I’ve seen enough episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to know that professional cooking isn’t the career path for me. But just in case I wasn’t sure, Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator has absolutely sealed the deal.
Think Diner Dash but with ultimate realism: that’s the easiest way to describe Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator. You don’t have to worry about waiting the tables and cleaning up after customers, but you do have to worry about serving everyone their correct order, cooked to perfection. Nobody wants to pay for a burned or cold meal. And so if you want to avoid that happening, you’re going to have to keep your wits about you.
Chef Life eases you in easily. At least, for the first 15 minutes or so, anyway. You’ll learn where everything is in your kitchen, and you’ll practice cooking three simple dishes in your own time. You’ll probably make mistakes even at this point – I certainly did. Green beans went cold, sauces got burned. Hey, it happens. It’s a learning curve. Everything in the kitchen is your responsibility, from chopping and prepping to boiling and broiling. In that tutorial section, you can focus on one thing at a time. But when you’ve got real customers waiting patiently for their meals, it’s going to be all hands on deck.
That’s where things really fell apart for me. The phrase may be ‘a watched pot never boils’, but an unwatched pot certainly burns. There’s real pressure to everything in Chef Life, and it does a great job of capturing the high intensity environment of a kitchen. Even if you don’t have Gordon Ramsay calling you an idiot sandwich, you’re going to feel those high stakes.
You’ll go through the motions of practically every action in your kitchen: push the right analogue stick down to chop up a tomato; move it from right to left to fillet a fish. Even stirring your pot requires a circular motion. Eventually, it all comes second nature when you get used to each recipe, but it feels rather clunky in the beginning.
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The good news is, you’re in charge of what dishes you’re serving in your restaurant. Before the doors open, you can set out your specials by updating the chalk board. So if there’s something you’re not as confident on preparing, you can skip it. You’re also responsible for ordering all the right ingredients, too, so don’t forget anything otherwise you’re going to be in for a stressful shift. Even ordering ingredients gives you a choice: do you want to maximise profits and go for cheap produce? Or do you want to fork out more money to have the best, organic ingredients? If you’re going to burn it regardless, your customers probably won’t care where it came from. But if it’s cooked well, they’ll surely notice the difference.
One area of Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator I did have a lot of fun with is the plating station. Each prepared meal is plated up as default, but you can play around with how each item is organised. Be as pretentious as you like, drizzling bits and bobs around the plate and stacking French fries up into some sort of potato monument if you so wish. Or simply chuck it all on, and let the quality speak for itself.
This isn’t going to be a game for everyone, but if you enjoy realistic simulator games, Chef Life is worth keeping on your radar. Particularly so if you have a penchant for cooking and have always wondered how you’d fare in a busy kitchen. It’s coming to PC and consoles on 2nd February 2023.