How to Manage Stress in a Heated Kitchen
How you manage stress says a lot about your character. But even the most patient culinarians will lose their control every now and then. It doesn’t matter if you’re an intern, sous chef, or head chef, stress inducing problems will occur in every kitchen. Often, it is the simplest mistake that leads to delayed dishes and disappointed customers. When the stress of the evening trickles throughout the kitchen, things can get worse. Before you know it, pots and pans are being slammed, dishes are prepared haphazardly, and everyone is yelling.
So how to you manage stress in times like this?
Here are some ways to help you manage stress that comes with being a culinary intern.
If you are the reason a dish is wrong or items aren’t prepared correctly, don’t look around the kitchen for someone else to take the blame. Hold your head up and own your mistake. This won’t magically fix the situation, but it will help in moving forward in making things right.
Making mistakes is perfectly natural in any job setting. The important thing about mistakes is learning from them. If you make a mistake that knocks a smooth running kitchen off course, chances are you will remember what you did wrong and make sure to not do it again.
Take a break
One of the easiest ways to manage stress is to take a break. In the kitchen, this isn’t always feasible, but if you find yourself about to burst, you need to take a moment to find your center. If that means going out for fresh air or walking into the cooler or freezer to calm down, do it. You cannot be a good member of the team if you’re too stressed to focus.
Be sure to communicate to someone if you do need to take a break. This will not only let your supervisor or coworker know you’re leaving your station for a moment, it can also be a good indicator to the rest of the kitchen that you’ve reached your limits.
Knowing how everyone operates under pressure will go a long way in creating a successful kitchen. As an intern new to the country and job setting, it’s extra important you learn key words and phrases from your coworkers. Sometimes a word you think you know can mean something entirely different in the kitchen.
For example, when a chef is asked how he’s doing and he replies, “living the dream,” that doesn’t mean he’s actually happy. It usually means he’s fixing a mistake or has become quite annoyed with his team at that moment. Once you get to know your surroundings and coworkers better, you will pick up on these nuances and begin saying them yourself.
More isn’t always better
Taking on extra tasks to prove yourself as an intern is certainly admirable. But when too much becomes more than you can handle, you may find yourself in big trouble. In times like this you have to speak up. Generally speaking, asking for help is not a bad thing–unless you ask the same question multiple times a day.
If you find yourself in a situation that will delay the service in anyway, call out for help or even just to communicate you’re running behind. Even if help cannot come right away, you are showing that you understand the importance of every element in the service. Your team will appreciate you for that.
Find the silver lining
Even in the best conditions, you are going to have a bad day. On these days, no matter how your feel or what you’ve done (or not done), look for something positive. Find the silver lining in the day to keep your spirits up. Even if the silver lining is known you get off work in an hour.
Days when work is bringing you down, go for a walk, meetup with friends or coworkers, or even call home. Find a way to manage stress and bring a smile back to your face.
When you gather and prepare the ingredients for the dish you’re preparing, the process is called mis en place. Nearly every culinarian knows this. But if you apply the same ‘put in place’ mentality in other areas, it can be a great way to manage stress and help you find your center.
If you gather yourself in your station with everything you need, the mis en place mentality can set in. You can focus on what you need in the moment. You can train yourself to not worry about what will happen in an hour, or four hours, or the next day. If you focus on the task at hand, the clutter of the other non-important woes will give way to what really matters.
How will you manage stress in the kitchen?
Keep in mind, not every day will be doom and gloom. Most days, the entire kitchen staff will laugh about whatever crazy things happened during a dinner service once it’s over. This is part of the comradery in the kitchen and soon, you may feel the stress reducing, one laugh at a time.