myReview 1 mo

My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member


College students usually find jobs in retails as they complete their studies as the these jobs tend to be not as physically strenuous and are easy to get the hang of. However another area where college students tend to find jobs in is at restaurants, whether it be as servers, bussers, cooks or dishwashers. For the purpose of this take, I will mostly be discussing my experience as a dishwasher and a line cook. Note that each restaurant is different depending on how popular and how many people usually visit the restaurant on a daily basis. Also, I’m not going to say the name of the restaurant as I want to keep it as confidential as possible.

My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member

1.)What you do: As a dishwasher you’ll be cleaning ceramics, pots, pans, utensils, silverware and misc kitchen equipment. You also occasionally help the prep cooks, take out the trash, sweep the floors and stock kitchen sinks

  • You will sweat
  • you will get dirty
  • you will smell
  • you will get a work out
  • You will get exhausted
  • You will constantly dream of your job
  • You will feel sore

2.) Free meals: Perhaps the best thing about being a dishwasher is that you get a free meal per shift. You can pick almost whatever you want from the menu with the exception of the more expensive foods(steaks etc). However if you are a good worker, the managers will occasionally give you free steaks.

3.) Short breaks: Each restaurant is different but I’m assuming that most restaurants don’t give employees long breaks. At most you’ll get 30-45 minutes per shift. If you are a dishwasher this is nothing as those minutes go by real fast. If you plan on eating a free meal, you’ll want to put in your order first and then get back to work until your meal is ready. Then you can clock out for break.

4.) Scheduling: This is what makes many people quit. Either management doesn’t give you enough work days or it gives you too many work days that you can’t get any personal things done outside of work. You could be working anywhere from 3-7 days. And it’s usually random, you won’t be working the same day and same time every week. If you want a fixed schedule you’ll have to give management a good reason why you need a fixed schedule, like college or some other responsibility out of work.

5.) On call: If you don’t have a fixed schedule, you’ll want to have your cell phone on more than usual as even on your days off your managers will try to call you in. The reason being that one or more of your co workers either called out or no showed. Further more, your managers can also call you in to come in earlier than what is on your schedule. And on rare occasions you’ll find yourself going back to work less than 12 hours after your last shift ended because one of the managers asked you to come in.

6.) You have a car, prepare to be a chauffeur: Many of your co workers are college students which means that some of them won’t have cars. If you are part of the closing shift, chances are one or two of your co workers will ask you to drive them home. It’s up to you if you want to drive them home.

7.) The stations: In the dishwashing area there are usually 4 main stations/responsibilities

  • Dish pit/machine: All ceramics, silverware, trays, utensils and containers are sprayed and put through a machine.
  • Catcher: The person that catches simply grabs all the clean dishes that come out of the machine and stacks them up on a nearby shelf
  • Runner: Perhaps the most physically demanding but also funnest responsibility, all this person has to do is take all the clean dishes, containers and trays from the shelf to the area they belong in.
  • Three compartment sink: Considered to be the dirtiest and most overwhelming responsibility. This person must use soap, scrub and rinse all the pots, pans and anything that has condiments that are too sticky to come off. Most people can’t seem to do this, I usually have to take over this station because I’m the only one who can do this station and once you get used to it, you are pretty much in your own world. Nobody bothers you at the three sink.

8.) Your attire: Compared to the other positions, you will be the most plainly dressed worker. While all the servers are wearing nice button ups and fitted pants, you’ll be wearing a simple t-shirt, some work pants, a cap and slip resistant shoes. It is humbling but just know that you have the most important job in the restaurant, without dishwashers, the restaurant can’t function.

9.)You don’t know how good you actually have it compared to the other positions: Despite it being physically demanding and dirty, you actually have it better than most of the other positions. You don’t have to deal with rude customers, You don’t have to deal the impatient servers, you don’t have to worry about missing an ingredient or not properly cooking a meal etc.

Line cook(appetizer)

I recently got promoted to line cook and this position is way more mental than it is physical as in you’ll feel the mental pressure but you won’t have to exert as much physical energy as you do as a dishwasher.

10.) Get ready to be yelled at by servers: This all depends on the type of co workers you have. Fortunately most of the servers are friendly and understanding where I work, so for the most part they won’t yell unless there’s a lot of noise but not to give attitude.

11.) Fridays and Saturdays: Trust me these two days are the busiest days at a restaurant. There can be anywhere between 2-3 times where you will get overwhelmed by the number of orders that come in that one of the kitchen managers has to help you and your team out. Especially if you are paired with slower workers. I technically am the fastest person at my station but most of the time I’m paired with workers who slow me down cause they just aren’t fast enough.

12.) Slow system: If your restaurant has a slow system then you won’t receive orders until 7 minutes after they’ve been put in. This is where you’ll get 5-9 orders all at once which can be very irritating.

