I’ve always been interested in the restaurant and food service industry. I worked on a food truck for over a year and it was one of my best job experiences. I moved to the Bay Area over a year ago and have been enjoying all the restaurants and great food this area has to offer. After leaving the food truck, I realized that I missed working in that environment, not to mention, the extra cash. I’ve longed to work in a kitchen again but without the flexibility of my previous day job, I would have to sacrifice my evenings and weekends to take on a side job.
A month ago, I started my new side gig as a line cook at Noelani’s in Downtown San Carlos. Mary came across a Craigslist ad looking for servers, line cooks and busboys for the restaurant and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to turn in a resume. After a call back and a dinner service as a try out, they were impressed enough to offer me a position.
Working in a kitchen is completely different from working on a food truck. I’ve read articles saying working on a truck is more difficult with the limited space. I say this is true but there are other aspects of working in a kitchen that add up to make it overall more challenging than working on a food truck.
First off is plating. After months of chucking tacos into taco trays and wrapping burritos in foil, I had to learn how to properly plate dishes. Our head chef has a vision of how he wants the plates to go out, even down to the dish ware it goes out on. So on top of preparing the dish, I have to remember what plate it goes on and other dressings it needs before it goes out.
Second is the variety of the menu. The food from Dos Chinos is really good, but when you get down to it, it’s just tacos, burritos or fries with your choice of protein. When I got a list of items that I was responsible for at my station and how each one was prepared, I froze. I had to ask tons of questions before I was comfortable preparing the dishes on my own (see 1st point). And I still ask questions and I still mess up. Our restaurant is more of a bar/lounge instead of a sit down restaurant. We don’t have to deal with timing the dishes to all come out at the same time; food comes out as it’s ready. I can’t imagine the level of difficulty when you have to time dishes to come out all at once.
Finally, cleanup. After my stint on the truck, I had a much greater respect for chefs, line cooks and everyone in food service. It’s fast paced, high tension, you’re hungry and thirsty and you get little or no breaks. It is definitely hard work. When running a food truck, you can hire people at the commissary you park at to clean the truck after every shift. I can’t believe how much of a luxury this was in retrospect. In a regular kitchen, everything must be cleaned up, wrapped, washed, sanitized and put away at the end of the night. You may read that and it doesn’t sound that hard. I’d invite you to watch what goes on in a kitchen after they announce last call for food in the kitchen. I’d also dare you to try to squeeze in an order once the last call is made.
I’m fortunate that I found another gig that lets me cook for people and is flexible around my schedule. The people I work with are fun, easy going and are willing to teach me. If you’re ever in the area, check us out.