Unfortunately, there's also stress a-plenty. A restaurant kitchen—depending on the type of place, of course—can be an absolute madhouse. A server picks up an order from a patron and delivers it to the kitchen—from that point, the turnaround time must be incredibly quick. Thirty seconds after the couple at Table 14 has given their order, they're already getting hungry and craning their necks to see when their meals will be coming out. The chef must immediately delegate—is this a dish he will be preparing himself, or does he already have his hands full? If he takes it himself, he has to get it cooking immediately. Not all ingredients are at his fingertips, so he is racing across the kitchen floor, fetching each thing he needs, and then racing back so he can get that order in the oven or on the stove. And he is making maybe a dozen meals at once. (You're still trying to make one happen without burning the house down.) If, in the hubbub, a pot takes a spill and some grub is lost, or one pan gets forgotten and a chicken is overcooked by a minute and a half, you have to start over again and double your speed to make up for lost time. You've also just cost the restaurant money. Same goes for each glass and plate that bites it. All the while you're either yelling at people from across a crowded room or having them yell at you. It's like Thanksgiving dinner all over again.
People running every which way, plates crashing to the ground, irate or picky customers sending food back or demanding that their meal be delivered to their table within seconds or they're leaving, ingredients or cooking equipment that has been misplaced, lobsters that just don't want to die. In fact, if you can't handle pretty intense situations, you should probably look elsewhere. A chef doesn't just use a pressure-cooker—he's in one.
And yet, the most stressful time can be when things are absolutely dead and there's no running around whatsoever. You need the restaurant to do well if you expect to keep your job. If the place ain't hoppin', the ax starts choppin'….