mise en place - Ethos of the KitchenMost (but not all) cooks and chefs tend to be “potty-mouthed sailors” who lack the social willingness to be “nice” to people who are pricks (i.e. some customers), and would be much more likely to say, “Fuck off!” to an unreasonable guest than to say, “I apologize for that sir, how can I help?” That’s why we are in the kitchen. It’s hot, dangerous, stressful…an adrenaline rush…we love it here! A lot is expected of us…and we expect a lot from each other in return. You MUST pull your own weight to be respected by your peers and superiors in the Kitchen. There is no one “star” player, the whole crew is dependent upon each other to win…or everyone sinks together.

Following is the unspoken code of the professional kitchen. If you have been in the industry for a long time then you realize that this is true at most of the well-run places you have ever worked. And conversely, everyplace you worked which had crappy food or low moral probably had staff which did not follow “the code”.

To those who have never been in a professional kitchen, these seem harsh, archaic even. But for everyone who has endured the long, hot, stressful shifts of a full-service kitchen these standards make total sense. You understand that with every dish sent from the Kitchen, we are being judged by a guest who is going to be either happy or dissatisfied with the work we have just done. Judged not just once per shift, but judged a hundred or more times every shift, every day!

You understand that to reach the level of perfection which we must attain for every single meal served to be excellent, it requires an extreme demand upon personal responsibility, reliability, and execution. It takes pride to do what we do daily, and pride in our work does not come cheap…it demands personal integrity and commitment. The unspoken rules of the Kitchen Code make our lives easier, not harder. It brings order and discipline to the chaotic, difficult environment we work in.

Understand that these are the unwritten code, the ethos, of the Kitchen. You will not find them in a job description. They’re not in the SOP’s of any particular kitchen. The chef is not going to sit down and tell you every single one of these things. Many of these are simply learned as part of the culture of the kitchen. They are understood and expected by the cooks of a professional crew as well as by the chef.

If you can’t step up then get the hell out…we have work to do and you’re in the way.

The Kitchen Code:

