. Now when I get a new task, it's easier to adjust and build up my speed on those things.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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greenbean---- speed will come with repetition.And if this is your first job in the field,you'll have many opportunities for repetition.Definitely share your concerns with your chef.He (or,she) can give you helpful hints--but the most important thing is your attitude.I have app. 20 people of varying skill levels working for me.I wish I had 5 that cared enough to be worried about how they're doing.

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Ah, I work at a country club also. It's highly possible that your doing nothing slow but that their system isn't working for you. System as in, when you get party sheets and how THEY work with a pastry chef. Country clubs kitchens are run for the hot side with little thought as to what a last minute order and change of order does to how a pastry chef works. Hot side chefs have little to no idea of the time frame pc's need to complete work.

I think I/we can really help you, at least I finally know I've done everything I can do to master the same type of job....so hopefully we can talk more details and you can see how others are handling similar.

So can you talk about more specifics? Like focus in more on what seems to be slowing you down or holding you back.........

For example: when I began working at clubs I worked on orders as they approached date wise. That all worked fine until they began giving me tons of last minute orders screwing up my schedule of how I had planned to get the first project completed. Is that happening to you?

When do you get you party sheets/ notification of orders you need to fill? I've had clubs not issue party sheets until the week of the event. When they have multiple huge parties back to back sometimes that's just more work then anyone can complete in that time frame.

Do you keep any basic items in stock? Like do you have several cakes in the freezer, do you always have staples like pastry cream on hand? Do you always have fruit sauces on hand made and frozen?

Then in time I learned what items I can make quickly. It's extremely helpful to have as long of a mental list as possible of quick items you can make. For example, I know if my chef or manager comes up to me and says I need dessert for 50 tonight or asap that I've got puff pastry in my freezer and pastry cream in my cooler. From those two things I know that I can make many items with those two staples. The point being that sometimes you can't always make what you want, sometimes you have to make the quickest thing to fill the order and or to fit into you planned schedule.

Are you alone, are you a one person department?

Do you have your own freezers?

Do you order your own ingredients?

Do you use any convience items like premade tart shells, etc....?

Do you choose your own ala carte menu? How often do you change it?

Do you/are you supposed to make and plate all your items yourself?

How many outlets do you service? The halfway house, main dining room, catering, parties and just how much business is typical? How many ala carte desserts do you sell a day in addition to your banquets?

How many functions do they typically have a day? What sized parties are they on average?

Are you making breads and pastries?

How many hours are you working a day?

Where did you go to school or how did you become a pc?

You don't have to answer each of my questions........I'm just looking for an outline of what you have to accomplish and where you think you may be struggling.

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I always say this, but the most helpful thing I can do for myself is to envision a process repeatedly before I begin it. Every moment of down time I have I am subconsciously planning my next day/project down to the very last footfall. That way, when I show up and have 6 hours to do 10 hours worth of work, I feel like I've done it already just from all the time I've invested in envisioning it.

I find that particular practice invaluabe. Hope that helps.

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Greenbean, Any new production job, be it pastry chef or preparing spreadsheets normally takes time to master. I'd encourage you to keep your quality high while looking for ways to improve your productivity. I've got a reputation in my company as one of the most productive multi-taskers we have and I'd say most of it is mental.

Years ago when I was a trainer for Houston's Restaurants I'd watch new waiters lose it, running back and forth doing single tasks or "rubber banding" as we called it. They were working very hard but not very efficiently. The best always seemed to sweat less and move confidently around the restaurant capable of doing 2-3 tasks at a time.

I know for me when I stress and pressure myself, I become less productive. You sound like you are doing the same thing now. Years ago I also worked as a prep cook and I was amazed at how "Chef" could seem so calm and not seem to move quickly but always be way ahead. He was multi-tasking before we knew what that meant and also had a keen eye for time, knowing if he was ahead/behind schedule. If you do similar routines each day, you might want to break down each function and set some goals as far as time and then see if you can improve. How many different steps do you take each day? Break them down and see where you can combine actions or do similar steps at the same time.

Are you having many defects? If you are having to redo things that obviously cuts into your time. Do others have the same problems? It may be that your workload is just too high and nobody would be successful. Does anyone else do the same routine and if so, how are they doing? If someone does and they are successful, observe them, even on a day off and you will find tricks you are probably missing.

