What I Learned Being a Restaurant Cook — For a Day

What I Learned Being a Restaurant Cook — For a Day

I’m just guy in his kitchen with a camera.
No restaurant experience at all. That is, until the past weekend, when my friend Saralyn
Collins invited me to take over her restaurant, called Grow. Me and this guy, Mike Ventimiglia.
We wrote a menu and cooked one lunch service. It’s part of a whole series of lunches that
Saralyn is calling “pop ups,” where local celebrities, such as musician Big Mike here,
get to take over the restaurant and play chef for a day. “I had seen Adam’s videos on YouTube and
I thought he would be a great one to ask.” “I’ll try not to mess it up for you.” I did the lasagna from my lasagna video, the
flatbread from by New York pizza video, and the dessert from my strawberries and pound
cake video, but with one tweak. I replaced half the buttermilk with amaretto. Very strong
almond flavor, little bit boozy, very nice. So how’d it go? Let’s just say that it
renewed my gratitude for having a very cushy desk job. “How hot is this?” “Very hot! Things are — everything here
is hot and sharp and wet.” First there was the prep. If you’ve seen
my lasagna video, you know that it is a very involved three-day process. Multiply all the
quantities by five, and it gets to be some really serious work. I mean, stirring around
five gallons of Mornay sauce feels more like an industrial process than like cooking. I stupidly agreed to do this during the last
week of class at the university where I teach, when I was already crazed anyway. Also, adding
four hours of prep cooking to my days meant that for four straight nights I went to bed
at 4 in the morning. I am officially getting too old for that. “I’m 37, I’m not old!” On night number three, I woke up in bed covered
in this brown goo. And I was like, “My god, what happened?” Turns out, “Oh, it’s
chocolate.” I tend to sleep-eat when I get exhausted, so I must have stumbled into the
kitchen and gotten a Hershey bar and fallen asleep in bed while eating it, and was this
my lowest moment? It sure seems like it. It’s kind of like the Adam version of Nikki Sixx
waking up with the heroin needle dangling out of his arm. But it was all worth it. Look who came to
eat at the restaurant right before the lunch rush. The only other thing I would say about this
experience is that people who work in the restaurant industry are legit heroes without
capes. Even at a casual neighborhood place like Grow, it takes a special-forces level
of coordination, planning and hustle to get all of your plates out on time. People are
constantly engineering novel little solutions to problems on the fly, performing tiny little
miracles that go totally unnoticed by the dining public. We only ever notice when something
goes wrong. So I say, if your meal comes out great, walk up to the pass and say “great
job.” Actually you should probably just leave them alone. Tell your server. Also, if you’re ever in Macon, Georgia,
check out Saralyn’s place, Grow. It’s kind of a vegetable-heavy, locavore spin on
the old Southern meat and three. Hashtag not an ad. I just like that place and I’m grateful
to Saralyn for teaching me that my dream of quitting my job and opening a restaurant would
be a terrible life choice. I’ll grade papers for a living instead, thank you very much.

100 Replies to “What I Learned Being a Restaurant Cook — For a Day

  1. Q: Why isn't there any actual cooking in this video?
    A: I'm starting a new release schedule. I will continue to do a recipe video on Thursdays. In addition, I'll now be doing a video on Mondays that'll be on the topic of food/cooking but not a recipe.

    Q: Why are you wearing a t-shirt that says Hicksville? Are you from there?
    A: My dad is from Hicksville, New York. I grew up going there a lot to visit my grandma, and a pizza place there called Raimo's is how I got my love of NY-style pizza. But none of that is why I am wearing that shirt. My best friend, Meg, got that shirt made for me after we made a stupid podcast together where we made fun of every Billy Joel album, in order. It's called "We Didn't Start the Podcast," and you can find it anywhere you get podcasts. Billy Joel is also from Hicksville (he went to high school with my dad) and there's a funny old photo of him wearing a Hicksville t-shirt that looks just like the one Meg made for me.

    Q: What do you teach at Mercer?
    A: Journalism. A few of my students are in these comments saying very sweet things that I can't read all the way through because I'm afraid of feelings.