not in any particular order

  1. You show up early and are at your station early, ready to work.
  2. You arrive in a presentable fashion: showered, shaved, brushed, combed, and in a clean uniform. Last night’s entertainment is not discernible.
  3. You have a genuine enthusiasm for good food, good technique, and culinary advancement, regardless of how much you already think you know.
  4. You have a “sense of urgency”…if you don’t know what that means then learn it fast or get out.
  5. You maintain a good attitude, finding satisfaction in doing good work.
  6. You are coachable and don’t get defensive when criticized.
  7. You are not a know-it-all (the opposite of being coachable).
  8. You don’t take yourself too seriously and are able to laugh at yourself if you fucked up…but you also learn from it.
  9. You do not dwell upon or allow the feelings associated with a fuck-up to distract you. Instead, you keep your mental focus in the game and move on. If you need to discuss it with Chef then do so after service has ended.
  10. You season everything with the “correct” amount of seasoning as per the Chef’s preference (not your own).
  11. You taste everything in your station, making sure it is correctly made and of proper quality.
  12. Dull knives are disrespectful to ingredients – you have a sharp knife at all times.
  13. You NEVER use someone else’s knives without their permission. As Anthony Bourdain says, “Don’t touch my dick, don’t touch my knife.”
  14. You do not complain – especially about those things which cannot be controlled, such as customer requests/returns, the restaurant hours of operation, having to work weekends/holidays, how busy or slow it is, etc. all.
  15. You show respect for the food, for the Chef, and for how we want things done at THIS restaurant (not the way some other chef did it at some other restaurant you worked at…we don’t care).
  16. You show respect for fellow co-workers (team members); this includes cooks, dishwashers, bussers, prep cooks, food runners, expeditors, and servers (yes, the servers too!).
  17. You do not expect or demand respect from others. You understand that respect is earned: a) by being equal or better than everyone else in the kitchen, and b) by treating everyone else like they are equal or better than you.
  18. You understand the importance of a fully staffed crew and you do not call in sick so you can go to that concert, or party.
  19. You consistently show up for work…if you are sick then be prepared to provide a drs note to prove it (too many have violated the other members of the Saturday night crew by calling in sick to go to a party).
  20. If you have a mild cold, or a headache, or a hangover, you are not sick…show up for work.
  21. You don’t get sick often.
  22. You have the ability to stay focused under pressure – expect to be in the weeds often… and work your way out of it alone.
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  23. You’re not afraid to ask for help if your station gets slammed…but you understand that help may not be available.
  24. If your station gets utterly hammered and you sink, you don’t give up and walk off the Line…you break out a shovel and dig your way out.
  25. You are aware of the kitchen flow and take initiative…if your fellow cook is buried, you help them out.
  26. You always rotate product properly, practicing FIFO (First In, First Out)
  27. You always have enough mise en place for your shift.
  28. You never throw product out due to over-prepping.
  29. You NEVER steal someone else’s mise en place.
  30. You always prep fresh products daily…do not make tomorrow’s chiffonade today.
  31. When running low on a product for your station’s prep you always let the chef know before the last of it is gone.
  32. Never 86 anything unless there is no more product to prep. When running low on a menu item you always give the chef at least a one hour warning before having to 86 it. This allows a count-down for the servers so no customer orders it when it is gone; and it allows time to try to prep more or find a replacement.
  33. You are fast, but not sloppy…your station is clean and organized even in the middle of the push.
  34. You always have an extra gear available when needed.
  35. You follow established safe holding temperatures and verify that your products in the hot Bain Marie and refrigerated holding inserts are at temp. You sanitize everything that comes in contact with food, ie. thermometers, utensils etc.
  36. You organize your time efficiently, always planning ahead…you make fewer trips to the walk-in, always carrying something both ways.
  37. You take your breaks when it’s slow, and only with the chef’s permission.
  38. You restock your station before taking your breaks.
  39. You manage your food well – if it needs to be in the window in 2 minutes you can make it happen. Or if you’re told to slow a dish for 4 minutes you know how to do that as well.
  40. You have an appetite to learn more, regardless of how much or little you already know.
  41. You prepare and present the food exactly as the Chef has taught you…every time.
  42. When you’re having a great day you focus, prepare, & present the food properly throughout your entire shift.
  43. When you’re having a shitty day you focus, prepare, & present the food properly throughout your entire shift.
  44. You do it right, without taking shortcuts, even if it’s a tedious pain in the ass. This is called Professional Discipline.
  45. You do not bring your personal drama to work with you. You take control of, and are responsible for, your “Emotional Wake”.
  46. You are not afraid to ask appropriate questions about proper procedure…do not hack up an entire tenderloin because you are too arrogant, or too scared, to ask for a demo.
  47. You work neatly and clean as you go.
  48. You properly label and date EVERYTHING.
  49. You admit when you are wrong, but don’t point it out when others are wrong – especially if it’s the chef.
  50. The kitchen is not a democracy…always do it the Chef’s way, even if you think your way is better. If you must suggest something, do so in private…hopefully the Chef will give you kudos if he accepts the revision…but don’t expect it.
  51. “Yes Chef!” or “Oui Chef!” is the only proper response to any directive from the Chef. If the Chef says, “Please do it this way” understand that he/she is not offering you a choice; you are politely being instructed how to do it and your compliance is expected.
  52. You always give call-backs when orders are called.
  53. You work in a safe manner, thereby protecting yourself and others from harm.
  54. You always use appropriate kitchen warnings such as, “Behind”, “Corner”, “Hot”, “Knife”, “Oven Open”, etc.
  55. You are willing and able to work long hours under high stress, sometimes for many days straight, w/o becoming a moody detriment to the kitchen or the food.
  56. You show up as early as necessary to have your mise en place dialed in, whether you get paid extra or not.  And if the Chefs tell you they can’t ask you to punch in early, tell them it’s cool, you don’t expect to be paid and jump in – odds are very good they might buy you a beer in about nine or ten hours down at the corner bar.
  57. You work for the good of the team and the restaurant.
  58. You plan ahead and ask for days off well in advance.
  59. You always know exactly what is in your oven, or on your stove or grill, even if it’s not yours.
  60. You are aware and observant in the kitchen: you smell when food doesn’t smell or feel right. You notice if the temp in a cooler is too high. You smell if something is burning.
  61. You work efficiently as regards time and organization, meaning that items which take a long time to prepare are started before items which take less time. During service, if you have a dish which takes 10 minutes to prepare, one which takes 5 minutes, and one which takes 2 minutes, you are able to time and prepare all three within 10 minutes and hit the window at the same time; and it does not take you 17 minutes because you prepared them one at a time.
  62. You always tell the chef when you leave the Line, including why you are leaving, “Off Line for shrimp”.
  63. When it’s slow, you always find something useful to do, including cleaning your station or organizing the walk-in. “If you have time to lean you have time to clean.”
  64. Always treat equipment with respect, as if you paid for it yourself.
  65. Always work in a manner which meets the health code, ensuring that you’re not going to get someone sick.
  66. You understand the proper use of foodservice gloves. They are a pain in the ass, but they protect our guests. No glove, no love.
  67. Know the difference between a cut and a scratch; a cut requires stitches, a scratch does not. If it’s a scratch put a Band-Aid on it and get back to work. If it requires only 2 or 3 stitches, please return to finish your shift after the doctor is done. The crew and the chef will both respect and appreciate you more for it.
  68. If you do return to work with injuries, be wise enough to work within your restrictions and not cause yourself additional injury.
  69. You daily rotate all your mise en place on the Line into clean containers at closing.
  70. You stay until all the day’s work is done properly w/o asking to leave early. You ask if there’s anything else that needs to be done before leaving.
  71. You mentor new co-workers as you would have liked to have been mentored/taught, not necessarily how you were taught.
  72. You manage your “recreational activities” wisely…too many of us become addicted to alcohol or drugs.
  73. To be recognized as a leader in the kitchen…you know the kitchen code, practice the code, and mentor the code. (I know…sappy and proselytizing! But how else could you possibly end “The Code…” of anything?!)

Leave a comment if: 1) you disagree with something on the list, 2) you would add something to the list.



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Comments from before Site Migration

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JOSEPHINE []    [ Nov 16, 2015 ]

All I can say is WOW! I plan on speaking to the Executive Chef at the local colleges and suggest this be part of Introduction to Culinary classes!!

DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Jun 25, 2015  ]

Simon – 73 lines of the Kitchen Code and you focus on only one?! Clearly you have never worked in a professional kitchen. And, if you read the comments below you’ll see that #55 was suggested by someone else in the industry, and you’ll also find my personal response to free labor: “…If the cooks and/or sous chef/chef need to pull massive hours and not get paid for it on a regular basis then its time to put in your one year, learn what you can, give proper notice, don’t burn bridges, and get the hell out.” You will also notice a comment about a restaurant getting sued for labor law abuse…clearly it is nothing to mess around with.