Most of all, Start each day, each hour, with a plan. You will be amazed at how much more productive you are when you have a schedule and understand the time required for each action. My guess is you probably are "rubber banding" wasting lots of time running back and forth reacting to your stress at feeling behind and by doing so, actually falling farther behind.

I'd talk to your employer, see what they say. If they are happy with you and your work, stop putting more pressure on yourself. Also, you can ask for advice and acknowledge that you think you can be more productive and ask what they suggest. Invest them in your efforts and I think you'll be surprised what a difference it makes. It could well be they underestimated the time it takes for you to do the work or the previous person cut corners to finish and sacrificed quality. In any case, good luck and hang in there.

I recently started my first pastry job and so far it has been a real struggle. While I am able to perform all of the tasks that I am assigned, I am always behind. I can't seem to master the speed/efficiency/thinking two steps ahead thing. Is this something that comes with experience or is it something you either have or don't have? I hit the ground running everyday; I am scrambling from the minute I get to work to the minute I leave, but when I look back, I wonder what I've done. I definitely feel like I am dragging down the rest of the crew because people always have to help me get my work done. This is very stressful because I don't like to feel like I'm not pulling my weight, but I just don't get it. What am I missing? Am I in over my head or do I just need to give myself some time?

Thank you,

Greenbean

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I always say this, but the most helpful thing I can do for myself is to envision a process repeatedly before I begin it. Every moment of down time I have I am subconsciously planning my next day/project down to the very last footfall. That way, when I show up and have 6 hours to do 10 hours worth of work, I feel like I've done it already just from all the time I've invested in envisioning it.

I find that particular practice invaluabe. Hope that helps.

I too do this, constantly, even while I'm at dinner with my husband (don't tell him) I may be day dreaming of how I'm going to accomplish my tasks at work the next day. I've always got a plan in my head on how to achieve my schedule. Unlike the hot side, we really can't chat as we work, minimize any distractions that you can. While your doing one task your planning what your smartest next step should be.....so your a little flexiable in your schedule. But I generally plan out that Tues. and Wed. will be baking days and Thurs. and Fri. will be assembling days. Giving myself Sat. as my finishing touches day.

If I do most of my baking on the same days it's suprising how much quantity I can turn out. Verses baking cakes while I'm making mousses while I'm decorating cakes. Many times you don't have to wash out your mixing bowls between items if you making similar things, that saves steps. Typcially the time it takes me to mix up another batch of cakes and portion them out into my pans is just about the right amount of time that I need to monitor what I already have in my oven. I get in a real pattern. It forces me to work quickly so I'm ready with the next batch before the last over bakes. I fill up two tall sheet pan carts with baked goods per day, typically. Then before I go home I wrap them all at one time and freeze them all at one time.

I also try to think in advance about how I can combine several steps. If I need a pastry cream for one item, do I need it for others too........so I make one huge batch instead of several small ones. When I started I didn't know I could sub in my own recipes into other peoples recipes. As in, one recipe called for a pastry cream with xyz portions of egg and cornstarch and abc recipe calls for whole eggs and flour in the pastry cream..........so I'd make each for each master recipe. Now I make my own huge batch of pastry cream for the week and use from that what I need in each master recipe.

In combining steps.........if I have to cook something on the stove I'll do all the items that require the stove for the week at the same time. I can easily focus on 4 or so pots at the same time. I might be making a creme brulee, a pastry cream, a toffee and a anglaise sauce all at once. Because it's harder to be working on the stove (looking to hit an exact temp. ) while your filling molds with mousse that the gelatin is setting on. I also can reuse my chiniose from my anglaise in my brulee......less dishes too, etc...

At my job my ovens are on a different level then my prep area. I also don't have any refridgerators in my prep area. I used to run around alot gathering ingredients and checking my ovens! Now I use a sheet pan cart as my most necessary tool.

I hardly make any move with-out it being by my side. On it I always have towels to grab hot stuff with, so I never have to search for one and empty sheet pans. I can always carry on it tons of items, so I never have to walk back and forth picking up items or juggling where I'm going to put sheets of hot product.

Are you doing these things? Have you looked at how you can simplify your steps OR is there more then any person can accomplish regardless of working smart?

