Food service is one of the hardest professions to be in.
My name’s Tom Wilde, and I am a chef and foodie, and honored to guest blog here on the Everyday Carry. While my general manager told me I cannot disclose which Chicago restaurant that I work at, It is one of the busier upscale places you can go.
I work 12 hours a day on my feet. Running a kitchen is at time (well, most of the time) is grueling work and all you want to do at the end of the night is plop down with your favorite cold one and just pass out.
While the job itself is tough, your Everyday Carry needs to be even tougher.
Let’s face it. You gear is going to have to survive moisture, oil, gunky fingers that’s just been cutting onions or garlic and of course, the ubiquitous food bits and pieces everywhere! On a busy night, I don’t have time to clean shit off, but I need whatever I’m carrying to be there for me, 100% of the time under any condition.
Notebooks That Go Through Hell in My Kitchen
When it comes to taking notes, I need something that will work every single time, whether it’s in the meat freezer or right next to the deep fryer. It shouldn’t matter what kind of conditions that I put my notebook through, It needs to stand up to everything my kitchen will throw at it.
I’ve tried moleskines. I’ve tried field notes. Let me tell you, in the kitchen, these pups won’t last more than a couple shifts. It’s not that they’ll fall apart, it’s all the oils, greases, food and temperature changes that the notebook must go through over and over during a single shift that will lead to it’s demise. Even with a Fisher space pen, the paper just becomes something that you can’t even reliably write on any more.
I started out using Rite in the Rain notepads but decided that when you go through one every week, it’s too expensive. The ones that I purchased were about $8 each, and when you have to supply your sous chef, and twelve others, the cost can add up really quick. We usually burn through at least 8 of them every week in writing down things we need, notes about certain broths or dishes we’ve changed, and anything else that needs to be written down.
JASE 3″x5″ inch All Weather Notebooks
I went through about five or six different types of notebooks before I settled on using the JASE notebooks for the kitchen.
- They’re Cheap – About $1 each when you get them in quantity.
- They work just as well as Rite in the Rain, at least for our purposes
- You can actually wash food and grease off the pages with soap and water!
This last one is the best thing about these notebooks. When you’re trying to jot down a meat order right next to someone that’s deep frying, chances are that you’ll get grease on your notebook. I do. In fact, so much so that I actually will wash the notebook off with detergent under water when needed, then toss it back into my apron.
As you can imagine, this is a bit unconventional, but you know what? It gets the job done so I can get my job done.
Next up, is the Fisher Space Pen
No surprise there, right? Obviously there’s something to be said for having a darn good pen that can write in virtually any condition. Hell, I’ve taken notes when the notebook has been pretty much saturated in grease and cooking oil.
They just keep writing even when you’ve been sitting 45 minutes in the freezers putting together you dairy and cheese orders. The space pens are just darn good pens.
Our Chums Wallets
Most of us don’t use conventional wallets. All too often, crap gets into those and gums up your cards, cash and photos. I made a purchase of Chums wallets for my staff about six months ago, and we haven’t looked back. The Chums wallets are pretty small, but will fit credit cards and cash nicely, but best of all, they’re water, food and grease proof! Some of my guys carry their wallets in their front pockets. By the end of the shift, you can pretty much count on finding food in your pockets.
The chums wallets can be washed off easily making them a very convenient card holder.
Ammo Boxes??? Yup. They work great!
Something else that’s pretty unconventional is that my staff uses ammo cases to hold personal stuff during our shifts. They sit in a corner and since we’ve all worked together for years, there has never been a theft or trust issues in the 10 years I’ve been in the kitchen. I can’t take credit for this one, though. One of my staff found a good buy on eBay and made the suggestion since I was the only one with a formal locker. It seemed like a good idea so we got them for about $3 each and it’s worked really well. Each person has a lock, just in case, but we found that locks really aren’t needed, again, because there hasn’t been any issues with trusting each other to do what’s right.
The staff put their Ammo boxes up and out of the way on a 3 level wire shelf in the corner of the kitchen next to the general manager’s office.
Olite i3E AAA flashlights
Last Christmas, I got my kitchen staff a gift of the Olite i3E AAA flashlights. They’ come in handy a lot when we need to go down to the cellars or into the freezers. Even though both are equipped with lights, they’re just too dim, especially when you have to see how many boxes you have of something when they’re crammed in the back of a shelf behind something else, and its time to make a new order.
These lights usually are kept in the ammo boxes during off times, but I have a couple guys that carry them everyday where ever they go.
Needless to say, I like to have a prepared kitchen staff. When you don’t have to worry about the little things, such as jotting notes or being able to see to the back of a dark shelf, it makes kitchen life a bit more manageable.
A Smoother Running Kitchen
In my 26 year career as a chef, I’ve watch for things that slow the staff down or dishes that take longer to make. The idea behind a well run kitchen is to be able to anticipate as much of the hang ups as possible. In our restaurant, we know that prime rib takes time to do right. we also know that if it’s not done exactly to the customer’s idea of what “medium” is, it’s coming back to the kitchen and we have an unhappy guest.
Planning for the unknowns is impossible.
Honing your processes and creating a well run machine from your kitchen and staff is the goal.
When everyone knows their position. Every one is doing their jobs, and food is going out perfectly on a friday night when people are willing to wait 2 hours for a table, That’s perfect. While there’s no time to rest or relax, the kitchen is happy, and the food is just better.
26 year Veteran Chef