However, people in the industry understand what it means to have your station set-up no matter the cost, and therefore it is included in the Code. My crew gets paid for every hour they work, and I pay them overtime on a weekly basis.

The Kitchen Code is not about slave labor (the other 73 lines!)…it is about PRIDE, PASSION, COMMITMENT, MISE EN PLACE, TEAMWORK. The pain and glory of executing 300 perfect plates for dinner service and not have one complaint.

A lazy cook makes life difficult for the entire crew. And someone who takes no pride in their work is worthless. You sound like an entitled union worker. Part of the purpose of the Code is to let people know what they are getting into if they choose this profession as a career because it is a difficult industry…we are judged on a daily, no, on a minute by minute basis by every guest. Perfection is the goal, and perfection demands more than the average person can handle.

fuck you back Simon…the phase at the top of the page applies to you:
If you can’t step up then get the hell out…we have work to do and you’re in the way.


SIMON []    [ Jun 25, 2015 ]

Mr. Buchanan,

Sorry you think that labor laws shouldn’t apply to you because, back in your day, we worked for free and walked to work in the snow uphill both ways.

Asking your employees to work for free is stealing.  You make money in your restaurant.  If you can’t make money paying for the labor you enjoy, your business deserves to fail.

Do you spend the money you don’t pay them?  That is stolen money.  There is nothing special about the restaurant industry.  If you can only survive by stealing from your employees, perhaps you should find another business.

F*ck you running.


CHEFMAV    [ Apr 26, 2015  ]

Shit, sorry – should have been #75, not #55.

Back in the nineties, you saw a lot of that sort of thing a lot – that particular place was in San Francisco, owned by a very well-known chef and he got away with it for a long time before the core group eventually crumbled.  Working for him was like working for Charlie Trotter or Thomas Keller, and a lot of people would do exactly that – put in a year and then get out with a nice line on the résumé.  But this guy in particular was very cheap and pissed a lot of people off.  He used to have four dishwashers on busy nights – they were all related lived together about twenty minutes away by car – but it was an hour by bus at that hour of night, and unless you had an armed escort, you had to go six blocks or so around the really nasty part of the neighborhood to avoid getting your ass kicked – so this chef would have his closing Sous schedule the one with the car as the closer, and cut the other three about an hour and a half early – so of course they all stayed for free and helped their father/uncle get done and all go home together.  I remember hearing him the night he found out who had the car, laughing about it as he bragged to one of his friends at the bar…..”these guys love me so much, they work for free…”  What a fucking douche.

But if you piss the wrong person off, it’ll bite you in there ass pretty quick – the first really busy place I worked had an owner who was really cheap – if you went over forty hours, no overtime, no matter what.  We all hit our forty halfway through the shift on Saturday but we’d never leave the closing guy by himself when it slowed down, so we’d get about forty five hours each week, but all straight time, no time and a half, and we never said anything because we thought we needed the job that badly.  A few years after I gave my notice and left, I got a check in the mail for more than a couple thousand dollars – someone finally had enough, made the call to the labor board and gotten the guy audited….. I heard he wrote over two hundred checks, mostly to the BOH staff.


DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Apr 23, 2015 ]

ChefMav – awesome, fucking spot on comment my chef-brother! Clearly you know, live, and understand the Kitchen Code! It is appalling/frightening/discouraging how the “ambulance chasing” lawyers and socialistic enablers of our era have stripped our society of a solid work ethic and pride in our work. They fail to realize that the “poor baby, its all about me” mentality they are promoting will result in mediocrity at best…social collapse at worst…”fuck everyone else, so long as my pocket is full everything is good”. My response to that philosophy: “Yeah…fuck off and die asshole. You contribute nothing and will not be missed”.

I must however add one disclaimer…if staff have to occasionally come in early or work late on their own time to make life easy for the next shift, ok, that’s part of the business, part of “moving up the ranks”, part of taking pride in your work. But…if it is routine (every weekend, or worse, every day!) then the owners are assholes for creating a budget which cannot achieve their service goals w/o free labor. They either need to adjust the budget to allow for overtime, or they need to change their concept to something which fits their budget. Demanding a Fine Dining experience on a Denny’s budget reveals either the utter stupidity of the ones creating the budget, or it reveals their greed.

If the cooks and/or sous chef/chef need to pull massive hours and not get paid for it on a regular basis then its time to put in your one year, learn what you can, give proper notice, don’t burn bridges, and get the hell out.

However, with the disclaimer out of the way, I have added your suggestion into position #55 because as a general rule, it is certainly part of the unspoken Kitchen Code!


CHEFMAV []    [ Apr 23, 2015  ]

I’m coming up on fifty, and I realize things aren’t quite the same when it comes to working in Kitchens these days as they were fifteen or twenty years ago.  Many people (Cooks and Chefs included) tend to resist change, not sure why, but it seems like once people are set in their routine, they don’t like it disrupted, which I can certainly understand.  Some changes are good – we’ve come a long, long way in Sanitation practices, for example – when I was a Dishwasher, I don’t even remember there being a temperature gauge on the machine, if I was lucky enough to have one, let alone what the right temperature was.  A lot of the changes I’ve seen in the Industry, especially in the last ten years, are very HR-based, and many of these changes are instigated and controlled by people who have never had the pleasure of working in a finely-tuned machine, like my Kitchen.  I understand things like minimum wage increases – everyone has to be able to pay their bills, and for that reason, I never start someone at the lowest possible wage.  I understand how things like liability work, and I understand (sort of) why the Cooks can’t all have a beer after the lunch shift dies down.  A lot of the time, when I hear someone say, “…hey, you know what we used to do at the last place?” I know I’m not going to be happy with what comes next because it occasionally implies that we should do it that way here, at my place.  Sure, given a similar storage space, most Chefs would arrange things differently, not necessarily the most efficiently (or safely), but a lot of them would model it after the very first cooler they were in charge of maintaining when they were first given the responsibility – again, it’s all about the routine for a lot of people.