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...Unlike the hot side, we really can't chat as we work...

I know! And how do you get around that one? 'Kate, you're not talking, is something wrong?... Are you tired?... What's the matter?... You've gotten real quiet.'

Ahh, maybe I'm accomplishing something and if I stop concentrating to shoot the breeze with you I will eff something up, loose my momentum, burn something, burn me, forget the strawberries, the almond extract, the nuts, miss a step in the process, ice in white instead of ivory etc. etc.

(And currently I am not doing near the scope of work that Greenbean is doing.)

I mean so far I'm just going, "Well, I am in the non-verbal side of my brain." :biggrin: I think that is the reason home bakers often stay up at/all night doing decorating work from the home--so you could hope to string two thoughts together & think undistracted. Then in a previous life after such an all-nighter, I'd shower & go to work at the bakery :rolleyes:

But some people never catch on to the fact that you are often/usually incommunicado. It's really an occupational hazard, people chit chatting.

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...Unlike the hot side, we really can't chat as we work...

I know! And how do you get around that one? 'Kate, you're not talking, is something wrong?... Are you tired?... What's the matter?... You've gotten real quiet.'

Ahh, maybe I'm accomplishing something and if I stop concentrating to shoot the breeze with you I will eff something up, loose my momentum, burn something, burn me, forget the strawberries, the almond extract, the nuts, miss a step in the process, ice in white instead of ivory etc. etc.

(And currently I am not doing near the scope of work that Greenbean is doing.)

I mean so far I'm just going, "Well, I am in the non-verbal side of my brain." :biggrin: I think that is the reason home bakers often stay up at/all night doing decorating work from the home--so you could hope to string two thoughts together & think undistracted. Then in a previous life after such an all-nighter, I'd shower & go to work at the bakery :rolleyes:

But some people never catch on to the fact that you are often/usually incommunicado. It's really an occupational hazard, people chit chatting.

OK!! So I'm not just being a b**ch at work like everyone thinks. Ironically, I lost my temper today because all the cooks were standing around the kitchen, shooting the crap, and working off my table. I had been there since 4am and they come in at 7am. It was now 1:45 and I still had cakes to finish. Someone finally asked, "Yo, what's your problem?!" after I burned them with a pot. (That question was a bad idea.)

I replied, "My problem is 1) you four people are standing in the middle of the kitchen, talking and accomplishing nothing but getting in my way. 2) take your crap off my table so that I can finish my cakes. 3) stop talking to me while I'm trying to focus, please make a list of things we need to discuss so that we can chat for a half hour and not every five 'effin minutes." Half of the kitchen left after I finished ranting and I didn't see them for the rest of the day.

Nice, huh?

Anyhoo, in trying to stay on topic, I offer the following advice.

1) Relax and remember that you're new to the game. Don't compare yourself to someone who's been working in pastry for 20+ years because you'll get discouraged and quit.

2) Keep your mouth shut. Sounds harsh but you really need to focus when you're working on the pastry side. Forgot the salt in the soup?; no big deal, you can add it while it's cooking. Forgot the baking powder in your cake; punch out and go home, you're done.

3) Evaluate your own performance at the end of the day and if possible, ask to be assigned the same tasks so that you can get practice. In pastry, practice makes perfect. If it helps, set a timer. I used to time how long it took me to scoop a few hundred pounds of cookie dough; every time, I had to do it, I'd try to shave a few minutes off my time by working more efficiently.

4) Set your sights on someone you admire and watch how they work.

5) Have a mental game plan before you start working. Do you need soft butter later in the day? If so, pull it in the morning. Nothing aggravates me more than when I give someone a production list in the morning and at 2pm, when they are ready to make a cake, they're throwing ice cold butter into the mixer. Ay dios mio, that's why I gave you a list!

6) My best advice: think lazy. I don't want to walk all the way across the room to get a scoop. Nor do I want to walk outside, into the garage, and round the corner into the freezer to get a bottle of puree and return two minutes later to get heavy cream for the same recipe. And I certainly don't want to hunch over the mixing bowl to scoop cake batter. I'd rather prop it up at waist level so it's easier to reach into.

