Being a line cook can be a very stressful job, but it can also be very rewarding. Learning all the ropes and getting to a point in your career where you can really handle your job well and possibly even direct others while doing it is a very satisfying feeling. However, a line cook needs to practice certain skills and must possess certain qualities to get that far.
One thing a line cook must be able to do is handle pressure with grace. It is impossible to be a great cook if you cannot handle stress well. The trick to doing it is realizing that your job is all a matter of focus and caring. Focus on putting out great food and caring what it looks and tastes like. It does not matter if a dish comes back. You do not want it to, but it is not the end of the world. Just start again and get it right the second time. It does not matter that you are being shouted at from other parts of the kitchen and from whoever's expediting. In fact, that is a major part of your job. You have to listen to what is being shouted and shout back that you heard it. Listen carefully, pay attention to what you are doing and keep your cool.
Cooking is not all about mastering recipes, but it is a big part of it. Therefore, to be a good cook, you have to be able to remember recipes and execute them the same way, every time. Furthermore, you have to be able to cook them to the customer's specifications. A great tip for any cook that is trying to do well is to memorize your recipes and learn how to cook them uniformly. Be sure to know how to cook all the various meats in your kitchen to every temperature a customer may want them. Perfecting your skill will make it much easier on a busy night when you really do not want and dishes to come back and put you in the weeds.
Cooking on a line means you have to be a good communicator and team player. You cannot zone out on your own job and forget that you are working in tandem with other stations. Get in the habit of calling back everything you hear. Pay attention to what is going on in the stations around you. If you see a teammate in the weeds and you have a little time to spare, help them out. Your job as a cook is not complete until every teammate gets their food out.
Any line cook who heeds these tips and develops new skills, or just spends some time honing and maintaining these skills will become a better line cook. These are the things you need to know to be a productive part of a line. Remember, being on a line is about working on a team and always trying to improve. It is nothing like cooking in your kitchen at home.