Things were different in Kitchens before channels on TV made cooking seem like an ultra-glamorous job that would turn us into celebrities.  It wasn’t a noble profession (at least not yet here in the USA).  It was a job that most of us hadn’t been to school for, and everything we learned, we learned on the job.  When we had a busy night coming up, and we knew our station was low on mis en place at the end of the night, if we needed to come in early to make sure it got done, then we automatically did it.  If we had a daytime job and couldn’t get in early enough, we’d stay late to get a head start.  And we did it off the clock, for free, and never once bitched about it.  God help you if you showed up at your scheduled 3:00 shift on a Friday or Saturday night, because there was no way in hell you’d be ready without taking shortcuts.  I remember my parents telling me once it was illegal when I mentioned going in early for free to them, but to me it was just the right thing to do – and if I knew I was looking good on my station, but Javier needed a shit-ton of butchering done, I’d come in an hour early and french the rabbit racks and make sure his short ribs were perfect going into service – it was just what we did – thinking back, I was closer to everyone there than my actual family – how could I not be?  I spent more time with them than anyone.  My parents weren’t thrilled I “threw away,” a college education so I could “flip burgers for a living,” but to me (us), being a Cook is the most noble profession there is.

I recently had a discussion with one of my Sous Chefs about how we worked our way up the ladder when I was his age (about half of mine).  When I was a Line Cook working the Fish Station, at the end of my shift, I handled all of the seafood and shellfish – it was my responsibility and mine alone.  After I broke down my station, I drained all the lexans, changed every single container, relabeled everything, made seven trips from the crushed ice machine (we were SO lucky to have a crushed ice machine, even though it was 150 yards farther away than the regular one in the Prep Kitchen, and I spent an extra ten minutes getting crushed ice so the everything would stay a little colder), slapped on making tape with “USE FIRST” stickers and made sure that any product we used that came out of the water was in tip-top pristine condition for the morning guys when they showed up.  I spent at least half an hour, sometimes closer to an hour on the weekends in the cooler alone.  If I was scheduled out at eleven, I punched out on time, but then I went back and I finished the job I was given.  I never had a morning Cook bitch at me about having to that shrimp on the fly in water – I just knew what needed to be done and I handled it.  Anyway, I was telling my Sous – and he was SO shocked to hear this – whenever we went from one station to another and we trained on how to do closing procedures, we never got paid for spending the extra time.  Why pay someone to basically watch a Cook do something?  We’re running a business here – profit isn’t an ugly word – labor is hugely important – and when there was a spot open that I wanted a shot at, I jumped at the chance and did whatever I needed to do to show I was responsible to manage it on my own.  If I had to clock out when my station was clean and then go back and work for another hour, it was fine.  If I needed to come in an hour or two early and work before I punched in, no problem.  Today, in the age of employment attorneys and ambulance-chasing motherfuckers, if I even suggested that someone do something for free, even for a few minutes, I’d probably get taken out back, shot in the head and shoved in the dumpster.

A few years back, I asked a server to grab some beer bottles in the parking lot on his way out and put them in the bin, and he had the balls to tell me he already punched out and to “…talk to the GM.” – I guess he must have missed that little part when I met him and the GM introduced me as the owner.  But was I able to fire him?  Nope.  Was I able to write the little cocksucker up the next day?  No way – because he was already off the clock and no longer an employee working a shift.  Was I even able to glare at him when he showed up for the pre-shift meeting?  Not at all, because it’s considered retaliatory treatment and if I allow that to happen, it’s a hostile workplace and he can sue me.  But can I go out into the parking lot a few months later during dinner, slash a couple tires and nudge him in the direction of some new headlights with a beer bottle I found in the parking lot?  Fucking-A-absolutely, as long as I don’t (didn’t) get caught – I hope he reads this someday, but he wouldn’t have the balls to say anything if he did – he sure as fuck didn’t back then.  I felt a tiny, tiny little twinge of guilt when I heard him crying at the other end of the bar……“my Dad’s gonna kill me…”  Hey, dumbass, your Dad, who’s closer to my age and hopefully knows what I’s like to work for a living – he probably would have told you to pick up the bottles in the first place and not be a little bitch about it.  Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry about your car, but your kid was being a shithead.

I am SO sick and tired of having someone who wears a tie and sits in an office all day tell me how to run my Kitchen.  I’m even more sick and tired of the thought that some cook, in a Kitchen somewhere, has the fucking audacity to call the Labor Board and report something as insignificant as someone working off the clock – and I’m only bringing this up because this shit actually happens.  Some new cook right out of school thinks they know everything, doesn’t want to come in early because they’re tired/hungover/stoned/sick/lazy…..whatever, the Sous Chef rides their ass if their shit isn’t perfect (as they should), they whine even more because “there isn’t enough time to get it all done,” the Sous tells them to come in early or stay late, but not on the clock, they refuse on principle because they’re a fucking pussy, so they get shit-canned, and instead of sucking it up, they try to sue.  Only in America – in Europe, the rest of the Cooks would kick the shit out of you.

