What It’s Like to Work in a Kitchen – Restaurant Back of the House

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

A healthy restaurant ecosystem has many components: a charming front-of-house team, cunning managers, and a motley crew of underpaid misfits that are actually cooking your food.

Unless you’ve worked in a kitchen, it’s hard to understand the chaotic dance of a dinner rush. Coded language, constant personality clashes, and thick-as-blood camaraderie are side dishes to every entree you’ve ever ordered.

To turn the world of cooks into an open kitchen, we asked back-of-house staff from around the country to enlighten us on some of the things that they’re always having to explain to their friends who they only get to hang out with on Monday nights.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Salt and butter are everywhere

But always unsalted butter. Also, half-sticks of butter look downright cutesy compared to 1lb blocks.

Cooks don’t get tipped out

If you’re going by the book, it’s illegal to force employees to pool tips for back-of-house workers. Therefore the kitchen is always making way less money than the servers.

“No, I can’t just take Saturday night off…”

Not Friday either. But are you free on Monday?

carrying boxes
Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Kitchens are both mentally and physically draining

Most jobs are either physically draining or mentally draining, not both.

Dead, in jail, or in the hospital…

No other excuses. You’re expected to perform flawlessly at all other times, even if you’re sick, hungover, grieving, or heartbroken because you found the person you love screwing someone else because you’re “never around.”

Cooking is like sex

Sometimes you need things to be hot, hard, and fast. Sometimes you need it gentle, slow, and easy.

You get really gnarly scars

Also, say goodbye to the feeling in your fingers.

stand in kitchens
Dan Gentile/Thrillist

You must over-communicate

It’s crucial to say things like “corner, behind, sharp beside, hot.”

Being a good cook at home with friends and family is absolutely nothing like cooking in a restaurant kitchen.

You stand for 10 hours with no breaks

That’s not to mention dead-lifting a 50lb box of frozen chicken while stooped over in the freezer while your non-slips are freezing to the ground and you are rushing to put away the order because you are now down a guy because he took two fingers off in the Robot Coupe and your kitchen manager had to go with him to a hospital because he doesn’t speak English and may be in the country illegally.

A little kindness goes a long way

Unless they’re wearing a chef’s coat, people in kitchens are generally treated like they don’t exist. Treat them like human beings, and you’ll likely be rewarded.

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