7) Read, read, read. Nothing annoys me more than working with people who describe themselves as bakers or pastry chefs and when I ask them if they know how to mix a cake using the creaming method and they give me a blank look. You won't learn everything on the job; you need to educate yourself. So curl up with the French Professional Pastry Series during your free time and acquaint yourself with basic doughs, batters and mixing methods.

Keep your eyes and ears open, be receptive to criticism, model yourself after people whose work you respect, and above all, be patient.

I'm sure I have more advice but I can't think of anything else right now.

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OK!! So I'm not just being a b**ch at work like everyone thinks. Ironically, I lost my temper today because all the cooks were standing around the kitchen, shooting the crap, and working off my table. I had been there since 4am and they come in at 7am. It was now 1:45 and I still had cakes to finish. Someone finally asked, "Yo, what's your problem?!" after I burned them with a pot. (That question was a bad idea.)

Hey! You must work in my kitchen too! At least, in a parallel universe!

Like K8 said too, everybody thinks I'm sort of standoffish and moody because I'm not participating in the incessant chatting of my co-workers. It's everything I can do to tune them out and focus. I've gotten pretty good at it, but boy, I sure like my "morning time" before everyone else rolls in at 8. I value that peace and quiet VERY MUCH.

AND YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE HOW MUCH MY HOT SIDE CO-WORKERS TALK.

They don't even take a breath. They talk over each other. It's loud. It's tiresome. It stresses me the f**k out!!!!!

They use my table. They use my reach-in. They take my freaking towels....the towels that I take home and wash MYSELF!!! They have a linen service provide their towels! But they use them up and then TAKE MINE!!!!!

All I'm trying to do is focus and get the job done......is that SO WRONG???

(Yeah, ok, I had a really bad day today :sad:)

I guess it's sort of comforting to know, I'm not the only with with this particular problem.

Forgot the salt in the soup?; no big deal, you can add it while it's cooking. Forgot the baking powder in your cake; punch out and go home, you're done.

Yep, yep, and yep! That's why I can't distract myself from the task at hand. That's why I'm not Chatty Cathy. I actually care about the work I do, and I also don't want to have to do it over, so I'm very careful not to mess up the first time!

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To add to this mixture of advice.

To follow up with “Char’s” number 6 of think lazy – I’d also think in sections. You should be able to come in and know what you need to do for the day at any given point. Try to organize your day in steps that can be done at the same time or speed. Look at what you need to do and how you best fit it all together. What I mean by speed is there are tasks you can just slam together and do quickly and there are those tasks that you can’t do quickly, you have to baby-sit it.

To help with timing – I followed some advice from a pastry chef that I worked with when I worked at a hotel. Get a timer/watch and put it on 10 mins. Why 10 mins, well it seems that everything surrounds that time frame. Then have it go off for the entire day ever ten mins. I thought it was the stupidest idea but I did it. I found that it helped with my “inside clock” of timing. This helps you by kind of telling you how much time it takes to do something. Say for example it takes you an hour to do task A. When you are working time kind of stands still but if you have your timer go off every 10 mins, you’re not thinking of it as time but as that darn timer went off 6 times when I did this task. Then when you are done with task A you can reflect on what you were doing each time the timer went off.

As you keep doing this, your sense of timing when baking helps reduce the amount of hockey pucks you make or vanilla scrambled eggs you make.

Jason

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Anne, we must have been soul mates in a previous life.

I can't get over the chattiness of my co-workers. It's not just this kitchen, it's every kitchen I've worked in. I guess it's the nature of the beast. If the dining room is slow, cooks can only prep so far ahead. I can bake a tart and freeze it. They can't do the same with salads and apps. So, even if the store or the catering is slow, I always have something to do. And I can't make a birthday cake in the same way a chef can whip up a salad.

I work in an open kitchen. Although I have my own workspace (tables, freezers, and an oven), I work in the same kitchen as the cooks and share their walk-in.

I have such a hard time getting the cooks to understand that I'm not being territorial. Well, I am, but not in a bad way. Pastries and desserts absorb odors like you wouldn't believe, which is why I wash my own tools and store my creams and custards in new containers (because I don't have my own supply). Trying to keep them off my rack is like fending off a rabid dog. I don't mind sharing the space but they won't put their mise en place on the bottom of the rack (in case their anchovies drip, which has happened) so I keep the rack off limits.