This comment is turning into a rant, and I’m not trying to go on forever, so I’ll sum it up – Maybe you can’t put it on a list and post it on the wall at work, but if your Chef has a labor budget, it’s his job to hit it, or get as close to it as possible.  No overtime means no overtime.  Whatever – as a Cook – and please notice that’s Cook with a capital C – if you need to come in early or stay a little late on your own time, you just do it.  Fuck your FaceBook page, fuck your Twitter account, fuck all that shit – I care deeply about all my Dishwashers, Prep, Pantry, Line guys and Sous Chefs, more deeply than most of them know, but this is your job.  Nobody put a gun to your head and said you’re going to work in my Kitchen, or anyone else’s.  Man up, quit being a pussy, reach into your purse, push the tampons out of the way, grab a pair of balls, strap them on and get going.  If you’re one of those guys I see in alleys that hang out back smoking cigarettes, waiting until it’s one minute before the scheduled time to punch in, I have two words for you:  Fuck.  You.

You don’t choose to be in this business – it chooses you, and if you are chosen, you need to do whatever it takes to get the job done, and fuck the consequences.  I’m not an expert on anything, but I can say this with a very high degree of certainty:  You will never, ever look back on your life and wish you didn’t spend a little extra time on the line getting ready for a busy shift that would have put you in the weeds all night if you wouldn’t have given a shit and come in a bit early on your own time.

So…. after all that…

#55:  You show up as early as necessary to have your mis en place dialed in, whether you get paid extra or not.  And if the Chefs tell you they can’t ask you to punch in early, tell them it’s cool, you don’t expect to be paid and jump in – odds are very good they might buy you a beer in about nine or ten hours down at the corner bar.


RYANPDX []    [ Apr 18, 2015  ]

Here is something that i feel should be added to our code.. Do not steal my rag and stop leaving your shit in my station! Respect your fellow cooks space and understand they have a job to do as well


THE DISHWASHER []    [ Mar 25, 2015 ]

I gotta say, as someone who is in his late 20’s and has been working in the service industry since about 17 (minus 3 years NOT working with food) i didn’t know the “actual” code of the kitchen. Sure i was aware of a “code”, and i am relieved that i already practice some of them, but still  there are some codes i have ignored/did not know about.

For any culinary graduate reading this i just have to say how disappointed i am to see Kids who graduate or graduates who believe that their degree gives them a right to treat people who they deem as “less” than them – indicatively Less Than They Are.

Here’s my code of the kitchen. The Chef is in Command. Anyone with a title of Chef deserves your respect. However, Respect is Ultimately Earned (regardless of your age, title, race, religion or education). Experience isn’t something you need to talk about, it’s something you have an ability to prove: eyes closed – hands tied. Finally its stressful, dangerous and not a comfortable environment to work in – so (if you can for the love of god) be understanding when you can, and practice safety. If you like working with cuts and burns – here, have a sticker with a smiley face. Personally, i don’t allow myself to get sick, or get cut, or burned – and i don’t want anyone else on the line (in my crew) to be sick, cut or burnt either.


ZACH5676    [ Sep 29, 2014  ]

For me, working in the kitchen is like playing on a baseball team. I have used this analogy on numerous occasions and after reading this article, it just reinforced my own beliefs of the kitchen. I worked as a bus-boy at 15, line cook at 17, line cook/co-manager from 19-20, and line cook/sushi cook/lead sushi cook/Sous chef from 22-26. I played baseball until I was 21 and I attribute majority of my growth within the industry to baseball. The only thing I would add to the list is the following I tend to repeat during the dog-days of summer (dog-days of summer refers to the later months of the baseball season, typically late-August and early-September, when a baseball team is no longer in contention to make it to the post season, even with a substantial amount of games to play; the dog-days of summer in regards to the kitchen is when everyone is completely burnt-out at both ends, with no help in sight)
“There is no crying in Baseball”


HYPIE []    [ Sep 02, 2014  ]

I have worked kitchens for almost 6 years now and I am 25.  This code is absolutely ‘cock on.  I don’t think there is a single point I can fault.
I see there are cooks/chefs  here massively more advanced than myself but it’s nice to read through these comments if you are a chef lacking or loosing some will to fight. I have been there. But seeing witnessing others passions, flare and determination to get a job done right, reignited something inside me.

PHIL FROM THE GRILL []    [ Jul 27, 2014  ]

The list is absolutely fucking right. I am a 52 year old Restaurant owner/Kitchen manager/Cook.

I was searching on line how to create a sense of urgency among my kitchen staff and came upon your website. I then realised I am not alone.

Phil – Tasmania, Australia


DAVEB    [ Apr 30, 2014  ]

Daniel, I can understand your point of view as I am in a sense of the same opinion however one thing you should know is that the term “Chef” is derived from “Chief” and technically means the head of a kitchen regardless of certification. “Chef” is also a title given to a cook because in reality any person who cooks food is a “Cook” regardless of station, titles like “Chef” or “Sous Chef” are just that, titles, given to those who have demonstrated a skill set desired by the employer to fit that designation in their mind.

As for this article I think it is extremely accurate and has many, many points that I have discussed at length with coworkers over the years especially with the rules about respecting coworkers.


