Great Question! Re: Cooking Times
This is a really great question. Sorry for the delay but I wanted to locate a number of related video links for you.
Cooks in restaurants will spend many hours preparing for service in order to pull together all of the dishes they serve.
Many things are pre-cooked. Here are a few examples:
* dried extruded pasta is typically pre-cooked (but slightly underdone). It is then spread out on trays and oiled so that it doesn't stick together. It is then refrigerated. When preparing, it is simply tossed into boiling water for a minute or two and then into the sauce and voila.
* things like risotto are also pre-cooked, but again, slightly underdone and then just reheated. Rice and potatoes are also pre made and held in warmers or a steam table so they are ready to serve.
* single serving portions of meat, poultry and fish are not typically pre-cooked. Cooks start the cooking process at the time of order, which is why things like steaks typically take a bit longer. In many higher volume restaurants, they may pre-cook some portions of meat ahead of time as they know that there will be a significant volume of orders. Meat holds quite well and in many cases, become even more tender if left to rest in a warmer. Here is a link to another topic where I discussed this.
* larger pieces of meat like (prime rib), are cooked ahead of time and are kept warm to rest leaving only the slicing and plating at service time (something that everyone can do at home as well to make dinner parties much easier).
* vegetables are often par-cooked as well and then just reheated quickly.
* the most important thing is that everything (EVERYTHING) is prepped ahead of time. Mise en place is probably the most important thing in any professional kitchen.
Hope this helps.