I spent my whole sophomore year of college working in a biomedical lab, but at heart, I knew I didn’t want to work in a lab nearly as much as I wanted to work in the food industry. So when an opportunity to work as a line cook at one of Ann Arbor’s best restaurants, Mani Osteria, appeared I quickly applied.
Working as a line cook at such a prestigious restaurant seemed like a dream come true, but it definitely turned out to be different than what I was expecting.
1. The Learning Curve
I started this job with barely any knife skills. I thought I was smooth in the kitchen until I was asked to chiffonade some mint, and I realized I had some serious catching up to do. Other than learning how to chop like my favorite food network stars, I had to memorize the menu items that my station was responsible for.
In my case, this meant memorizing everything that is served cold (like salads and cold soups). Working in a restaurant requires skills you can’t pick up in class, but there’s nothing you can’t accomplish with some practice.
2. Putting Up With the Pressure
My incompetence aside, quality restaurant work is high-pressure. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a newbie, there is a lot of stress involved in filling orders in less than twenty minutes. Sure, when the prep work is done at 4 pm and the orders are coming in at a slower pace, I feel like I can handle anything. I’m almost wishing there was more to do.
But, fast forward to 7:30 pm, and I’m drowning in orders from salads to desserts. Dinner rush on a Thursday night is like the finals week of food. You’ve memorized everything and you have all of your notes done, but you still never feel ready for the real thing.
3. The Physical Challenges
Once the dinner rush is over, I'm usually ready to pass out. It’s been seven hours of running around and attempting to perfect the art of plating, but in the kitchen, the toughest part of the night has just begun. When I started this job, the major thing I didn’t know was how physically challenging it could be.
After a night of chopping, running, and standing, the whole kitchen needs to be scrubbed clean to perfection, which can take up to two hours. First, we scrub down our stations, then we sweep, and finally, we mop and squeegee until the place is good as new. On the plus side, one shift at the restaurant is as intense as going to the gym, and it's about ten times more fun.
4. That It’s All Worth It
There are more aspects to being a line cook in a regarded restaurant than I ever could have imagined. If you're a student, the hours are a big commitment, but if you’re like me and you love food and cooking, I would highly recommend a job like this. There’s just nothing better than plating the perfect dessert or finally learning how to chiffonade that mint.