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The All-Important Restaurant Pass? Is it all that Important?

The Pass


When we say “the pass”, many might misconstrue it for some sort of a bold flirt that you make at a lady, but pardon my ill humour, but that’s not what I’m hinting at. The Pass in a restaurant’s kitchen is the most important step when it comes to organising service during busy operations. It is similar to a composer in an orchestra, where everybody knows their part and only need to be told when they need to play it. For those of you who still have not understood this term, or are still coming to terms with my ill humour, ‘the pass’ in hoteliering terms is the responsibility of a certain individual, usually the Head Chef,  to pass on the orders taken by the service team at a restaurant, for production by the chef brigade or the service bar. Although most hotels operate with electronic Kitchen Order and Bar Order techniques and equipment, where the order taken at a table is immediately received by the respective department, the presence of the head chef reading the orders out in the order of execution, smoothens the control and maintains the timeliness as well as the quality of the dishes. Now no one would want their soups coming along with their desserts, right!!



This might sound extremely effortless considering that a chef at the pass usually just reads out orders as they come in, but I would like to mention that restaurants that boast of a pre-plated service, with avante garde menus and with high-quality as well as quantity production need a chef at the pass.  Restaurants specialising in silver-service and in lesser quantity turn-over might have this as an option. If there is a chef at the pass, always remember that he is not only doing the donkey’s work of screaming the orders, he has to keep time with all the tables and if there are more than 50-70 covers in a restaurant, it does call on a lot of experience especially with numbers. Many people think they can be good at the pass, but honestly anyone who has working knowledge of all the food being produced in that particular kitchen can do a good job. The main reason the Head Chef usually does it because he/she can then control everything going in and out of his/her kitchen. Working with many chains and in many restaurants has given me the understanding of ‘the pass’, but not everyone is good at it and I am one of them. Let’s just say that I am not quite the so-called ‘voice’ of the kitchen.


The Pass is usually located towards the front, or towards the side of a kitchen and in case of a well-planned ‘pass’ the flow will move from the ‘pass’ straight to the guest’s table. The main equipment that one can find in this area, are the Order ticket machine & a docket sticker, a plate-shelf for the chefs to use, a Hot lamp and a large area where platters or service trays (commonly referred to as ‘salvers’ in India), and a Garnish stand. These are just a few and many restaurants usually possess a few other gadgets in addition to the above, depending on the requirement and the budget. No matter what equipment is in place, the person on the pass must have full working knowledge of all the sections in the restaurant and also must be equipped with a photo-folder of all the presentations. Many chefs usually don’t need photos to remind them because of constant practice. The chef on the ‘pass’ must have a good eye for all the dishes going out and must be able to spot the slight differences that might occur while plating food. An ardent sense of time is also crucial and keeping a sharp idea of which table is on which course helps organize the kitchen production in a way that the guest gets the freshest food. For example, a good chef at the ‘pass’ will know if table number 2 is on starters at 8pm then they would require their next course in another 15-20 minutes, hence the order to keep the next order a margin away can be given to the kitchen brigade, this will ensure the next course goes out after 20 minutes without delay. 


Another crucial trait is a good voice, the ‘pass’ requires a lot of shouting, not at the chefs but to announce the orders coming in with the total numbers of covers on that table. A chef with a voice like a famous century-scoring Indian cricketer will find it rather difficult to get someone to take notice, one can say its good he sticks to cricket and leaves his restaurant to be managed by the experts. It’s a rather important requirement and in most cases is taken for granted, but this helps mask the physical features of a chef. Clarity in announcements are of supreme importance when it comes to being at the ‘pass’, the chef should be clear in announcing orders and should announce it course-wise. If an error has been made, a loud correction should be announced immediately. Clarity helps the production to go as per requirement and minimises wastage. In an ideal atmosphere, the kitchen team must keep the least work for the chef – which means they should complete the full-presentation and only leave the food pick-up to the ‘pass’ chef.  There are some restaurants that serve table d’hôte (set) menus and if these menus should have various side-dishes then announcing these should be made compulsory as chefs doing the cooking are also under huge stress and can forget, although they create Godly food, they are human after-all!!


Every hotelier will agree that a good restaurant depends on both pillars, Food and Beverage Production as well as its Service & Stewarding, and integrating a well-planned ‘pass’ and manning it with a responsible and able Chef will only increase the efficiency of service and as it is said, for every happy customer, the business multiplies six fold!!




Kunal Arolkar

chef Tom Minchella

chef Tom Minchella
Aug 24, 2010 09:11 CDT

Good article, well written! Thank you!

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