I've also learned to hide my towels in the freezer and label my mise en place in French. If they don't know what it is, they won't eat it or move it.

And I can relate to enjoying the peace of the morning. My official start time is 4:30am but I'm usually there by 3:30 and during the holidays, I start at 2ish. There have been some midnight mornings (tomorrow will be one) but I try to keep those to a minimum.

By the way Greenbean, this advice is unrelated to your post but helpful nonetheless: I'd suggest getting a camera (disposable or digital) and take photographs of your work. In this business, employees aren't terribly concerned about where you've worked or schooled. They want to know what you can do for them and the more that you can show them, the better off you are. My teachers suggested this habit and I wish I'd started earlier.

So, how's the job going? By the way, are you or have you gone to school? Just curious. Look at Wendy's post. If you answer those questions, we can help you more. Keep us informed.

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Here are the answers to some questions:

Are you alone, are you a one person department?

No, there is a staff of six people.

Do you have your own freezers?

The department has its own freezers and coolers

Do you order your own ingredients?

Not really, most things are already in house.

Do you use any convience items like premade tart shells, etc....?

Some, but we mostly make our own stuff

Do you choose your own ala carte menu? How often do you change it?

Yes, and it can change daily depending on what’s on hand.

Do you/are you supposed to make and plate all your items yourself?

I don’t have to make all of my stuff. It’s mostly made in bulk and I can pull what I need. I plate parties, but not individual desserts, that is done on the line.

How many outlets do you service? The halfway house, main dining room, catering, parties and just how much business is typical? How many ala carte desserts do you sell a day in addition to your banquets?

I serve three in house venues, plus parties. Business varies and I haven’t been there long enough to know what is typical.

How many functions do they typically have a day? What sized parties are they on average?

Varies, could be one, or five, I never know. So far, parties have ranged from four to two hundred and fifty. However, with the holidays coming up, the parties will be getting busier and busier

Are you making breads and pastries? I only do pastries

How many hours are you working a day? 8-10

Where did you go to school or how did you become a pc?

I am still in school. I have wanted to become a pc for awhile now, that’s why I started school. I got the job because I was working in another part of the club and a position in the shop became available.

Char: Haven't done anything worth photographing yet, but I'll keep a camera nearby, just in case.

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Hey! You must work in my kitchen too! At least, in a parallel universe!

Like K8 said too, everybody thinks I'm sort of standoffish and moody because I'm not participating in the incessant chatting of my co-workers. It's everything I can do to tune them out and focus. I've gotten pretty good at it, but boy, I sure like my "morning time" before everyone else rolls in at 8. I value that peace and quiet VERY MUCH.

Me too, but when you get in at 0830, everyone else gets in at 0945, and you're STILL there doing the last dessert check at midnight once the hotsiders have gone home, it gets a little irritating. :) First in, last out.

AND YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE HOW MUCH MY HOT SIDE CO-WORKERS TALK.

They don't even take a breath. They talk over each other. It's loud. It's tiresome. It stresses me the f**k out!!!!!

Personally, I enjoy the banter. They're not a bad bunch of people, and some of them actually realise that pastry isn't the figurative land of milk and honey even if it is the literal one. It's very much a Bourdain affair - who's shagging who from front of house, ribbing the guy who admitted to shaving the crack of his arse to avoid the dreaded chefs' arse syndrome, sending the new commis downstairs for a left-handed whisk, that sort of thing. It's a fairly tight group, and more importantly, I'm close enough to the line to be able to partake in the conversation. Unfortunately, that means working in an ambient temperature of 32C. When the shit's flying during service, though, it's a very disciplined group.

They use my table.

They wouldn't dare. I'm struggling for space, anyway, so they know not to get in the way. One of the waiting staff had the temerity to once sit on my low-boy freezer, and his ears are still ringing.

They use my reach-in.

Not if they don't want their mis-en-place in the bin.

They take my freaking towels....the towels that I take home and wash MYSELF!!! They have a linen service provide their towels! But they use them up and then TAKE MINE!!!!!

