What Do Chefs Do Aside From Cooking?

Hint: Very little of this.


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Answer by Jonas Mikka Luster, former cook, blogger, traveler:

Let me eliminate all the cooking (of which I, and most chefs, do very little) and all the things concerning direct supervision of cooking.

In the morning I do a stock muster and make sure we have everything we need to make it through the day. I read my team’s notes and the front-of-the-house notes and try to understand what I need to order to have it here in a time frame that allows me to never run out and nothing to come too early and spoil.

I attempt to make my dishes cheaper without sacrificing quality. I do this once every few weeks—I call purveyors and see what I can do.

I then go though my bills, pay them, call around for all other things bureaucratic, make shift plans, and read my work emails. If someone called in sick, I send WhatsApp or SMS messages around and see if I can get them replaced.

By now it’s noon, so I talk to the prep cooks. I do bossy things such as reprimand, acknowledge, praise, and ask for feedback and concerns. Sometimes I have to spend some time in private with one of the prep cooks if something comes up.

I then meet with the maitre d’ and the sommelier to make sure we have everything squared and to get their feedback on staff, food, and customer feedback. I give the sommelier my wine needs list, and I talk with the maitre d’ about covers and expected fill on the place. I also relay my guys’ concerns with his people and pass on praise.

I spend 30 minutes doing Internet research on sites such as Yelp to see what people wrote about us.

By now, my sous is in, and we grab tools and fix equipment. Things break, so we have to get them working before the kitchen goes hot.

My cooks file in. I do the same things I did with the prep shift—ask about needs, etc. I also have someone cook all the new stuff and specials to feed to the waiters when they come in in an hour.

Lots of cooking ensues here.

After the rush phase I go back and do more administrative work. I’m incorporating what I heard that day, schedule maternity leaves and vacations, do all the parole and court stuff I have to do for some of my cooks, write emails to suppliers and manufacturers. I show the maitre d’ my new idea for a plate to see if there’s a reason the front of the house wouldn’t want to have those dishes on those plates (they’re the boss there—I can only suggest), and I pull cooks off the line to talk to them if I have to.

I start cleaning when the kitchen goes cold, cooks help. Sous goes home.

I do my cover reports for the day, have a drink with the other middle managers in the joint, and go home myself.

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