How to Increase your Efficiency
Working in kitchens, you learn quickly that it's a frantic environment. There's always so much that needs to be done in so little time. Often working in tight, small teams, everyone has to pull their weight or the whole operation may suffer. If one cook is a little off of their game after a rough night out, then others need to work harder and pick up the slack. For the ambitious and hard-working among us, efficiency is a good measure of progress. It allows you to grade yourself against where you want to be. This can guide you to improve and become even more effective in the kitchen. By working on your efficiency, you become more valuable in the kitchen, while increasing your skills. You'll have more time to take on challenging work or new projects and even move into higher positions. Mise en place - the concept of having things at the ready before starting a task - is touted as the one thing to improve your efficiency in the kitchen. Yet, when you break things down and take a closer look, there's a lot you can do to become more efficient.
Mastering Mise en place
Mise en place should be seen in its two aspects - the mental and physical. It's often only referred to as having your tools in their place before you start a task. This organisation should be applied to your mental state as well. When things are clear in your mind, it's easier to focus on executing the task at hand. You free up mental space and agility by organising things ahead of time. The physical aspect of mise en place is still important. You don't want to be running all over the kitchen to get tools and ingredients as you need them. Instead, get them all at once and then preform the task.
The Efficiency Breakdown
Look After yourself
If you aren't taking care of yourself, it will show in your work. Make sure you go in to work rested, nourished and in a good state of mind. When other things in your life are weighing you down, it becomes hard to focus on work. Make the time to take care of yourself. Give yourself the chance to unwind and relax a little. Take care of your body and mind. You'll be rewarded with more energy and focus.
Make a Prep List
Having a prep list guides you through the work that needs doing. Instead of wandering around, trying to figure out what needs to be done, organise the workload ahead of time. Structure the list in a way that makes sense to you. One cook's prep list may look like some ancient language to another. Generally, you should write the list in the order the tasks need to be done. That way, as one is complete, you move down to the next item - no searching the page for what's next.
Preform Similar tasks Simultaneously
For example, if you need to prepare a few different soups, the process for each will be similar. So, instead of making one and then start another, do them all at once. Cut your veggies for all the soups at once and divide them into containers until you're ready to start cooking. Then, when everything is ready to go, cook the soups at the same time. If you had only one going, you'd have to keep going back to the stove to check on it, interrupting another task. Having two or more going at once, you still have to go and keep an eye on them, but checking two takes only a fraction longer than checking one. Similarly, if you need chicken breast portioned and marinated for a dish, but also need chicken breast cubed and marinated for another dish, it makes the most sense to do both at the same time. Why perform the same task twice?
Use Teamwork to your Advantage
It's very rare that you will be working solo in the kitchen. If you're engrossed in a time-consuming task like butchering meat, then ask someone else to take care of another pressing task. Repay the favour later, when you're able. If someone's better or faster at a certain task, then get them to do it. When efficiency is in mind, play to your strengths. Do what you do best. Divide the workload so that everyone has enough to do. Tasks that are relatively easy, but also time-consuming are perfect for multiple people to work on. Making ravioli from scratch or breading a large quantity of food can take a long time, but with an extra pair of hands, it'll be done in no time. Working well as a team will lead to some of the highest levels of efficiency in the kitchen.
Focus on Learning and Getting Better
This may seem a little counterintuitive because you'll end up spending time on things you might not be that great at. After putting in the effort, though, you'll expand your base of skills. You'll be able to complete new tasks more efficiently. Practising and honing your basic skills will lead you to do them even faster. The more you do something, the better you will get at it. It's that simple, even if you're already good, you could be better. Always try and be better. By focusing on learning, you will increase your knowledge base. This will allow you to complete tasks without having to refer to a guide, saving time. You will also be able to combat problems as they come up. A wider knowledge base gives you more built-in resources for solutions. By Learning more and getting better, you will get to a point where basic tasks are automatic for you and you can run on automatic.
By working on your efficiency in the kitchen, you make yourself better and more valuable in other aspects of the work. Your organisation, teamwork, and knowledge will make you a good addition to any kitchen management team. There you will have new challenges, but you can use the same techniques that got you there to conquer them. Organise your workload in a way that makes sense to you. Preform similar tasks at the same time - knock out two birds with one stone. Use teamwork to help you get larger tasks done by dividing the work amongst a team. Continue learning and getting better. There's an infinite skill ceiling to the culinary industry, there's always more to learn. As your increasing efficiency and value bring you higher in the industry, there will always be new challenges to face and new tasks to master. Conquer them through these methods.