    Q: What do you mean you're a "local celebrity"?
    A: I meant that as a self-effacing joke. But, yes, one of the reasons Saralyn invited me to cook in her restaurant is that I'm a bit of a public figure here in Macon, Georgia. I hosted morning radio on the local NPR station for a couple years, and I still substitute-host a statewide talk show on Georgia Public Broadcasting called "On Second Thought." I also do stories for the local TV station WMAZ and the local newspaper.

    Q: Are you actually 37, as implied by the Monty Python clip?
    A: Yes.

  2. Your cooking videos are so good, concise and straight to the point, that i had to subscribe. And i rarely subscribe until i've watched a lot of content. But i sub'd after just 2 videos. Looking forward to more cooking videos

  3. Make sure you don't burn out on a schedule! These videos feel like they're made of quality, not quantity.

  4. “See, Sarah Lynn? We're not doomed. In the grand scheme of things, we're just tiny specks that will one day be forgotten. So it doesn't matter what we did in the past, or how we'll be remembered. The only thing that matters is right now. This moment. This one spectacular moment we are sharing together. Right, Sarah Lynn? Sarah Lynn? Sarah Lynn?”

  5. I dont know how anyone can stay in this industry for very long. Restuarant kitchens are typically filled with overworked underpaid alcoholic people that cuss and talk trash all day. Managed by someone who gets decent pay to get angry at everyone for everything and make sure none of them ever have too much fun, or feel too accomplished.

    Compliments seem to be few and far between criticism from customers as well as co workers.

    Its such a high speed, high stress environment that thick skin is a must and creativity is not typically in your job description

    Its like taking everything fun and rewarding out of the cooking process and then telling the person doing it that they need to do it a in a 100° room

    And if you do really like the industry, or have hopes of rising the ranks to one day manage a kitchen….be prepared to work for 10-20 years just hoping to prove yourself enough to get all the required steps up in your field

    Im sure some restuarants arent this bad, but most of them are pure chaos

  6. The problem with the restaurant industry is that the hours are grueling. You really don't have a life. FARMERS have more of a life than cooks, or chefs, and they also get up at the crack-ass of dawn.

  7. Currently working in catering and restaurants, can confirm that waking up on the couch covered in whatever you were sleep-eating is a thing … love your videos!

  8. If you dont make a video where you show me how to cook an perfect burger im going to flip some tables

  9. The hardest part about working in a restaurant for me was mirroring the public's time off. Every long weekend and celebration is spent in a hot kitchen. It kind of takes you out of the regular ebb and flow of the local work week. Sure – you get to enjoy the amenities of your neighborhood with not as many people to wait behind (lines etc.). But, I always found it somewhat alienating. Another great EP! thx man.

  10. So to think for the last month or 2 Adam had been releasing food videos on Thursdays teaching journalism and doing a podcast on music on top of other things in his community

  11. I fully disagree with you here. Now how long does it take to make a PBJ sandwich? Let's say 5 minutes. It DOES NOT take over an hour to make 25 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Making quantities of food doesn't take that much longer. I could make 25 PBJ sandwiches in less than 15 minutes and that includes clean up and wrapping each one. 50 slices of bread on the table using spatula, peanut butter on half jelly on the other half. count out 25 pieces of wrap, then cut, wrap and stack.
    Put everything away, clean up and done in 15 minutes. Only an idiot would make them one by one.
    AND I have seen allot of idiots in kitchens. But thanks for props to cooks! I have worked very hard and efficiently.

  12. I used to run food at a 3 Diamond restaurant. One of THE most impressive things I've seen to date was a chef; making something that had a prep time of HOURS cut down to minutes. It was a squash puree, and someone misread the prep sheet or something happened that in the middle of the first rush we hear "Chef I have 4 orders of squash puree left." Not on the line, in the house. Chef just looks at me and he's like "Watch the line." So now Im expo-ing AND running food. (thats not the amazing part)
    He runs to the back and pulls the 7 trays of squash out of the oven, (normally they cook them for 6-8 hours and glaze them through out the process). These had only been in the oven about 2 hours, which was enough for him to scrape a bit of all the pieces baking in the oven.
    Within 10 min he had another 15-20 orders.
    He might have had to do it one more time but damn, I was impressed. Instead of 86ing it, he fixed it in minutes.