13.) Final hour before closing: At this point you and your fellow line cooks are at the point where you just want to get out of there. You’ll start a process known as “pre cleaning” where you clean you station to the best of your ability before the restaurant closes, that way you can get out as fast as possible after closing. But be warned that you’ll still get about 1 through 3 orders in that last hour so don’t get too distracted.

14.) Make your own food: The best part about being a line cook is that you can make your own food. It’s so satisfying once you eat food that you made from scratch.

15.) It will take a toll on your body: Despite the line cook job not being as physical as the dishwasher position, it will still take a toll on your body. The extreme mental stress can lead to brain fog, you also risk getting sick by constantly walking into the “walk in” fridge and freezer to restock your station. I’ve already gotten sick twice in a less than a year. I’ve gotten bronchitis and the cold. So I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to work here.

16.) Who you work with makes a difference: How smooth the shift goes mostly depends on who you are working with. It can be a really busy day but if you and your two other team members are doing their part then you won’t feel the pressure. It helps if there’s three workers working per station. If there’s only two then good luck on Fridays and Saturdays.

17.) Holidays are hit or miss: Some holidays are very slow but other Holidays can be very busy. If there is some big sporting event then the restaurant may or may not get packed. As someone who absolutely hates rushes, it’s such a relief when the restaurant is slow on holidays or game nights.

18.) Rush hours: The worst rushes happen during the weekends and they usually happen during the following times.

  • 5-6pm(Average rush)
  • 7-9pm(worst rush)
  • 10pm(Mini rush)

19.) To quit or not to quit: A part of me does want to quit due to health concerns and because I can’t get much done outside of work. However due to the great management, I stick around and endure all the stress that comes with being a line cook and occasional dishwasher. If it weren’t for good management, I would have quit months ago.

My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member
My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member
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Most Helpful Guys

  • Staximus

    I worked at a big really busy restaurant (Claim Jumper) as a dishwasher, then prep cook, then busser, then barback. I didn't want the job, but lost my job and needed to pay rent. My friend who was a waiter there called me up and asked me if I wanted a job. It was insane because I had to be able to keep up with Mexican soccer players on coke or meth who were 10 years younger than me. I would wash stacks of dishes the size of a small car in an hour. I worked so fucking hard, the old Mexican bus boys who had worked for the company since the year I was born chose me to be the first white bus boy at that location after it had been open for 20 years. Everybody had to tip out the bus boys, all the waiters and cooks wanted to be a bus boy and steal my shifts because on a good night I was walking out with $200 in tips and not having to deal with any of the customer's bullshit! I'm glad I took the job because it ended up paying my bills for 3 years, allowed me to buy another car, and made me lose a bunch of weight; but most of all it taught me how to motivate myself again after I lost my mojo.

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  • Pudsmucker

    Sounds like you have a good time. Your comments remind me at the time that I went to work at Zion national Park in my sophomore year of college. A friend of mine got me on there because he had been working there from years past. He told me you could get a lot of nookie. We had some fantastic times.

    I started out there as a dishwasher just something to do for the summer. While cleaning up after the morning shift the chefs walked off and left. Chef turned to me and asked me if I knew how to cook I said I cooked during couple of years in a Chinese restaurant during high School. The chef taught me many things on different ways of cooking. I still love to cook to this day.

    Just as just as a resort closed for the year a movie crew came in and asked for extras. My friend and I stayed stayed for the two weeks as extras.

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Most Helpful Girls

  • Dazed0N0Confused

    Wait wait wait. You got a break? I only got a break when I was working doubles!
    I spent the first half of my career as a line cook, only when I would work doubles is when I would get a break. When I moved to FOH it didn't matter if I was on a double or not, I didn't get a break.
    When I worked for Darden (Longhorn/Olive Garden/ more) my break would be 45 min, because I worked both FOH & BOH & needed time to change clothes.

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    • ADFSDF1996

      That’s odd, I guess it depends on the state. In my state there is a law that requires all employees to get a break. So even if you don’t want a break, you still have to take a break.

    • I'm in Ohio, who's going to take over your section/station while you're on break?

    • ADFSDF1996

      Usually the kitchen manager or the “breaker” takes over

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  • midnightmoon05

    You sound like you enjoy your job. Thank you for writing this post and working behind the scene.
    whenever we tip we often wonder if restaurants split the tip for you all in the back?
    I did retail in college. Was a job. I think we had 15 m. breaks. As for my career, our lunch break is only 45-50m. Sometimes we had to work during break time. Still I love my job.

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    • My dad worked as a dish washer over 40 years ago. He said the hot water, soap was very bad for his hands.

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • FunkyMonkee

    I worked in a few. 3 times as a dish washer. At an Indian restaurant I worked in food prep before the place opened in the afternoon and some mornings, we'd go to a local university to sell food as lunch so, I'd help with that. I had no problems with that. It was only 2 miles away so, I could just ride my bike there and be there in about 10:00 and the married couple that ran the place were nice. One day, I was using a meat cleaver to cut up eggplant (as I was directed to do) and, even though the blade was rather dull (it was bouncing off the eggplant!), it still managed to cut half way into the tip of my thumb, including the fingernail!! I quit on the spot!! But, the owner still talks to me. No malice towards them at all.