SCOTTIE []    [ Mar 05, 2014  ]

Ohhhh Daniel….

I so sense a bitterness and a trembling in the force.  There are men and women out there who have served in every capacity in a restaurant for decades and have so much more management and culinary savvy than most “cooking school” graduates.  Put your best student coming out of any school on the line on a busy Friday night, and they are destined to fold.  Schools are a fine foundation, but do not make a chef.  Nor does certification.

What does make the chef is time, just like a fine wine.

I’d love to banter more with you…but I have a restaurant to run, and future chefs to train!

RUSS C ORFORD []    [ Feb 02, 2014 · Delete ]

7a  its not brain Surgery   No one is going to Die !!!


DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Jan 31, 2014 ]

if the chef is a “know nothing tyrant dipshit”, and you actually are an excellent cook looking to make a career in fine food, then get the hell out of the dipshit’s kitchen. Go work somewhere that you can learn. Just know that many of the best chefs can seem like tyrants because they demand excellence and will settle for nothing less than excellence.

Know the difference between a “know nothing dipshit” chef, and a tyrant who is an excellent chef.


BRANDON A.D. []    [ Jan 31, 2014  ]

Yeah but what if the chef is a know nothing tyrant dipshit, what are the rules for the chef-tell me that


RASPUTIN []    [ Jan 29, 2014  ]

And just to be clear, I just resigned from a sous chef position with a two page letter of resignation that covered a good portion of items mentioned in this list. with the letter, I included the 2013 USDA Food Code, and the HAACP guide for kitchen managers, then told the executive chef that his kitchen was a joke. I’ve never written a letter of resignation.


RASPUTIN []    [ Jan 29, 2014  ]

Number 4 is relative to the environment. I’ve had the misfortune to work under leadership that was so incompetent that I wouldn’t trust them to be my porter. Ultimately, this leads to a compromised morale for everyone that knows what they are doing. For me, I become a bit sour under such conditions because I’m OCD in the kitchen. It takes a lot out of me to not tell an exec that he/she’s a joke and not worthy of the position they’ve been given, and I tend to take that bottled up stress home with me, ultimately destroying friendships and relationships on top of the PTSD that they already had to put up with. The hiring process for sous and executive chefs should involve a lot of on the job testing. Then again, managers and restauranteurs should also be more competent in the first place, so that they can identify losers at the head of the line. I guess it’s all a matter of localscene, too, because I’ve never met so many self proclaimedand untested tech school educated chefs being in positions of power before I moved to where I live.


SOUSGAL []    [ Jan 19, 2014  ]

I would add that if you didn’t put it there, don’t move it.  SO tired of having other cooks or kitchen assistants take my rags, take my tongs, put tongs, ladles, etc. away when I had just put them out.


CHEF CAPITAN []    [ Jan 17, 2014  ]

great list you got there

just wan’t to add one more thing
“if you can’t work with pressure, stress, responsibility and authority please do your self a favor and read the “EXIT” save the others the burden of carrying a dead weight”


RONALD []    [ Jan 14, 2014  ]

#9?-correct seasoning as per chef-when you are a line cook you should follow the chefs preference but you have to taste everything you put out not the chef..in banquets yes let the chef taste with his preference, because it’s a production line.

#25-FIFO or is it LIFO..it’s the same meaning, we had some controversy while I was taking food & beverage management course.

#54- I’ ll agree up to certain extent, long hours for chef and working straight, but for a cook  a chef has to decide about his performance and quality.

#66- return to work with stitiches to finish his job, I would let him or her take the day off.


ADAM MCKIEL []    [ Jan 14, 2014  ]

great article. I got to say though, that just because you are trained and certified doesnt make you a chef. I’ve gone to school, and I’ve worked with and for chefs who graduated from great schools and some who havent stepped jnto a classroom since high school. Being a chef isnt simply a title given to anyone with a degree, I have my degree and certainly have not earned the title of chef. im not saying you cant take a chef position after school but to anyone who has worked in a restaurant, the title of chef is earned through knowledge and experience. school doesnt teach you what we see in this article. im not bashing school, it has done great things for my career, but its not the only path. cooking wast a desirable job for quite some time. there were no schools. you were sent into a restaurant as an apprentice and worked until you earned the knowledge and respect needed.

again great article, really enjoyed this one.


DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Jan 14, 2014  ]

CHEFK – added your suggestion: #22
IAN B – added to #49
SANDY T – regardless of what we think of the servers it is up to us to set the “tone of professionalism”. In my experience, the more the kitchen yells at the waitstaff…the more the waitstaff yell at the cooks. It’s a self-defeating cycle which may feel good at the time, but which ultimately creates a dysfunctional relationship between BOH & FOH. Chaos, spite, stress, and poor customer service result from a staff which cannot work together. We don’t have to be friends w/ the servers…but we do need to treat them as we would like to be treated.

When they try to bend or break the rules (in order to get a bigger tip), then the Chef should have principles in place which make it easy for the kitchen to respond, and easy for the waitstaff to understand the response.

