The minute we accept a position in a professional kitchen, we accept the functional rules of operation, the guiding principles that allow every cook, and every chef to be a productive, and trusted member of a team. These rules may not be in writing and posted on a wall (although they should be), but they are understood, just the same. Each property may add others or they may adjust the focus of certain rules, but none-the-less, the rules are there.
What is most interesting, at least from my perspective, is that people need and actually enjoy working under the umbrella of a “method of operation” that is clearly defined. When this does not exist then confusion and dissent are a result. In those operations were goals are rarely met, when angst and friction rise to the surface, and where individuals find their days too unpredictable to live by, you will find that the rules are not present.
In those operations where the rules, or commandments, have a home and a firm grip on how business is conducted, you will find bonds among employees that are as close as family. These rules create a clear path to the achievement of a shared vision, establish order, and keep all involved in a course that can lead to success. The rules are what make our jobs enjoyable – this is what brings people back, time and again, to cook another day.
THE KITCHEN COMMANDMENTS (RULES):
 WE ARE A TEAM – HAVE EACH OTHER’S BACK
If you tie on an apron, then you become a member of a team that is supportive and willing to work WITH you. This means that we share ideas, help when help is needed, critique each other with a high level of honesty, share ideas and methods, understand and appreciate differences, and always stand up for one another. This requires and demands trust.
 DO YOUR JOB
The expectation is always that you will do what you are assigned to do, perform at your highest level of ability, seek every opportunity to perform better, and will stay the course until all of the “I’s” are dotted and “t’s” crossed.
 WORK CLEAN
A clean kitchen is an effective kitchen; a clean station is an effective station. Working clean is essential and is an expectation without any variance. Professional cooks know their responsibility in this regard and take it to heart. Professional cooks need not be told to work clean; it is simply how they operate.
 TAKE CARE OF YOUR MISE
We all know how important mise en place is. We know, as professional cooks, that our ability to perform at a high level is dependent on how tight our mise en place is. We also realize that total focus on this before and during service is our responsibility. To ignore this is to let the team down and add to the chaos of an inefficient kitchen.
 LABEL, DATE, ROTATE
As cooks, we have a responsibility to manage the fragile nature of fresh, quality ingredients and to protect the small amount of profit that a restaurant might realize. We are also responsible for ensuring that communication among members of the team is clear and fluid. All of these points are protected and enhanced when we take that extra minute to properly store, label, date, and rotate those ingredients that we have responsibility for.
 PUT IT BACK WHERE IT BELONGS
One of the quickest ways to spin an operation into chaos and confusion is to ignore where things belong and fail to return them, properly maintained, to their designated location. This is an essential part of the overall mise en place in a kitchen. Everything has a place, and everything is in its place. The minute you hear a cook ask: “has anyone seen the top to the Vitamix”, then you know that the operation is about to go sideways.
 YOUR TOOLS ARE YOUR TOOLS – CARE FOR THEM
Your tools allow you to work effectively and efficiently. Your tools are your responsibility and in a kitchen where order is essential, it is critical that every player adheres to this basic concept. Keep your knives sharp and clean, make sure your pans are seasoned and stacked properly, never place a cutting board on a table without a moist cloth underneath, make sure that a sani-bucket is at the ready, check the plates in your station to ensure they are spotless and void of chips or cracks, and by all means make sure that you have adequate dry and wet side towels and that they are properly stacked in the ready.
 RESPECT EACH OTHER – RESPECT IS EARNED
It is a fact that we may have different titles, different levels of experience, and different skill sets that set us apart. Some of us may come from different backgrounds, different cultures, varied ethnicities, and adhere to different beliefs. We may be a different color, speak a different language and have a different outlook on how to refine a relationship, but in a true team, it is important that we all respect each other and our right to be different. In the same regard, if we want to be respected for our differences then we must first respect those differences in others – respect is earned through actions.
 CARE FOR THE INGREDIENTS
When you become a member of the team, you take on ownership of the importance of cooking and the critical role of the ingredients that you work with. It’s all about the ingredients. As professional cooks, we need to respect the source of those ingredients and the properties that they possess. We must care for them properly, work towards utilizing all that they have to offer and avoid waste, and through our cooking – enhance their flavors and visual impact. We are charged with being caretakers of these ingredients.
 YOU’RE NOT DONE UNTIL YOU’RE DONE
Certainly, we have a schedule, but all professional cooks understand that they are not done until the work is done. They are not done until the prep is complete, the product is stored, the stock or sauce is properly chilled, the mise is labeled and dated, the station is spotless, and the equipment is returned to its designated location.
 WORK SAFE, WORK SMART
Accidents don’t happen on their own, they happen because cooks ignore the safety measures, fail to pay attention to what they are doing in the moment, fail to take that minute to mop up a spill, let others know that they are behind them with a pot of hot soup, fail to use a dry towel instead of a damp one, fail to use the guard on a slicer, or don’t take that extra second to watch their fingertips when using a mandoline.
 BE PROFESSIONAL – NO EXCEPTIONS
Look professional, act professional, speak professionally to others, cook like a professional, measure your actions like a professional, and treat others as a professional would. Period.
 TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR WORK
Professional cooks would never allow mediocrity to slip into their daily routine. They would never put a plate of food in the past that did not live up to their own standards as well as those of the property, and they would never engage in a short cut – sacrificing quality for speed.
 DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
Members of a kitchen team would never be so proud as to ignore the need to ask for help when they are unfamiliar, unaware, or over-burdened. Professional cooks know that the team is in this together and asking for and offering help is naturally what solid team members do.
 MISTAKES ARE OK AS LONG AS YOU LEARN FROM THEM
Mistakes will happen – they are frustrating to all involved, but they are a natural part of the learning process. The team will compensate for mistakes and overcome the ill effects, but should always know that mistakes are OK as long as they learn from them and avoid repeating that same mistake again.
 DON’T DWELL ON MISTAKES – MOVE FORWARD
Mistakes can be disheartening and even the most proficient cook will be shaken by a mistake that he or she makes. All team members must work to shake those mistakes off, avoid dwelling on them, and focus on what is next. When you hold on to that feeling of disappointment it will tarnish everything else that you do thereafter.
 SIGN YOUR WORK
In the end, one critical commandment stands outlook at everything that you do, every task no matter how large or small, every action taken or thought given, as if you were required to sign that work, that action, that thought and let the world know that you take responsibility for it. When this is done, there is no room for substandard work or behavior.
Be all that you can be – be a cook.
Originally by PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
The Rules are there for a reason.
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training