5@5 – Andrea Luz Bergquist
February 28th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

As food fanaticism and celebrity chefs continues to garner mainstream attention, a bevy of new folks are vying for a spot in professional kitchens every day - hoping to sous-vide their way to top toque and make lasting grill marks on the culinary industry.

If you're one of those ready to be thrown into the gastronomic gauntlet, Andrea Luz Bergquist, the executive chef of Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster restaurant in the heart of Harlem, offers up some ground rules.

Five Things All New Cooks in the Kitchen Should Know: Andrea Luz Bergquist

1. "Don’t show up to the kitchen wearing nail polish. It’s unsanitary as the polish can chip and flake into the food you’re preparing. No one in the kitchen should wear perfume either - its smell affects your ability to taste."

2. "Cooking is different from other professions, in that you often pick the restaurant that you want to work in rather than just applying to work anywhere. New cooks should carefully pick a kitchen that suits the direction they want their career to go in."

3. "All new cooks should research the restaurant extensively before their first day. They should study the menu online and also learn what they can about the chef they’ll be working with."

4. "You need to come to the kitchen with the right attitude - upbeat, energetic and focused. When you get given a task, try and complete it as efficiently as you can."

5. "In other professions being outgoing and talkative is desirable, but in the kitchen we’d prefer you to concentrate and stay pretty quiet. I don’t like it when new cooks give their opinion on the food, and I also don’t like it when they complain. A girl trialed for a few hours recently and then complained that she had sore feet. I didn’t hire her as I need people that are prepared to do ten-hour shifts from day one, without complaints."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Chefs • News • Think


soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Chef Axxgrinder

    As a chef i have been through the ringer in restaurants, terrible customers, inexperienced staff and the gauntlet of the industry, this job is only for those of us who are delightfully mad, we are cocky because we know we are that good at our jobs, we cook everyday and nobody can tell us that we can't cook because its those of you that can't cook that are the reason the restaurant industry is booming. No two jobs are alike so you can't compare apples to oranges other then the fact that they are fruit. I love this business and can't see myself leaving it.

    March 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  2. Logic

    And I thought there would be actual COOKING tips, not how to become pompous.

    March 1, 2011 at 9:18 am | Reply
  3. pazke

    Some people thrive on pressure. Like ER docs that work in busy urban hospitals. They get a rush from the fast pace and pressure. Me, I'd rather be on the eating end of the restaurant – but I do know how hard the job is so if I have to wait a little longer for good food then so be it!

    March 1, 2011 at 8:56 am | Reply
  4. Chase

    I worked at a very very high end french restaurant in Dallas for 6 months to see what it was like because I had always thought of opening my own (I have an MBA). It was the worst experience of my life. This place has the most amazing food you will ever eat, but the people running the place felt obligated to make sure your life was hell while you were there. If you didn't do anything wrong, then they just upped their standards to impossible levels.

    There is a fine line between operating a very well run, efficient restaurant and one where all your employees are miserable. I was part of the latter. It's very much a hazing ritual as well, as the people who run the place went through similar experiences at top restaurants in NYC and California. It got to the point where their power led them astray and they began berating me verbally in the dining room about which storage drawer one of their 10 different types of forks goes in (no exaggeration). That was the line for me.

    You better have real training as a chef and be ultra ultra efficient in the kitchen if you want to survive in that type of environment. It's a really tough gig and you will become jaded and hate food by the time you are done with it.

    March 1, 2011 at 7:56 am | Reply
  5. William

    Interesting, but with my back, I doubt I could survive one day in her kitchen.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:52 am | Reply
  6. Drew Gibson

    If you dont have a sense of urgency in the kitchen, and stay focused on the task at hand, probably true in any job, you really are ripping off the establishment- one other thing, how about a sense of competition, and really looking out for your chef, and making your boss look good, these are all things that are a given, impress me, show me you care about the food you are producing, or get the heck out of my kitchen!!

    March 1, 2011 at 6:36 am | Reply
  7. jesse

    Their is a difference between "rules" and personal requirements. I've known a handfull of chefs and most of them like to hear what a veriety of people have to say about dishes. That includes patrons, from the point of view of purely taste, and kitchen staff, for constructive criticism and suggestions on how to lower the cost of the plate in question.

    Most of the "rules" that she lists are more of personal suggestions rather than rules. 2,3,&5 are all suggestions. While most kitchens will expect that you can construct the dish given to you to prepare, it is not necessary, or altogether possible in many cases, to know to a T the exact composure of the dishes. They will make sure you know how to make them per the sspecifics of the kitchen you're working in.

    Number 2 bugs me the most of all.... a large portion of the big time chefs out there started out in the kitchen as a form of work that they happened to enjoy and worked on up. Those of you who watch Iron Chef should note that that is much of the case with the guest chefs. Their wasn't really much of a choice to it at all. Those were the regional kitchens that were available rather than what they particularly wanted.

    Number 5 is actually quite laughable really. Depending on the kitchen you're working in, some of the chefs may encourage talk and communication to keep moral up and things running smoothly. It's called multitasking. The last kitchen I worked in, the chef encouraged singing with the radio that he kept in the kitchen.

    The only real rules that I see on the list is 1 and 4 for the stated and obvious reasons. Safety is a must and if you can't work effciently, then you don't belong in a real kitchen.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:35 am | Reply
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