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Running The Pass

The individual orchestrating service, reading off tickets as they come in, organizing the timely firing of courses, handing off food to the floor staff, maintaining quality of the food coming off the line, and handling all problems from the dining room, is said to be running the pass. This person is typically but not necessarily a chef; perhaps the executive chef or one of the sous chefs, or it could just be a member of the group of food runners assigned to the responsibility. This person is generally referred to as the expediting chef, or expediter, or simply the expo.

Expediting is probably the most critical role in the kitchen. If the expo loses track of what food goes to what table or whether or not a particular table or set of tables has received their entrées, chaos ensues and a vary big hole is dug that the entire restaurant staff will spend hours trying to dig their way out of.

Here are some things an expediting sous chef could find herself doing throughout bathe course of an evening:

4:30 attend the front of house preshift meeting. Here the chef will learn of any large tables coming in or perhaps noted about a PDR (private dining room) that will need to be picked up from the hot line. She will also learn of when the various hits of large seatings will come during the evening, the total cover count expected, and learn of any VIPs expected that evening. This is also her chance to talk to the front of house staff. Are there any specials that are being verballed this evening? Are there particular menu items that the kitchen wants to push because of a dearth of inventory in the walk-in? Were there any issues from the previous night that need to be addressed?

At 4:45 its time for lineup with the cooks. A temperature check is taken to see if any station isn't ready for the start of service. This is also the time to discuss any areas the kitchen crew needs to work on - communication, speed, cleanliness, mise en place issues are all typical topics. It's also where anything relayed to the expo during the front of house meeting is relayed to the cooks.

At 5:00 service starts and orders start rolling in. The expeditor reads off tickets as they come in. The hot line cooks learn of proteins "ordered in" that they will start cooking off, and the garde manger station gets "order fired" on first course hot and cold appetizers. Tickets are marked and organized. When te expo hears it's time for entrees for a table, it goes into a queue to await firing by the hot line. The expeditor fires off waves of tickets and orchestrates hot food arriving at the pass every 5 minutes or so. She is also responsible for ensuring that modifications or "mods" are handled by the station cooks. These are the nut alergies, gluten alergies, the vegans, the sauce on the side (SOS) requests that are becoming more and mor prevalent over time.

The expediting chef is also the point person should something go wrong. Food got sent to the wrong table? Fire another one on the fly. The guest want happy with their burger temp? Have the grill cook flash it in the love to get it hotter. The new garde mangerian forgot to garnish the calamari or the sauté cook brings you polenta that isnt hot or isn't on a hot plate? Send it back and have the cook correct the error.
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