Pro Tips to Improve Your Line Cook Training and Keep Them Cruising

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

Pro Tips to Improve Your Line Cook Training and Keep Them Cruising

Whether your line cooks are fresh out of culinary school or moving their way up from the dish pit, keeping up with several orders at once is a skill that can only be learned on the job. Line cook training is a vital part of restaurant success. They should have all the tools they need to do their job well. So spend a few minutes giving them guidelines for keeping their stations running smoothly even when they’re in the weeds.

Ducks in a Row

Keeping everything in the station organized and as close to the cook as possible prevents them from wasting time reaching for things that are not close to hand. They want to keep movements to a minimum to be super efficient.

Oil, butter, salt, and pepper should always be by the range. They should keep a resting rack near the burners or grill so they can pull off meats and rest them without wasting time turning around to the cutting board. Garnishes should be made ready ahead of time and kept nearby for plating.

More Ducks in a Row

Organization extends to the grill—don’t let line cooks just slap things on wherever. They should work the grill from bottom to top, with rare meat at the bottom, medium rare above that, and so on, depending on where the hot and cool spots are. That said, they also should try to keep all of the meats for one table near each other on the grill.

Instruct your line cooks to reserve an area of the line for meats that are ready to be fired, and to always know how much is there. They should always be counting in their head what is on the grill and what’s ready to go on.

Clean Means Easy to See

Along with organization, line cooks must keep their stations super, squeaky clean. Obviously, sanitation concerns are top priority–you want a grade A rating! But a clean station with no clutter also lets your line cooks move faster, and they’ll always know where everything is.

Instruct your cooks to use sanitation buckets and wipe it off frequently—whenever they can. They should keep plenty of towels on hand, folding and organizing them when they have a spare minute.

When going through kitchen training with your line cooks, advise them to keep a bain-marie of water for your utensils and change the water whenever it gets dirty. They shouldn’t be afraid to take a minute to grab a new cutting board if the one they’re using needs more than a simple wipe down.

Squeezing is Faster

There’s a reason Subway uses squeeze bottles for all their dressings and condiments—it’s fast. Tell your cooks to use squeeze bottles whenever possible. That means oil, acids, wine, dressings, sauces. It’s way faster than using a container and a ladle.

Towel + Tongs = Ready for Anything

When they’re facing the stove, your cooks should be armed and ready for battle at all times. They’ve already got on chef whites, so they’d better have weapons in hand, too. Tongs go in the dominant hand, and the towel goes in the non-dominant hand to hold the pan. This should become second nature to them.

If they don’t like the warfare analogy, tell your cook to think of a baseball player, with the ball always in the dominant hand (ready to throw) and glove always on the non-dominant hand (ready to catch). Baseball players don’t have to think about which hand the glove goes on, and neither should cooks.

Start Tickets Immediately, and Stagger

Line cooks have to remember that they can cook more than one ticket at a time! Instruct them when an order comes in, they need to put it on immediately. If they have to, they can pull it off when it’s halfway or ¾ done. Tell them to stagger all of their tickets to leave time for plating.

Keep a Level Head

Each person can only move as fast as they can. You need to also let your line cooks know how important it is to keep a cool head. This will allow them to focus, keep track of orders, and communicate with the other kitchen staff appropriately.

Support your line cooks and tell them to persevere—the longer they do it, the better and faster they’ll get!