I just made this pattern-just need to sew on my buttons.
The answer to your first question is yes, that is the way to start.
For your second question, I am assuming that you mean where do you hold the cable needle. Hold to front is the side facing you. Hold to back is the side facing away from you.
I agree that the chart is a bit hard to read. I took a sharpie and marked dark lines between each four stitch cable. It made it a LOT easier to read. Good luck! The results of the effort are worth it, I think.