How to become a Kitchen Porter. Man wearing black clothes washing dishes in a commercial kitchen

How to become a Kitchen Porter?

Overview

Job Role   Kitchen Porter (aka: Kitchen Hand, Dishwasher, Pot Wash) 
Responsibilities  Ensuring that all kitchen areas are clean. Washing plates, cutlery and kitchen equipment. 
Salary  £6.66 - £9.23 per hour / £13,000 - £18,000 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 Porter?

No commercial kitchen can run without a good kitchen porter. As an essential part of restaurants, cafes, hospitals, schools, cruise ships and every other place that serves food to customers, you are crucial to the running of a successful workplace in the hospitality and catering sector.

This is a great job if you have no formal qualifications, like fast-paced environments and will enjoy a good day’s graft. The ability to listen to instructions, reliably turn up and be flexible with when you can work will make you a perfect candidate. You can expect between £13,000 and £18,000 as an average salary as a kitchen porter in the UK; you’ll be working upwards of 40 hours a week especially in busy periods like Christmas.

But how do you get a job as a kitchen porter? Also known as a kitchen hand, dishwasher, pot wash, ‘dishie’ and sometimes abbreviated to ‘KP’, these jobs are often advertised online, on specialist staffing websites 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 roles.

Make sure you read the job description fully, and apply in the way that it asks. Whether that means directly through the job 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, be clear about 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 or tell them a week before you’re going to leave.

After applying, you may receive a phone call from the employer who might want a quick chat or to arrange a trial shift – in any case, ensure you’re able to answer the phone. They will normally ask you to go to the workplace for a short trial. This should be for an hour or two, any more time 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 to assess whether you can do this job as there are no qualifications necessary and you don’t necessarily need to have done it before.

So what are they looking for in the trial? You can read about the usual dress code for a kitchen porter in the box above. The most important thing is to turn up on time, and to show the employer that you can listen and understand instructions. 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. They will probably give you a tour of the kitchen and areas you’ll need to know about, 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 and you want to get off to a good start.

After a successful trial 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 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 or read about it on the government’s website here.

When you start out in this job, your day-to-day duties will include, but aren’t limited to, washing plates, cutlery and kitchen equipment, changing and disposing of rubbish and recycling. Everything you’re asked to do you should be shown how, either by another kitchen porter you work alongside, the chef in charge or the manager.

Once you learn the ropes of the role, you may also be asked to monitor stock levels of cleaning products and the things you use a lot. For example, if you often use rubbish disposal bags it would be helpful for the chef (who has a lot of other things to remember and think about in his/her own role) if you let them know at a suitable time (not when food is being served and it’s busy) that you need more. If you are asked to do this, you could ask for a stock take sheet to help you count what you have and then work out what needs to be ordered. Keep in mind that you won’t receive the things you need on the same day so try to think ahead and order before something runs out.

As a KP in the hospitality world, you may also be asked to help with basic food preparation. To be a standout employee, you should accept this and do your best to do it correctly and quickly. You’ll always be shown by the chef or team leader who asked, and make sure you ask questions if you’re unsure of anything or feel it’s unsafe. As with cleaning the dishes, make sure you always keep you working area clean when working with food. Always wash your hands before and use the knife or peeler carefully.

As this is an entry-level role, especially if you’re hoping to use this as a stepping-stone into the kitchen itself, these small tasks are a great way to show the head chef or other chefs what you can do. After working as a kitchen porter, you could apply for the role of kitchen assistant or even a commis chef. This is one of the most common career paths for chefs or job seekers looking to change careers into the food industry.

Browse the latest kitchen porter jobs

Read about taking the next step to becoming a kitchen assistant.


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