For instance, my rules for any guest request which the server brings me is as follows. We can accomodate the request only if all three rules are followed:

  1. we have the product and means to do it
  2. it does not hurt our business (ie they cannot sub king crab for clams w/o an up charge!)
  3. it does not hurt our current customers (special requests which result in making other guests have to wait will not be accomodated)
DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Jan 13, 2014  ]

Daniel – clearly you believe that a piece of paper makes the chef, not experience or knowledge. May I suggest that you explore your perspective on the Chefs Resources group on LinkedIn. There are over 9,000 active members, most of which are cooks and “chefs” both with and without documentation. I think the conversation would be very lively if you care to open the discussion. Here is the link to the group if interested: Chefs Resources on LinkedIn


DANIEL B []    [ Jan 13, 2014 ]

If you have been trained or have the hours GET CERTIFIED!! I don’t care where your from or what program you take. Until then, and ONLY then you have NO right to call yourself a Chef. You earn that title. Step up to the plate people.  Notice how I don’t put “Chef” in front of my name…I have enough class to know I am not there yet.


DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Jan 13, 2014  ]

Daniel – there are other respected certifications as well. I am unfamiliar with Red Seal except that it is a Canadian endorsement for culinary proficiency. The ACF (American Culinary Federation) also has an excellent certification process, as does graduation from any number of culinary schools. And in the end, if someone has worked the industry for 20 plus years and successfully maintains a “chef” position in reputable establishments I believe that they have earned the designation of chef.

A chef will know and understand many things about food, technique, sanitation, management, inventory, food cost, training, and so on. There are many qualified chefs who have never had formal training.


DANIEL B []    [ Jan 13, 2014 ]

All these “Chef” so and so’s who have commented,  are you actually Red Seal trained? Or is this just your work title? If so it is very disrespectful to those who have been trained…just a thought.


AUSSIE CHEF []    [ Jan 13, 2014  ]

Respect the kitchenhand, don’t trash their section because you are in the shit. No kitchenhand no restaurant.    [ Jan 12, 2014  ]

1. If you are the only female in an all male staff excluding servers then you may hear conversations about certain things you never wanted to know about.

2. If someone has a food allergy most of the time chefs complain about it yet majority of the people have certain food requirements that need to be met.

3. If you developed food allergies as a chef then your screwed and your career is over.


IAN B []    [ Jan 12, 2014  ]

Overarching all is kitchens are not democracies.  You’re there to serve the Chef’s requirements because it’s his/her vision that’s putting butts in seats.  They also answer to ownership for the performance of the brigade and that’s you.  Pay it forward, show up and back them up.  When it’s your time to lead it’ll pay dividends.


CHEFBUDDY []    [ Jan 11, 2014  ]

hi all chefs,

how could i become one of you all great chefs?



CHEFK    [ Jan 09, 2014  ]

I think #21 you say something about not being afraid of asking for help.  And not being ashamed of needing help.  Understand that we all need help at times and its not about seeing if you can do it yourself.  Its about getting to food out on time and to spec.


CAMERON Z []    [ Jan 06, 2014  ]

Sandy T.

Please do not be so myopic. Please re read rule 16.

F&B is no doubt intense and stressfull for all the players involved, but the success of your employer, and your employment, depends on the cohevsivness of the team….front of house and back of house. Your bitchy demanding servers will be putty in your hands if you take care of them and treat them with respect…’cause they don’t get alot of it when the guest is complaining to them about the food coming out of the kitchen. A whining, bitchy, irritating server cannot cause you to respond with such selfish negative remarks. Words are only words until the receiver gives them meaning. You and only you are in control of your actions.

Another unwritten rule..Yes a cooks job is to provide food cooked to the Chefs and guests expectations in a timely manner… but “verbal punching bag” will never be on the job description..Don’t take it to heart the servers just need to talk very loudly and frantically about their frustrations and stresses with their sharpest teeth and forked toungues. Negative sentiment coming from your lips will only add undue stress and further inflame the environment.

Does this seem fair when we talk about treating everybody with respect? No it doesn’t, but I guarantee you, showering the bitchy demaning server with unwaivering kindness and respect, at all times, will result in time will be to your benefit. By building the trust of excellence and friendship, you win the favor of the server.

This is the service industry, everybody has somebody to service, and we all are glad to do it…that’s why we’re here…don’t ever forget that. If you do not like providing service to people, hang your apron up now and don’t ever look back. Just as the servers have to represent you in the kitchen and service the demands of the guest, you must service the demands of the server as they are the liason between cook and guest.

In F&B, the team is a chain of respect..a chain is only as strong as the weakest link…don’t be the weakest link.


SANDY T. []    [ Jan 02, 2014  ]

Agree with most of this, except that treating servers well is a requirement/a given. In my career so many servers have been such demanding bitches (causing my repeatedly shouted refrain “I’M NOT WORKING FOR YOUR TIPS, UNLESS YOU’RE GOING TO GIVE ME SOME”) that many times it’s been impossible to deal with them. Fortunately almost all my executive chefs backed me up (I was a pastry chef) when servers threw hissy fits in the kitchen.

Really – until servers give the kind of respect to kitchen staff that they feel they automatically and so richly deserve, I say, screw ’em.


DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Jan 02, 2014  ]

Chef Drew L. – good point…added a paraphrase about gloves…#64

Chef John K. – love it! Created it as #11

Chef Richard – added a paraphrase (sorry, I couldn’t resist the adulteration to tie it in with the article!) #71

CHEF RWM []    [ Jan 01, 2014 · Delete ]

Great list! Would add the following:

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way!

Chef Richard


JOHN KERKESLAGER []    [ Jan 01, 2014  ]

Great list David, agree with all & would add – Dull knives are disrespectful to ingredients – have a sharp knife at all times.


ANDREW LUCYSHYN []    [ Jan 01, 2014  ]

Nice chef! I would add that gloves are not for your protection , they are to protect the food from contamination and they are only worn when touching food. Like a condom you replace after every use …no glove no love.

