They are some of the hardest working folks (well some of them in some places anyways) in the professional kitchens. A kitchen cannot run without their presence. Without them, everyone else suffers, the flow of things don’t run smoothly. These fellows (sometimes ladies) are often overlooked and underappreciated. They are THE DISHWASHERS.
Anyone who has never washed dishes in a busy kitchen most likely has no idea what hard work it can be. I always look upon the WOMEN dishwashers in awe because such job is pretty physically demanding, dirty, and can even feel demeaning.
But when it does, teamwork in full mode is in play. Everyone pulls together and helps. Whoever has a free hand at the moment will come by and do a few loads as time permits. Even “I” have done my share of dishes when it was necessary. Yeah, ME!!! When my stations were free with no tickets, I’d come do what I could at the dishwashing station. As soon as I got orders, I’d go do orders while someone else who had a free hand would come do his/her share. Like the WHOLE team would pitch in and make it work.
And I can’t understand how some people actually enjoy washing dishes. One of the dishwashers told me that he LOVES being a dishwasher. Like he really really loves his job. He hates doing anything a step up, such as prep work and says he only wants to wash dishes. Some dishwashers stay dishwashers for years. Others (who are interested, have some skills, and when the timing is right) move on up the ladder into the kitchen team. Often times, the next step is to be a prep cook. Yes, a prep cook position is what those gazillions of freshly graduated culinary students are looking for as they near completing the program (they need to secure jobs so that they can start paying off the massive debts). And we wonder why it’s so hard for the new grads to obtain these entry level jobs when they are finished. A new culinary grad who has just spent thousands of dollars is competing for the same menial labor position as someone who was washing dishes, who hasn’t spent a fortune on a worthless piece of paper, and who probably has way better knife skills than him/her. Plus the dishwashers already have (sometimes years of) experience working in the kitchen. They are trained to be FAST and are familiar with the pace of the work flow.
Anyways, I hate it when the dishwasher(s) don’t show up. We all go home smelling like the garbage. I remember this one time at my old job when the dishwasher had a party to go to so everyone was pitching in for the last few hours of the service. I was the only one in he kitchen at the time and there were two servers. It was for a private dinner. I had to do everything by myself, -the cooking and the dishwashing. OMG, the dishes kept piling in, course after course…I did them myself for the earlier courses, going back and forth cooking, plating, dishes…back and forth. After the final course, desserts, the servers were pretty much finished with their serving duties, so they came back to the kitchen and we rolled in team work, -three girls unloading, washing, scrubbing, and putting away a buttload of dishes that was normally the role of ONE person.
The very first time I’ve ever done dishes was at one of the Wolfgang Puck catering kitchens. It was another one of those OTE (one time events) that I had signed up for one day. When I went in that evening, instead of the usual prep (aka grunt) work that they’d assign students, they said that the dishwashing station was in need of two bodies. I guess the dishwashers at the time did not show up. And OMG, I don’t even remember how I got selected. They just assigned heads randomly. But but…..WHY ME??!! I felt like God was punishing me.
The dinner was for another big party (it’s always for big parties at WP Catering kitchens). OMG the dirty dishes kept coming in NONSTOP. I grasped the hang of it after a while and B and I were operating like clockwork. But it was freaking tiring as heck. Rinsing off, putting a load of dirty dishes in the machine, then putting them away after they’ve been washed…carrying those heavy mother fuckers back and forth. I don’t even know how many loads I did that evening or how many diners were served. It just seemed endless and was truly a backbreaking labor.
B and I weren’t able to leave until the next crew came in. The next crew consisted of these two ladies. B was talking to them like he knew them (not sure if he’s worked there before that evening). He breathed a sigh of relief as he said to me, “We can go now that these ladies are here. And these ladies work HARD!”