Re places like Olive Garden & other chain restaurants. What really goes on in the food prep area?

Re food prep in these restaurants, when you order a dish that involves pasta or sauces, or meat-fish etc. are all the entrees in pre-frozen ready to defrost and brown modules or is anything made from combining fresh ingredients and actually cooking them in the kitchen?

Never worked at an Olive Garden, and never worked in the restaurant business period. But I’d bet good money that the entrees are not pre-made frozen ready to heat & serve.
If anything the individual meats probably come prepackaged frozen, vegetables frozen, the sauces in jars or packets, and the pastas dry (possibly fresh made?).

I used to have one of the big casual dining chains as a client; when I first came onto the business, I spent a day working at one of their restaurants, both in the back (food prep) and in the front (shadowing a waitress).

Hampshire’s note echos what I saw. Meats and some veggies were pre-cut and pre-packaged. Sauces were pre-mixed. OTOH, fresh vegetables (for salads, mostly) were prepped on-site (I spent an hour washing and cutting lettuce for salads). Generally speaking, the meals weren’t just “thawed out as a unit”, but cooked and assembled in the kitchen, though largely from pre-measured and pre-prepared components.

The big chains strongly stress portion control, and consistency of preparation, so they strive to take as much variability out of the food prep process as they feasibly can.

In other words, they do have cooks who do actual cooking, they’re not just setting microwave timers?

Having worked in the supply end of the restaurant biz (including a couple of well known casual dining chains), I’ll echo what’s already been posted.

Produce comes in fresh, sauces, mashed potatoes, some sides and entrees (eg mac and cheese) comes in premade. Steaks and such usually come marinated and individually vacuum sealed. Specialty coctails come in premixed, just add alcohol and ice.

As kenobi posted, portion control is essential to the bottom line. Having things already divvied up takes the guesswork out on the kitchen end.

If you can operate a grill, steam table, oven, microwave or make a salad, you can be a “chef” in most chain restaurants.

Cooks, yes. Chefs, no (well, not at the individual locations, anyway. There’ll be actual chefs at HQ, working on the recipes).

As missred notes, they’re not just nuking things back there. Steaks and burgers get grilled, pizzas get baked, etc. But, there’s relatively little “creation” that goes on…it’s more about heating it up and assembling the parts according to the recipe.