  13. Love your honesty. I was told I should open my own restaurant. But it seems so overwhelming. Thank you for sharing.

  14. I love your videos, you got a very familiar abd homemade, yey professional look, with a very nice content and you show you are very knowledgeable.

    Keep it up, I hope I could have teachers like you at my college :')

  15. Is cute when people come to the pass to say how great the food is, saddly most of the time i cant hardly hear them

  16. Yeah, that’s running a restaurant is one of the hardest things to do. Most people fail because they don’t realize how hard it actually is.

  17. I’m a young line cook and your videos have helped me get a way better understanding about food. Keep up the good work

  18. I had some dream of my own food place later days of my life. I have been learning so much stuff about how it is really like to have a restaurant in real life. I admire them and their hard work so much.

  19. I would love a collab between Adam Ragusea, Alex the French cooking guy, Chef John , Sam the cooking guy and Bruno Albouze .

  20. As a foodie in his early 20s who really likes to cook but doesnt really know what to do in Life and maybe thought about becoming a Chef this Video was very helpful

  21. The Nikki Sixx analogy gained you so much respect. Love the videos, recently subscribed a few weeks ago and I gotta say they're very informative and no-bullshit. Keep up the keeping up brother 👉

  22. I could never find any issue with your cooking videos (with dialogue/explanation/pace/additional useful comments). It was not surprising learning you were a lecturer!

  23. I worked in a restaurant once, started as dish washer, then got into pizza station, then salad/dessert and finally sauté. I worked there for 3 years and in my time experienced burns, cuts, racism, sexism, and tears. You have not lived until you cook 8 pastas at once while being shouted at and burn bandages all over your wrist looking like a emo singer. Though I'll never step foot into a professional kitchen ever again. It made me into the man i am today.

  24. You look like real life anime character from a cooking anime.

    Great channel man. Love the way you teach.

  25. not a bad life choice, you just have to adapt the menu to what you can realistically manage. like how in-n-out only has burgers and fries. there are other forms of selling food too, such as catering or food truck

  26. I’ve seen probably 10,000+ YouTube videos, and can confidently say, you have the best YouTube channel on the platform. The style and the in depth research are unmatched. Every one of your videos is a joy to watch keep it up you’re killing it!

  27. Definitely a good idea to try it out rather than to give everything else up and dive face first. Restaurant biz burns you out fast, is competitive, and generally doesn't have high profit margins. There's a reason cooks are stereotyped as drug users or life rejects.

  28. I use to work in a cafeteria and boy was it hard. Like I did everything in that kitchen except toy with money. I cooked, did dishes, did prep, cleaned the tables and floors, got burns, and anything else I could do. It was a good learning experience and I fit right in. But I quit for a nice relaxing job as a parking lot attendent as it payed more and I barely had to do anything. I miss the kitchen though.

  29. Ugh, it would be an honor to try one of Adam's recipes. Even if he makes Mocha Frappes, I'd still feel proud.

  30. I would say one of the most important things when working in a kitchen is to work CLEAN! And it's way more difficult than one might think

  31. Adam: Quitting my job to be a cook is a bad idea lol I’ll just grade papers intead
    Also Adam: Is quitting his job to be an internet cook

  32. The black guy in leathel weapon : I am too old for this . (Still goes around catching criminals)

    Adam : I
    am officially too old for this.

  33. Anthony Bourdain did say there’s a reason why so many people in the restaurant business drink, smoke, take stimulants (like Coke) or have wicked caffeine addictions, and after being one of the two only kitchen staff in an Italian restaurant for a year, can confirm that being a cook for a busy restaurant is one of the most stressful and honestly kind of gross jobs you can have. Also the most unnoticed and under appreciated role in a restaurant environment. People should be allowed to tip their cooks but most restaurants don’t let it happen which sucks

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