    At another place, where my future ex-fiance was working, I got a job as kitchen help when they decided to do a murder mystery dinner theatre so, two nights a week, I'd go to the basement to help this Turkish guy (that everyone called, Oscar because, for some reason, they couldn't pronounce his real name which sounded almost exactly LIKE, Oscar) help make the salads and get the deserts ready and, when it came time to serve the various courses, we'd have to carry the various sets of food over to the theatre and set it up for the cast and Madame Ex to serve. One night, I was hired to work at the concession stand at a local football stadium. Mostly what I did was behind the scenes work: make sure all the sellers had the food, ice and supplies they needed and, as it was winter, I had to keep them supplied with coffee and hot chocolate. I don't know what I did special to the hot chocolate but, everyone raved about how good it was! The only thing I can think of that made it different was that I was instructed to put a huge whisk into the container and just stir the chocolate around real good. Instead of just stirring it, I put the whisk in as far as it'd go and would spin the handle between my hands to make it act more like the beater in a mixing bowl.

    When I was a kid, I also helped grandma with her catering.

  • shaysh87

    sweetie, I have worked both low wage jobs and also high wage jobs. In professional jobs, you get more respect, you typically are surrounded by better and more decent people. In low wage jobs, you get no respect, supervisors yell at you, your coworkers may be very catty or unprofessional and you may get really shitty healthcare benefits.

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  • SecretsofKB

    My partner was a bartender while she was in college. Just from what she has told me, this is pretty spot on. I realized that I could never really do any job in that area. I'm sure I could, but I just wouldn't like it.

    Totally under-appreciated job field.

    Like 1 Person
    • Shamalien

      It’s good character building, every kid should get a taste of this bottom rung of society and learn some respect

    • Yep! She doesn't take shit from anyone and I suspect she learned it from that job.

    • Shamalien

      And hopefully she has respect for the people that serve her

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  • MzAsh

    I honestly still have resentment towards how we were treated working in food service. I worked at a pizza place in my college age years. Great food but the store managers were real pieces of shit. I still hate them.

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    • muncher717

      as a contractor i go out to deal with restaurants and majority of the time i'm getting into arguments and fights with either the managers or owners or sometimes both because they have massive egos on them and i think to myself if they treat me a guy who doesn't even work for them like this god only knows how awful he or she treats their employees who actually do work for them
      the irony they think i'm going to back down and cower for them when i don't and i mouth off at them and give them the same shitty attitude right back that they give me because i know on my job i can't get fired and i have my supervisors backing me up and letting out and lashing out on those managers and owners as well

  • smahala1991

    I have been a dishwasher and I am also currently a line cook. I can attest everything you're saying being true. Also another part I like was using restaurant lingo like heard, 86, behind, on the fly, etc... The only thing I don't like is that people come and go a lot more than you would expect at other jobs.

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  • muncher717

    it's hell and it's bullshit i've done the line cook thing and the dishwasher thing and they both suck and listening to chefs whine bitch and complain is like dealing with a crying baby without it's pacifier

    Helpful 1 Person
  • Punkin_Annie92

    Working in fast food was NOT for me I'll never do it again. I respect people that have this job because it is extremely difficult.

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  • Subarugirl

    By husband was a public safety officer at the college he attended while he was in college. I was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons.

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  • kmg9150

    Great write up, good perspective on the pros and cons.

    Its unfortunate that all to often the people above forget where they would be if not standing on the ones below them. Businesses dont run because the CEOs, they run because of all the people at the bottom end of operations and the consumer those people interact with. Where did a lot of owners/entrepreneurs start at? It was 'nt sitting on the top of the pyramid. But yet in all industries the laborers of operations are treated unfairly and exploited by fear. Since the 1920s upper management salaries have increases 10 fold, yet below them its lucky if the their salaries have even reached 2 fold since then...

  • bigslab

    I used to work as a cook at the Mill street community cafe and it was ok

    My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member
  • bulletbob555

    I worked in kitchens for 30 years. Did everything but bartend and host. Good times bad times I had a few

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  • jamesgoldman

    Breaks... only if you smoked or had to top something up but as a non smoker I ended up (despite being a sous chef) rubbing shoulders with the customers

    I can remember drinking like a fish and how everyone even the non smokers would share a joint or two after a shift

    Swearing was pretty much most of the language used in the kitchen

    N. b. anyone in the UK with Netflix or who can VPN in find the film Boiling Point, that sums it up well beyond having less staff and being far bigger degenerates

  • ArtemisSilver

    I used to be a chef, it's really not that bad and sometimes the cute waitresses get bored hehe.

  • boobliker

    back in the day of working it was very hard work but the benefits where well good

  • jengeorge26

    Working long hours

  • Jennz6

    I worked at Hooters and got free food

  • imfreeze95

    This is exactly right I went to culinary school

  • landingout2

    accurate lol