Chef Drew


DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Dec 31, 2013  ]

Chef Stefano – You’re so right…the chef’s holiday schedule is always several days (or many weeks) later! Very glad you find the site helpful. May the New Year bring you less stress, more success, and quality time with loved ones.

Chef Charles – I have added a paraphrase of your good suggestions to #7, #8, #31, and #59


STEFANO LEONE []    [ Dec 29, 2013  ]

Dear David

First of all i would like to wish you a Happy New Year (i know ours is in January, for chefs.ha, ha,)

Good health ,peace and prosperity.  Your articles are  fantastic straight to the point ,like the one ,Kitchen Code,,i can say how much i appreciate your support and dedication the trade with straight facts and professional tools.

Good bless you Chef

Happy New Year

Stefano Leone


CHARLES KAYE []    [ Dec 29, 2013  ]

#7 Should read:

Never take yourself too seriously. Do not dwell on a “fuck up” no matter how embarrassed or bad you may feel. Carry on with out a comment (except “sorry Chef”) until your shift is over. If it matters to you and /or the Chef ask how you can prevent the “fuck up” from happening again. (Learned from personal experience).

Also, add:

There are established holding temperatures. Check your products in the Bain Marie and refrigerated holding  inserts and don’t forget to sanitize everything that comes in contact with food, ie. thermometers, utensils etc.

Include the old saying:

“If you have time to lean,you have time to clean”.


JIM D []    [ Dec 27, 2013  ]

Never steal-it becomes habit


CHEF K []    [ Dec 26, 2013  ]

While you emphacized being able to work your way out of the weeds, I believe in teamwork and helping each other out of the weeds.  It’s admirable to be able to climb out by yourself, yet it’s sometimes better to receive help in consideration of that paying customer.  We’ve all been on that lopsided side of the line and I’d rather see teamwork than one station buried while the rest of the kitchen is coasting.  I prefer a we’re in this together kitchen!  Having said that… if your the chef that’s always in the weeds, then there’s an obvious problem that requires correction, coaching or replacing!


DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Dec 20, 2013  ]

Nice additions Chef B! I especially like “not stealing other’s prep” and added it to the list. And the “mandatory drink” could be a whole other article as too many of us have become addicted to alcohol or drugs. – Thanks for the good additions.


CHEF B []    [ Dec 19, 2013 ]

– Do not show up to work under the influence

– Do not expect the “mandatory” after shift drink, that can lead to a life-time of problems

– Never steal prep from another station

– If you don’t get dirty, sweat, bleed or curse during service, ask yourself how hard you’re really working


  • Stacy Pastri

    Random question…. I have a feeling I’m going to be replaced by corporate pastry chefs at my current part time second job where I make a pretty good hourly wage. What is the proper answer when they ask me for some of my recipes? I have another pastry position that doesn’t pay as well, but their standards are very high and everyone is so passionate! I just got offered a full time gig elsewhere that I’m considering… what is the proper etiquette to say I’d rather not share my recipes?

    • Many chefs have ran into this situation! The standard answer is that any recipe that you develop while employed belongs to the employer unless explicitly stated in a contract. However, that opinion is often up for debate and is not set in stone (some will argue otherwise!).

      The best way may be to simply let them know that you feel the recipes are yours and you prefer to take them all with you. The new chef, if s/he’s any good, will eventually replace them all w/ their own anyway.

  • Jon barone

    This list is impeccable. Dave Buchanan, your a fucking moron. You say your a chef but you sound like one of those chefs that just walks around on the outside of the line and watches the dishes go out.

    • My list is impeccable…but I’m a moron. You can’t have it both ways! Explain.

  • Independent Badass

    From working over 10 years I can tell you that Restaurants are a dying business, precisely because of this mentality, and because they don’t learn to embrace the 21st century. For cooks, the pay is shit and it’s not worth putting up the abuse.

    I know, I know, a bunch of you snowflakes are gonna say “That’s the restaurant life, bitch!” or some asinine shit like that, but honestly, take a good look at yourself and the industry. Countless reports have come out of restaurants being understaffed and failing at a higher percentage than ever before, especially in major cities.

    And that’s just because the courts have usually sided with restaurants against workplace hostility lawsuits, but that’s changing, too. Learn to adapt or fail.

    • I agree with you in part. Staffing for cooks is at an all time low in restaurants across the country and it is because the wages are low and the work is hard. Especially for those who have paid for culinary school…their starting wage is sub-par for the amount they spent at one of the premier culinary schools.

      The biggest problem with cooks wages is that giving them a higher wage means raising menu prices, or redesigning the tip system ( https://goo.gl/BrBTE5 ) so that servers don’t make enormously more than the cooks.

      As far as The Kitchen Code goes I think that most of it is still relevant and necessary. The kitchen needs to be disciplined and needs to have people who are committed to excellence. Having said that, there is also the negative “Hell’s Kitchen” chef/kitchen environment which you are referring to ( https://goo.gl/PiFqQM ). The best kitchens I’ve worked in have mostly followed the code rules and have also had fabulous chefs with great teamwork and mentoring. A kitchen is a hard place to work and needs discipline…but it should not be an abusive environment. That is established by the leadership.

      I think that the biggest challenge for restaurants today as far as cooks goes is: 1) finding a way to increase wages 2) finding common ground between the baby boomers and the millennials because their perspectives on work are so different.