Female and Male Food Service Assistant cleaning a surface in commercial kitchen.

What's it like to be a Food Service Assistant?

Aleksy’s story

Aleksy has worked as a food service assistant for the past 18 months. Here’s his story.

What do you like about working as a food service assistant?

I think the main positive of this job is how much variety there is every day. We do everything from cleaning the kitchen to cutting meat, and no two days are ever the same.

I also love being among the organised chaos of the kitchen. It can be stressful at times, of course, but most of the time it’s exciting. Seeing food go out and plates coming back clean -- that’s great. Obviously, I’m only a small part of that, but it makes me feel like I’m doing a job that really makes a difference.

What happens in a typical day working as a food service assistant?

Like I say, no two days are ever the same. There’s so much variety in this job. People think we just wash dishes (well, at least my friends do), but I do a lot more than that. If I work a morning shift, I’m the person who sets up breakfast and serves coffee. If I work later in the day, I’m restocking grab goods -- making sure everything is there for the chefs. If it gets busy, I often help out with food prep too. Every day is different.

What qualities would you say makes a great food service assistant?

I’d say the main skills are being able to multitask and having an awareness of your surroundings. We do so many different things. Usually, we’re doing more than one thing at the same time, often in a confined space. If you’re not flexible, you’re going to get stressed pretty quickly.

You also need to be pretty proactive. Though we do take orders from chefs, we also need to anticipate what they want, especially during a busy shift.

What are the biggest challenges you face in a typical week at work?

The main challenges come from working a busy shift. During the shift you’re running around, making sure the chefs are catered for. Then you’ve got all the dishes to clean as well as a workstation to wipe down. It tires you out. But at the same time, you’ve got this rush of adrenaline and you leave work with a smile on your face even though you’re completely done.

What are the hours like?

I guess this depends on where you work. If you work in a restaurant, you can end up working really late, especially if you’re doing the clean down. I’ve also worked in cafes before, which obviously shut early, and I know a few people who work in office restaurants who work not far off the standard 9-to-5. I guess this is one advantage of this job. You can make it work around you.

What types of establishments do you tend to work at e.g. cafes, hotels, gastropubs or other?

At the minute, I’m in a gastropub, though because I work contracts, I’ve worked in loads of different places. Cafes are great if you want the night to yourself to relax, hotels can often involve working long double shifts, and restaurants allow you to see incredible, high-end food being prepared. There are advantages and disadvantages to them all, but they’re all good in their own way.

What advice would you give to someone trying to get into your line of work?

I’d say that it’s not an easy job, but it can be really rewarding, and there are a lot of opportunities out there at the minute. Be prepared to work really hard, and put yourself out there. Often, you find yourself doing stuff that’s really different to what you expect when you first start out as a food service assistant. This isn’t a standard 9-to-5, but that’s why most people love it.

Why have you chosen to work as a temp in this line of work?

The main thing for me is the flexibility it offers. I can pick up shifts whenever they fit in around my schedule. I think too many people think that work comes first, and I don’t think like that. I work to live -- not the other way around -- and temping allows me to do that. I also like the fact that I can work in a lot of different places, which means I get to meet new people all the time. That’s obviously a bonus.