“Oh him, he’s nobody.”
“Not nobody, he’s part of the kitchen.”
“He’s a plonguer or something, he washes dishes and takes out the garbage…”
-Excerpt from Ratatouille
Everyone is in the kitchen for a reason. It’s important to realize that everyone and every position shares the same value. While everyone may not fully agree with this statement I firmly believe it to be true. Executive and sous chefs are given huge loads of responsibility ranging from food cost to inventory and sometimes even HR. Moving down the hierarchy, chef d’partie and the various line cooks act as workhorses in the kitchen. But, the lowest rung though, dishwashers, cleaning staff and tournants should never be forgotten. I was told by our GM, “Just make sure they’re happy. Keep them fed and give them a beer at the end of the night.”
Dishwashing and cleaning is a skill and an art. Certainly anyone with basic common sense, although it is shocking how many people are lacking in this department, can wash dishes or mop floors. The trick is being able to do these “simple” tasks well. Dishes can easily get backed up if the staff member is working to slow or if they’re unorganized.
The goal is to have the dish machine always full and running from the start of the nigh to the end. In order to do this, it is crucial to prioritize certain items based on size. Some items will singlehandedly fill the machine such as large pots or sheet trays. These items can be run while other racks lf smaller items are scrubbed and loaded, it’s essentially two birds.
The cleaning staff at Ella’s currently consists of five, could be four now, dishwashers who split shifts. Some of them understand prep as well which makes them even more valuable. And by the way we are looking for dishwashers and prep cooks so if you’re in or near Rhode Island and looking for a summer job please contact me through my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call. But when we get weeded on dishes it throws the whole kitchen of balance. Line cooks have to jump on to help, so that the clean dishes can get dried. If we have a surplus of clean dishes it makes it impossible to load dirty racks. When the soiled items get pile up it compounds the problem by eliminating space and limiting the tools at our disposal. Everyone in the kitchen has to cease what they are doing and help pick up slack. Every member of the team allots time in their day to complete tasks. When this time is stolen it throws of the daily timeline and forces people to work at a quicker pace, although more speed is never bad.
This isn’t a daily occurrence but when it happens it breaks the vibe of the entire kitchen. It adds unnecessary stress and also slows everyone down. The kitchen operates like the cliché, a well-oiled machine, and without certain parts working at the same speed everything seizes up and comes to a halt. It’s vitally important to treat each member of the kitchen with respect but also value their contributions as the same. I personally don’t care whether you’re the head chef or someone who cleans up after her, I personally value both as the same. It’s a team game and if someone is absent we all lose.