We've been busy, but haven't yet had another insane weekend like the one that followed the Tribune article, and once you get through a period like that, even fairly busy days feel calmer. It's the same with equipment, and employees, both of which I've had issues with lately. For me, the looming sense that something might go wrong is always worse than it feels when it actually *does* go wrong, and then you run around and fix it or work around it.
I was dreading dealing with the french fry cutter, but when I finally wrenched the failed plastic anchors out and relocated it, the whole job only took me about an hour, and now it feels much more solid.
Same with employees. Up until this week, no one but Rodolfo had ever worked my disher/busser position. He needed to take a little time off, so this week we've had three different guys there. As usual, I get all nervous about what effect that might have on how things run, but, ultimately, everything goes fine, and at times, perhaps, even a bit better than they might've gone with the normal guy in place.
Which brings me back to cooks' quirks. One thing that's always amused me is how different people have their own different little ways of doing things. This is one of the reasons why it's so difficult to attain consistency in restaurants; because cooks--the good ones at least--all believe that they alone know the one true best way to do just about every single aspect of their job.
Whether it's cleaning various substances, washing/processing produce, doing prep, cooking for service, or quickly breaking down a station, just about every cook worth his salt is always striving to innovate in order to increase efficiency, speed, and quality.
There's a lot of ingenuity going on in restaurants. Smart guys like Javier (who I worked with back at the old Nick & Tony's on Wacker) figure out cool ways of suspending a jug of canola oil with a plastic-wrap tether and then poking a hole in the bottom so it slowly streams oil into a bucket of vinaigrette fixin's and a running stick blender (which, more than likely, had its switch jimmied to allow for hands-free operation).
Norberto, who runs my fry station, is an innovator. He's a nearly everyday employer of the plastic-wrap belt, brought in a power drill to bore slightly larger holes in the salt shaker, and he's constantly moving stuff around, re-jiggering, thinking about how to make his job and the restaurant more efficient and economize the movements needed to produce the dishes on his station.
Sometimes it's obvious stuff. We were using three skinny bain maries in a countertop steam table unit we have, and we kept running out of the Merkt's cheese for the cheese fries and would have to heat up more during service. Finally Norberto suggested that we use third pans instead of the bains. Duh! Why didn't *I* think of that?
Lots of it is experience, too. I remember a guy I worked for who, when trying out a new employee, would ask them to empty a gallon jug of mayonnaise into a large stainless bowl, and then watch to see how they did it.
Guys with less or no experience (at least in the sort of prep work that this chef was interested in from his guys) would open it and start pulling it out of there with a spoon, rubber scraper, or whatever.
The more seasoned prep guys would open the top, flip it upside down over the bowl, then give the bottom of the jug a few good stabs with a knife. The air that went in would break the suction, and the mayo would more or less slide right out of the jug, all in one piece.
That's just one random example, but it shows the value of doing the mundane tasks over and over again, and learning how to do them faster, more efficiently, or better.