A day in the life of a chef

Having a job that supports you and your family is one thing. Having a job that you enjoy is another. But having a job that also is your passion is a whole different level of commitment.

I have been in the hospitality industry for many years, so many of my friends and associates are chefs. Passion is what keeps them going 13 hours a day.

Let’s look at a “day in the life.”

10 hours until dinner service

Job One is looking out for guests’ health and safety. The chef’s day begins with a sanitation walk through, checking up on how well the night staff cleaned the kitchen. Every oven is opened to ensure that it’s empty, that debris has been removed, and that it is ready to turn on. The chef examines every refrigerator and freezer to confirm items have been rotated, wrapped and dated.

Then it’s time to inventory items on hand and determine any that may be needed to get through the day. The last phase of kitchen organization is to put together the food preparation assignments for each kitchen employee, which will include items to be cut up, sauces to be made, desserts to prep and, of course, setting up all the stations.

In the first 2½ hours, the chef has organized the staff, inventoried the kitchen and ensured that everything meets quality standards. Their day, though, has hardly begun.

7 ½ hours …

The chef finally has 30 minutes to read emails, place orders and determine the best ways to get through the day without a cook who called off, the dishwasher who has not shown up and doesn’t have a phone, and a fryer that isn’t working.

Now it’s 11 a.m., and the chef needs to be on the expediter line until 2 or so to oversee lunch service and make sure every plate being sent to the guest meets their high standards. When there are short respites, the chef reminds the staff to take the temperature of every sauce, soup and special, again to make sure that guest health is Job One.

3½ hours …

Time to take another 30 minutes to read emails and take a full food inventory so they can place their food orders by 3 p.m., otherwise the order won’t be there tomorrow.

The clock is ticking and there still is a lot to do. The chef needs to make sure that 100% of the dinner staff has arrived and, if anyone is missing, determine who is going to work that station.

Tick tock … tempus fugit! Now it’s time to taste every sauce, soup and special and make the necessary adjustments so all of the items meet the chef’s standards. Once this is done, the chef will ensure every station is set up for service and, of course, again take the temperature of every food item on the line.

Dinner begins

The chef is now 10 hours into the day and about to start the toughest, most meaningful part of what will become a 13-hour day: commanding an entire kitchen and organizing, reviewing and approving hundreds of plates of entrees, appetizers and desserts. If one plate doesn’t meet the chef’s standards, it is sent back to the cook to make it perfect.

A tough job? Absolutely. Long hours? Definitely. Incredible amount of responsibility? Without doubt. But ask any chef and they won’t talk about the long hours. They will talk about exceeding guests’ expectations.

• Izzy Kharasch is the founder of Hospitality Works, a consulting firm that has worked with 700+ restaurants and small businesses nationwide. He is offering Daily Herald restaurant owners a free consultation by contacting him at

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