What makes a good? Kitchen porter
Truth be told, the role of kitchen porter is not the most glamorous position in the hospitality industry. Not surprised are you. I mean for most people just facing a day’s accumulation of domestic dishes, pots and pans in the sink last thing at night can seem like a monumental task. But the next time you’re
looking at those five plates in the sink and thinking “I really can’t be bothered with this”, just try to imagine what it’s like for those guys that sweat it out every day in restaurants across the country as they struggle to keep up with a seemingly never ending procession of restaurant detritus.
It’s a tough job and those that do it well are respected by their brethren in the brigade as they understand the true value of a world class “plongeur”. Chefs will genuinely show great respect to KPs that work hard because a good one will have a similar work ethic and life style to their own. They turn up on time, work in the sweltering heat performing repetitive tasks, deal with the anti-social hours and ultimately face the same sort of challenges that anyone on the industry does.
I’ve seen chefs tear strips off waiting staff for not scraping food off of plates before stacking them in the pot wash. This is because that KP is just as much part of the team as anyone else. Just as busy and just as important. And you would be forgiven for thinking that all these guys do is scrub pans and feed dishes into the machine but in reality a long serving KP can build up a skill base that would put most commis chefs to shame.
As standard these guys will be prepping veg, scrubbing mussels and even picking herbs for garnish on a daily basis, usually at the same time as receiving and signing for deliveries and keeping on top of their section. Running late for the breakfast shift? Need someone to fire up the ovens, bang in a couple of trays of sausages and start sautéing mushrooms? A good KP will be all over it by the time you get there.
Now I’m not going to over sentimentalise about this, as over the years you will probably meet more bad ones than good given the less than stringent application process. However I just wanted to highlight the value of an employee that is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things.
I would have to say that some of the most dedicated and hard working professionals I have come across working in the catering industry have been stood in front of a sink and to this day I have good memories and long standing friendships with kitchen porters from years gone by.
So to those outside of the industry that thought a pot washer was a position of no real importance in the kitchen then I hope this given you a little insight into life behind the swinging doors. And may I suggest that next time you go out to dinner, in celebration of often forgotten plongeur, you offer to buy the kitchen porter a drink. The head chef gets enough of the praise as it is.
Next week: “What makes a good……..commis chef”