Student Life: Teamwork On The Line

Written by AJ Fusco
Professional Culinary Arts Student

The “line”, a stressful environment in the kitchen full of heat, noise and controlled chaos.  Adrenaline and your team get you through the next “push” as the tickets pour out, just like water out of a fire-hose.  

The “line”, heavy fifty foot lengths of hose filled with water, held onto by the “attack team” as they make the “push” down the hallway towards the fire.  Just like in the kitchen, adrenaline and teamwork gets you through it.

firefighterhoselineThis correlation between the firehouse and kitchen was clearly evident to me the first time a I cooked on the line at the restaurant.  It may seem obvious, but unfortunately it can be easier said than done.  Firehouses and kitchens are a conglomeration of personalities, some you can say “work well with others” while some prefer to try and get the job done on their own.  Unfortunately, the latter almost always leads to the job not getting done properly, efficiently or at all for that matter.  Teamwork on the line is best when it has almost become instinctual, you notice when the other cook may be falling behind and know exactly what needs to be done to help get through the situation.  Same thing applies to the fire-ground.  When you see your brother having a difficult time performing a task, you jump right in to help without them needing to ask.  And herein lies another common thread, the unwillingness to ask for help.line-cooks

We have all been there, you are in the weeds or the hose-line is getting heavy, yet you don’t ask for help.  More often than not it is due to some underlying self-pride or machismo that we fear may be in jeopardy.  There have been cases where firefighters should have called a “mayday”, the term used when you are in distress and need assistance, but don’t due to the same reasons cooks don’t ask for help.  Unfortunately in these cases it is worse than some burnt steaks or overcooked vegetables.

At the end of the shift, we all want to go home knowing we did the best we could.  Working as a team is essential for this to happen and sometimes we need to just swallow our pride and admit we need a little help.  

Like the saying goes, “teamwork makes the dream work”!


Connect with AJ through his website, http://www.forkandhoseco.com/ as well as @ForkAndHoseCo on Instagram + Facebook.

Student Life: The Importance of Mise en Place

Written by AJ Fusco
Professional Culinary Arts Student

I would like to start off by introducing myself and giving you a little background on myself.  I am a career firefighter in Westchester County and also attend ICC in the Professional Culinary Arts program.  My passion for cooking is just as strong the one I have for firefighting, which is what led me to the decision to become a “career adder.”  I have always had a second job while being a firefighter, and decided I would like to pursue something I truly loved.  Now, I have the best of both worlds!

One of the first things we learn at ICC is “Mise en Place”, or “to put in place”.  The emphasis my Chef Instructors put on this concept could not be greater, but rightfully so.  We all know the kitchen can be a volatile environment filled heat, smoke and the ever present danger of fire and injury.  And now that I think about it, the kitchen is very similar to being in a fire!  The intense adrenaline rush of service parallels those same feelings I get when operating on the fire-ground.  And just like cooking in a kitchen, being prepared as a firefighter is vital to a successful operation.  This is when I started to connect the dots between having your mise en place in both the kitchen and the firehouse.  

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We train in the firehouse to make sure we are prepared for whatever emergency may come our way.  The fire trucks are set up in a way so that equipment is organized together and easily accessible at any moment’s notice, just like having your ingredients and tools ready to go for a busy dinner service.  But before I started ICC, I admittedly was a messy cook in the firehouse.  Having all my ingredients ready to use was just not on my mind, which certainly didn’t help the situation of not knowing if an alarm would come in while getting dinner ready for a group of hungry firefighters.  That all changed when I learned about this thing called “Mise en Place”.  Suddenly, my meals not only tasted better but I was able to cook more efficiently in the unpredictable firehouse kitchen.  Countless times I have been prepping for a meal, when suddenly an alarm comes in and everything has to stop.  The oven and burners get shut off, and we are out the door, unsure of when we will be back to finish cooking the meal.  But having everything ready to go when we return to the firehouse has prevented plenty of take-out which is always a plus. So to say “Mise en Place” has changed me for the better as a cook would be a severe understatement!