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What It's Like To Be An Open Kitchen Chef

I loved it, some of my coworkers didn't. To start you off, here's the setup: The dining room is arranged in a semi-curved fashion around a center island on which the open kitchen is situated. Behind us is an access path through which items that are prepped in a back kitchen are brought.
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What is it like to work as a chef in an open-kitchen restaurant? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Jonas Mikka Luster, former cook, on Quora.

I loved it, some of my coworkers didn't. To start you off, here's the setup:

The dining room is arranged in a semi-curved fashion around a center island on which the open kitchen is situated. Behind us is an access path through which items that are prepped in a back kitchen are brought. These items include sensitive food (allergies, for example) and all the prep items.

Chits (orders) are called from the back of the kitchen where I stand and expedite as well as do sauce (that's all meats and sauces). A second cook is on veg and fish, a third cook on everything else and roams between veg and sauce when needed.

A few things changed:

  • We had to change the way we communicated. In the back we were a boisterous bunch who'd happily make boob and dick jokes between work. We had much more noise in the back and therefore spoke louder.
  • We were much more cramped (if that's possible) than in the back.
  • We were on display, so some of our "magic" was exposed.

Additionally we were sometimes feeling like DJs at the 80s night at the singles club: everyone wanted to come up and ask for something special. We had great servers who would, and could, deflect most, but some always came through. My veg/fish person, a great chef named Naira who sadly passed away a few weeks ago, couldn't deal with the gawking, asking things, and the fact that she couldn't use her rather colorful speech patterns.

On the other hand, I liken it to flying an F-4-II over enemy territory versus being one of the drone operators in a bunker. Being in the back meant bunker, we had only filtered information (our servers) to go on. Now we were in the middle of the room, could see everyone, and have instant feedback on our food. I switched my expo style to to add in factors such as seeing a couple get nervous because we took longer or feeding families with little kids faster (kids want food fast) if we could do it without compromising other orders.

After six months we moved on, Naira and I, mainly because she really didn't like to have to constantly fake her persona and I got burned out on being an actor more than a chef. We tried it again a few months later for a pop-up change in our then kitchen place, and all things considered I have to say I like being out and in the open almost more than in the back.

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