Kitchen Staff Job Description
The kitchen staff works on the front lines of restaurant, cafeteria, and catering kitchens, interacting with cooks, waitstaff, bartenders, and sometimes customers. They work part-time or full-time, days, nights, weekends, and sometimes early in the morning to prep food.
Part of a larger food preparation and delivery team, the kitchen staff works in a fast-paced and sometimes demanding environment helping to prepare delicious meals.
Kitchen Staff Duties and Responsibilities
The kitchen staff performs a wide range of duties in the fast-moving kitchen; they are the utility people, often assisting head cooks, line cooks, managers, and waitstaff with various aspects of meal preparation and delivery. Current job listings identify the following duties for kitchen staff:
Basic Food Prep
The kitchen staff arrives early to organize the kitchen and do food prep to streamline cooking and meal presentation, including washing, peeling, and cutting fruits and vegetables; mixing ingredients for dishes; and cutting and seasoning meats.
The kitchen staff organizes customers’ plates before the waitstaff—or sometimes even the kitchen staff—bring the final product to the customer. They have a working knowledge of the day’s meals and menus and understand what each dish calls for before delivery.
Stock Kitchen and Storeroom
The kitchen staff works with management and head cooks to receive, stack, and properly store food in kitchens, cold storage, and storerooms. They transfer food and supplies to the kitchen as needed.
The kitchen staff is responsible for ensuring all areas of the kitchen, food prep, and food storage areas are clean and properly sanitized. This includes washing dishes and cooking equipment, cleaning floors, sanitizing countertops and cutting boards, and maintaining all areas to health code standards.
Kitchen Setup and Breakdown
If they are the first to arrive, the kitchen staff turns on the lights and grills, starts kitchen prep work, and prepares the kitchen and customer areas for service. When they’re the last to leave, the kitchen staff puts food and dishes away, cleans and mops the floors, and turns off all ovens, stoves, and other cooking equipment.
Kitchen Staff Skills and Qualifications
Quick and efficient workers with experience in food preparation or cooking, no formal education or training is usually required to be kitchen staff, though the following skills are usually preferred:
- Dependability – a food service employer is only as successful as the cooks and kitchen staff it employs; the kitchen staff is expected to be reliable, on time for work, and consistent with the work they do
- Physical stamina – the kitchen staff work on their feet for the duration of their shifts, around scheduled breaks, in kitchens that may be uncomfortably warm; often they hand wash dishes in hot water, climb up and down ladders and stairs, and carry up to 50 pounds for short distances
- Customer service – working in all areas of the kitchen and often the food delivery space, including bars, seating areas, buffet tables, and dining rooms, the kitchen staff inevitably interact with customers, willingly listening to and assisting customers with their requests, even when they fall outside the kitchen staff’s normal duties
- Facility with kitchen equipment – the kitchen staff work with sharp and potentially dangerous equipment on a daily basis—whether the deli slicer, pizza oven, or high-temperature dishwasher, they work safely and effectively with all kitchen equipment
- Team player – the kitchen staff takes direction from the kitchen supervisors and facility managers and is willing to assist other team members to get their jobs done
Kitchen Staff Education and Training
The kitchen staff does not need any formal education, although some employers require either a high school diploma or GED. They learn from on-the-job-training, so many employers look for at least one year of experience in the foodservice industry.
Kitchen Staff Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data for “food preparation workers,” lists the 2016 median annual pay for kitchen staff at $21,440, or $10.31 per hour. Kitchen staff in the lowest ten percent earned less than $8.37 per hour, and the highest ten percent made more than $14.93 per hour. The special food services and healthcare and social assistance industries paid the highest wages.
Employment for kitchen staff is projected to grow by eight percent through 2026, a rate the BLS describes as about as average for all occupations.
The websites below provide a variety of perspectives and insight into the food service and broader restaurant industries and offer helpful tips if you’re interested in joining a kitchen:
Nation’s Restaurant News – This site is frequently updated with news and trends from restaurants around the country.
r/KitchenConfidential – Participants in this Reddit community come from all corners of the food industry to share their behind-the-scenes experiences. Posters are active, and visitors can read about first-hand experiences, gripes, and tips on how to get by in the foodservice industry.
Eater – Eater is a popular site that covers dining and everything food (including Netflix and celebrities) in 24 cities across the US. Articles dive into local trends, openings and closings, and food and nightlife reviews. If you’re interested in what’s hot in your local metropolitan area, Eater is a great resource.
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