Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator is an immersive simulator that takes players from any culinary skill level straight into the heat of the kitchen. Developed by Cyanide, players explore daily life as a chef and owner of a restaurant. Like most simulators, it doesn’t completely replicate all the challenges of working in a restaurant but covers the general concepts well enough. Newcomers to the restaurant industry can breathe a little easier. From my play-through, request orders like “no cheese” or “sub chicken instead” are not addressed here which can complicate the flow of production especially if orders begin to pile up.
In Chef Life, players take on the role of a restauranteur aiming for a Michelin Star. This is the objective of the game but doesn’t hold players captive here to always address it. Players can choose to just enjoy the experience of a simulated restaurant life. However you choose to go about the game, there’s a lot on your plate and you’ll need all the hands you can get. Thankfully your associate Kassim is there to help you gather your bearings before the grand opening in three days. You meet Kassim after your immediate launch into the character creation, which offers your standard player setups. While you can’t finely customize the details of your character, a sliding scale for skin tone offers a bit of representation. Hairstyles are gender-neutral, but pronouns are limited to only she/her and he/him. Players can unlock more hairstyles and uniform choices with progression, meaning that pink hair or forearm tattoos aren’t permanent and can be changed anytime.
If you aim for efficiency with high-marked dishes, you’ll want to be sure to pay attention to the tutorial because the game will challenge your time management skills. The time with Kassim here conveys the importance of prepping and familiarizing yourself with the setting. In a real kitchen, you want what you do to become almost second nature. Actions become intuitive because certain items or tools are placed in a specific way to make way for quicker execution. Reduced steps and actions mean more time for the next task or order. The layout of the kitchen can be customized to best suit your workflow further along in the game, but for now, you’re limited to a static layout. While I played on PC, I had to switch to a controller since some inputs, like flipping or stirring, felt more fluid using a counter-clockwise motion on a right analog stick.
A recipe book sits at the counter, holding all the recipes you learn. You can peer at this anytime if you need a refresher. It shows a step-by-step process of how each dish is prepared and also notes important cooking details and tips that can increase the grade of the dish. For example, knowing the proper cooking temperature or adding butter at just the right time. These make sense parallel to what we know and do in our everyday kitchen but can be easily forgotten along the way during dinner service.
There’s also an option to pin recipes to the top right-hand corner of the screen. It’s handy if you just happen to forget what ingredients are needed or what the next step is; however, it doesn’t list the cooking details or tips. Ultimately, players don’t have to remember how to execute every recipe, but it does help significantly once things pick up. Once you grasp these concepts, your comfort with managing a kitchen will begin to grow.
As I diligently prepped a time-consuming Summer Soup for service one evening, I made the grave mistake of forgetting to place it in the refrigerator before I started service. (Service in the industry refers to the time when a business opens, taking in customers and tending to them) When players initiate the start of service, it resets the kitchen. Any smartly planned cookware ready to go on the cooktops is back in its place. Any prepped items left on the cutting board are gone unless placed in the refrigerator or on the warmer.
As the first order came in, I frantically tried to restart the dish. Unfortunately, I was soft-locked from using a blender; I couldn’t place any items on the table. I tried to restart the game, hoping this would solve my problem or set me back to a time before service started. Nope. I stood there in restaurant limbo, forced to face the consequence of my action as orders continued to come in. There wasn’t even a walk-in freezer I could take my despair and anxiety to—a common go-to for those familiar with the restaurant industry.
Toggling preferences did not work, and I had to restart my Chef Life journey. I encountered this again but solved the issue by replacing the blender with another counter space. Then swapped it back to the blender counter again. A souring experience but not a breaker for me since it could be resolved. Sensitive mechanics like this happened from time to time and is definitely the main thing holding back the game’s potential.
Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator operates in real-time, meaning time doesn’t stop when you check your email, remodel, or look at your main story objectives and challenges on the bulletin board in your office. Challenges act as optional side quests that have an expiry date. It prompts tasks like “cook five meat dishes,” which, if you complete, has financial or experience rewards. Acquiring extra money means players can purchase upgrades to the restaurant. From cosmetics to kitchen appliances, purchases are made through a catalog located in the office. Building experience allows players to unlock items such as new recipes and new plates for dishes. Challenges keep the game flowing, never leaving the player with feelings of not having enough to do. Choose how you spend your time wisely though since certain tasks like challenges and practicing new recipes will play into any prep time you might need for the night.
As an experienced worker in the restaurant industry, I found Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator to be enjoyable and one I could sink a lot of hours into. The challenges of time management set in basic concepts of restaurant life scratched an itch I didn’t know I needed while off the clock. If anything, it continues to help me manage the many variables that can occur in my job. The time I spent customizing the plating of my dishes was probably mismanaged but served as one of my moments of calm. Queue a chef’s kiss.
There’s so much to dig into for Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator; I’m only scratching the surface of it. While players won’t get to experience calls like “Yes, Chef!,” “Behind!,” or the hauntingly distinct ticket machine crunching our order after order, all accurately portrayed like in the television series The Bear, the underlying stressors and demands of working in a restaurant are still there. You just don’t have a walk-in freezer to cry in or an alleyway to pensively escape to.
Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator is now available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.
Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator
- Rating - 7/107/10
There’s so much to dig into for Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator; I’m only scratching the surface of it. While players won’t get to experience calls like “Yes, Chef!,” “Behind!,” or the hauntingly distinct ticket machine crunching out order after order…the underlying stressors and demands of working in a restaurant are still there.
Katherine is a writer and occasional Twitch streamer often found sharing her fondness for most things indie and diverse. Covering video games and tv/film she hopes to inspire thoughtful conversation for titles in these mediums.