Oh, that's a low one.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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I recently started my first pastry job and so far it has been a real struggle. While I am able to perform all of the tasks that I am assigned, I am always behind. I can't seem to master the speed/efficiency/thinking two steps ahead thing. Is this something that comes with experience or is it something you either have or don't have? I hit the ground running everyday; I am scrambling from the minute I get to work to the minute I leave, but when I look back, I wonder what I've done. I definitely feel like I am dragging down the rest of the crew because people always have to help me get my work done. This is very stressful because I don't like to feel like I'm not pulling my weight, but I just don't get it. What am I missing? Am I in over my head or do I just need to give myself some time?

Thank you,

Greenbean

O.k. after reading your responses to the questions I asked you, I think we all better understand where your coming from.

What your experiencing is completely normal!

Your working next to people who have done this work for sometime and have figured out how to work very efficently. Everyone is slow when they start in a new atmosphere......even seasoned pastry pro's! You've got a new atomsphere to learn and new skills to learn........that's alot to learn for anyone. Learning pastry is more exact then learning cooking. It just takes time for things to becomes second nature.

I highly doubt the people your working with don't understand and support you. They should know what it's like to be new and when they come and help you finish your work..........chances are someone did the same when they were beginning too.

Even though your not the department head, you should look at the party sheets so you know how much work the department has to achieve. In time you'll catch on to the bigger picture and be able to know what needs to be done before anyone mentions it.

Try to copy how the other people around you work. One of the first things that bothers others with a "newbie" is how neat and clean you keep things. ALWAYS clean up after yourself every moment of the day, put back everything as you go, don't hog the whole table.........so your never irritating others. That is with-in your control!

But your speed isn't with-in your control yet.....so don't worry!! Just keep trying, it will come to you if you put in the effort...........and it's obvious since you came here to ask for help that you care! You will succeed!! Try to forgive yourself for being new and not having years of experience under your belt.

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On the subject of towels and the like:

I keep a regular stock of about 12 towels, 4 flat half sheets, 4 flat quarter sheets and 4 size 42 jackets in the back-left of my lowboy at all times. That's where I keep all my tools too, including chinoise and bain. Anything that would need to be snatched up during service is kept on the right side of the lowboy. Just to be safe though, I stack quarts of egg white in the front of the left side before Ilevae at night, like a wall.

Every morning I replenish whatever linens I depleted the previous day.

Never again will I take hot trays out of the oven using my apron or folded up sports towels.

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Ummmm.  OK, I'll ask.

Chefs' arse (n), med : Otherwise known as nappy rash, chefs' arse is a potentially debilitating complaint resulting from excessive perspiration.

To cut a long and graphic story short, it's when you sweat excessively, normally on the back and small of the back, said perspiration running down the cleft of your backside and causing significant chafing of the arsecheeks. I have known fully paid up, eight-cylinder, hard-as-nails chefs almost weeping with the pain.

There are two schools of thought as to remedies / prevention :

1) lubricant : vaseline, aqueous cream, E45 cream, baby lotion.

2) dry powder : cornflour - note, NOT wheatflour (gummy) or custard powder (canary yellow cleft).

Current opinion varies on the type (or indeed absence) of underwear best suited to prevent chefs' arse.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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ribbing the guy who admitted to shaving the crack of his arse to avoid the dreaded chefs' arse syndrome,

:laugh::laugh::laugh: This is the funniest thing I've heard today!!! Thanks for asking Keith, 'cause I was gonna ask too. I'm uh......assuming this syndrome only occurs with hairy arses, hence the shaving? It's not a female problem, I take it......

Personally, I enjoy the banter.

Actually I love banter too....really makes the time go by. I've worked in kitchens where the banter was so great my stomach hurt from laughing so much. But where I work now, it's very very different. It's not conversational banter......it's more like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard.

Imagine.....two women, very HYPER women.....talking so fast you don't know what they're saying, repeating themselves, talking over each other, talking excessively loudly, NON STOP. It's bizarre, I tell you. In fact, I just got an assistant (thank God) a few weeks ago, and the first day I had him in for training, the first comment he made was about THEM. He goes, "Do they do this every day?"

I looked at him very forlornly and said, "Yes.....every stinking day......" :sad:

And finally, I never thought I'd have to resort to hiding towels and valuable equipment, but I'm finally admitting defeat and am going to find a good place for my "stash". One must do what one

must do to preserve sanity....... :wacko:

Edited by chefpeon (log)
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