How to become a Kitchen Assistant - a female chef chopping vegetables, a male chef talking teaching the female chef

How to become a Kitchen Assistant

Written by Hannah Friend

Overview

Job Role Kitchen Assistant (aka: Kitchen Hand, Dishwasher, Pot Wash)
Responsibilities Basic food preparation and clearning of food preparation and serving areas
Salary £11,000 - £16,500 per year
Dress Code

Top: Usually a plain t-shirt
Bottoms: Usually plain black or navy trousers
Apron: You should be provided with a waterproof apron to protect you and your clothes
Shoes: Usually black kitchen-safe shoes (like plastic chef shoes) or trainers
Gloves:Waterproof washing-up gloves may also be provided to protect your hands from sharp items and hot water

Handy Hints 

  • Uniform should always be clean at the start of every shift and in good condition (eg. no rips or holes). Take note of what other kitchen porters are wearing and don’t be afraid to ask what is allowed
  • Always be sure to take water or another drink to your shift and stay hydrated
  • If you’re allowed to wear your own clothes, make sure you don’t mind them getting dirty
  • If a waterproof apron and gloves aren’t provided, it would be reasonable to ask for some

What do I need to do to become a Kitchen Assistant?

Your role as the kitchen assistant is to support the whole kitchen. Whether it’s in a small café, large restaurant, hotel complex, or school, your duties will usually include basic food preparation and cleaning of food preparation and serving areas. For example, you may be asked to peel vegetables, make up sandwiches or help tidy and organise the stock room.

To be a star kitchen assistant you need to be able to work quickly and to the required standard. You’ll be someone who is always happy and willing to help the chefs. Although you won’t be expected to know exactly how to do things, any experience in a similar role will certainly help. Depending on the size of the kitchen, often in smaller workplaces you may also be responsible for cleaning dishes and kitchen equipment.

If you are hoping to use this role as a stepping stone into a career as a chef, every task you do in the kitchen is a great way to show the head chef or other chefs what you can do. This is also a perfect role if you’re looking for a job with flexible hours or have no formal qualifications. There will be lots to learn and you can’t be afraid of hard work, or cleaning! The ability to listen to instructions, reliably turn up and be flexible with your time will make you a good candidate.

So what’s the pay like? You may be offered an hourly rate or a salary. The average salary for kitchen assistant jobs is between £11,500 and £16,500 per year.

Kitchen assistant roles are often advertised online and on local job boards or in the newspaper. You might also find, especially if you live in a big city, that there are Facebook groups for hospitality and catering workers, which advertise for these sort of jobs.

Make sure you read the job description fully, and apply in the way that it asks. Whether that means directly through the jobs website, by sending an email or by going in with your CV or resume in person. You’ll want to show any experience you have that might be relevant, what days of the week you would be available and the earliest date that you could start the job. Remember if you have a contract with another job you should make sure you work your notice period. It’s always a good idea to give any current employer at least a week’s notice of a new job, remember you may need them as a reference in the future.

As you don’t need and formal training or experience for this sort of job, it’s very likely the employer will want to arrange a trial shift with you. This should be for an hour or two in the place of work, any longer than this and it is reasonable to ask whether you will be paid for your time. While it’s not ideal to work for free, it is the best way for you to show you can do this job, see what the work is like and meet other people who work there.

At the trial, you need to show the employer that you can take instructions carefully. You can read about the usual dress code for a kitchen assistant in the box above. So they might explain how to rinse or scrub the dishes, and then put them in the machine. Make sure you listen carefully and ask if you’re unsure about anything. Remember as much as you can and make sure you smile and greet other people who work there. First impressions are very important, these will hopefully be your new work colleagues so you want to get off to a good start.

If this trial is successful and you’re offered the job, try to get the employer to send you an email or give you a job contract. If it’s a more casual position, you’ll need to ask verbally how much you’re going to be paid, and what sort of hours you will be working. If you’re not sure about your working rights, ask someone you trust for advice or read about it on the government’s website here.

After getting some kitchen experience under your belt in this role, your next step up the ladder would be the role of commis chef. This is one of the most common career paths to becoming a chef for people who have just left school or are looking to change industries.

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