Img_6811 Do you know what makes most kitchens really hot?

Freezers. And walk in refrigerators. And lowboys. And reach ins. Ice machines.
You wouldn't think. But it's so.

Kitchens can get really hot.


Let us not forget flat tops. And salamanders. Or grills. And then there's saute, where there might be pans sitting on burners that have been on full blast all day. And cast iron? S***. I have seen them glow orange. For real. They can get really hot. But there's nothing like cooking a la plancha. O yeah.

What else?

Fryolators are hot. Really hot. Hot radiant heat not to mention a container filled with searing hot oil. We won't leave behind wood burning ovens and, if you're really lucky, reaching up to handle those bars in rotisseries taller than your local basketball star.


Kitchens are hot.

I'm forgetting something? O, sorry.Img_9852

Deck ovens are hot. Tandoori ovens are hot. Pulling sugar is hot and so is whisking sabayon for an hour straight. Stock is hot. Plate warmers are hot. So are bread warmers, of course.

Img_1185 Commercial dishwashers are hot. By health code standards they should be, at any rate. The hotter the better: less detergent can be used if heat is what is the sanitizing force. Having to put away hot dishes is hot. A lot of steam exists in the dish pit. A lot.

And steam? Steam is really f****** hot. The burn you get from steam is like being taken advantage of by a child. You never expect it. And then Whoosh! Red streak on flesh and sooner than you can say nanosecond you have a blister.

One could make an argument for the heat of hot ice or liquid nitrogen but they're not commonly found in kitchens unless you're ladling up eye of newt and bat's wing specials.


Hot Kitchens.

Wait, there's more. If you act now --

Cooking and baking with a sunburn is hot. And terrifically unpleasant. After you've fallen asleep on the beach on your only day off in 3 months once, you won't do it again. Take it from me. There's nothing like reaching into a 500F oven when your skin is the color of freshly killed lobsters.

Reducing is hot. So is candying of any sort, especially when you have to boil sugar for hours to get just 2 more degrees on your thermometer. {!}

Roasting is hot. And searing. Even blanching, albeit brief, is hot. Poaching? I guess we could make an argument if we're desperate.

Funny, when you burn yourself, I mean really burn, it feels cold first. Like buried under an avalanche and getting sleepy cold. And then for a tiny moment when your brain hits refresh, it fells hot to your core. By then, hopefully, you're in shock, and so you don't feel much after that except worry that you'll be in the weeds even more. Nothing like grabbing onto something really hot and realizing later that the steam you saw was your own skin evaporating.

Kitchens are hot.

And so we tun off our minds. We make jokes. The refrigeration starts to shudder and choke, and then die. The ice machine gets indignant. Someone has to go buy ice. Which is really funny if you think about it. But of course it's not.

You might even have the pleasure of standing on the hot roof and hosing down the condenser for about 8 or 12 hours, until the sun goes down. But only if you're the chef or sous. Yes, you have to be The Chosen One for that job.Img_7943


When it gets hot ovens bake faster. Did you know that? Cakes don't necessarily rise better but everything should be checked on with more frequency. Cold water is warm. Edibles made with yeast should be rushed like you have some place to be yesterday. Proofing the bread? Five hours is 50 minutes. Twenty minutes could be two. Be on your toes, yo, when it's hot.

Cold butter doesn't stay cold.

Sweat evaporates and it could be a few days until you really pee. A relaxing pee that lasts more than a moment. Sound gross?

Cooking is hot business.Img_3244

I haven't left out anything, have I?

In The South there's a joke about cornstarch/ talcum powder, and the boxer shorts you shouldn't be wearing, but I'll leave that to your imagination.

Hot weather produces violence. In some kitchens it makes people fight. Or go mute. Or f***.

Because line cooks are hot. Except when they're gross. But there's always a market for gross.



Flirtations run high. Patience become a virtue left for the "normies"/ diners/ working stiffs/ waiters. Sexual tension is hot. So is that space between your long sleeved polyester-blend double-buttoned jacket and suffocating skin. Tempers run hot.

Some will say that the best beverage in hot weather is hot liquid. Ice becomes the enemy to truly cooling down your system. Except when dunking your arms in ice water is the only thing you can do to keep from passing out.

Summer is hot. Restaurants with poor ventilation systems are really hot. Restaurants that are free standing buildings in neighborhoods with no trees or taller buildings to create shade are really hot. Restaurants with prep stations in windowless rooms are ferociously hot.

I remember well "sweat" pouring down the walls at Gramercy Tavern. (In NYC most restaurant kitchens are located in the basement. That pretty open kitchen you're looking into as you lazily munch crudo and sip cocktails? That's for show. Only? Well I'll go on record as saying: mostly.)

Kitchens are hot.

And when kitchens are not hot?

You're not in them.

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Tags: BOH, commentary, restaurants, safety


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Comment by Shuna fish Lydon on July 4, 2008 at 5:14am
Thanks for all the comments!

RG-- I have had a number of articles in local magazine Edible San Francisco and also KQED's online food blog, Bay Area Bites.

Y'all are great for reading! Thanks again!
Comment by Restaurant Guru on July 3, 2008 at 6:23am
That definitely counts, Shuna...I haven't read your profile in-depth, so sorry if I missed this info, but what magazines have you been published in? (I'm green with envy!)
Comment by Sallie on July 3, 2008 at 5:56am
What a great article...all so very true having worked in kitchens for 29+ years...had a part time job last summer..during the hottest part of the day the temp in the kitchen was 124 degrees...drinking water constantly, sweat just pouring out...on really busy nights at the restaurant where I currently work, the servers will come back into the kitchen and say.."whew..what an ass kicker that was" and we the cooks, whose clothing is now pasted to our skin..just look at each other and smile..cause they just don't "get it".
Comment by Shuna fish Lydon on June 29, 2008 at 9:43am
Hello Restaurant Guru,

Thanks for stopping by and reading! Never thought to submit photos but have had my photos published with my print magazine articles... does that count?

Hello Daniel,

Well, at least y'all were sweating!
Thanks for reading & commenting!
Comment by Restaurant Guru on June 27, 2008 at 6:28am
I've never worked in a restaurant kitchen, but I feel like I've just been transported there. Beautiful writing and your pics are so full of motion! (Have you ever submitted anything to a literary mag/been published?) Thanks for a refreshing (ironic, isn't it) start to my Friday. By the way, I like your blog's new title banner.




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