The following is a repost of an article that I wrote during the first few months of “Culinary Cues”: it is still relevant.
“Just a quick note on dishwashers: there is no one person, let me state that again – no one person who is more important to the operation of a kitchen, than the dishwasher. If you don’t believe it, think of this: if a cook fails to show up, the crew will bitch and moan, but the job will get done; if the chef doesn’t show up, the crew will cheer; if the dishwasher doesn’t show up, the place falls apart because no one wants to wash dishes, no one except Dominick.
Dominick had washed dishes and pots and pans at the Statler Hilton Hotel for more than 10 years! Get that, 10 years! The half-life of most dishwashers was measured in weeks, not years. Dominick lived in a shabby apartment with three other guys, presumably somehow related. Together they owned one beat-up Studabaker and rarely had enough money to pay for gas. Dominick was flat out crazy. He talked to himself all day long. Many times he would laugh out loud at something that no one else understood, but we never ran out of clean plates, sauté pans, pots, roasting pans, or utensils when Dominick was on shift. Crazy or not he was always there (at least physically) and he got the job done.”
(an excerpt from In the Shadow of Cooks – iUniverse. Available through amazon.com)
Everybody in the kitchen LOVED Dominick. Dishwashers rule (at least the ones like Dominick).
Dominick is one extreme example – there are thousands of dishwashers who are first time workers with the potential to become the next wave of cooks, chefs, managers and owners. A conversation with nearly every successful careerist in the restaurant business will reveal that they began in the dish room. It was that experience that either excites people about the possibility or turns them away from a career in foodservice. Demonstrating how important that position is to the success of the operation sets the stage for how they will treat others when they are in a position of authority.
The dishwasher is a person who controls the single most expensive piece of equipment in the kitchen and has responsibility for the most expensive inventory that most restaurants hold – china, glassware and flatware. Great tasting food pales in comparison to the importance of sparkling clean service ware. It is your dishwasher who sets the environment for great experiences for your staff and your guest. Pay attention to this!
Dominick’s are hard to come by. The majority of people working in your dish area are short term employees, but none-the-less important to your success. Here are some thoughts for those building their kitchen team:
* Every new employee in your kitchen should spend time in the dish area. This is how a person will learn about your physical layout, how the team works together, the pace of your kitchen and how they will earn the respect of others working within those kitchen walls.
*As a chef, it is always a good idea to roll up your sleeves for 10-15 minutes each day and rub elbows with your dishwashers. Push a few dish racks through the machine and demonstrate how important the position is to you and your operation. This will go a long way towards strengthening your team.
*Include your dishwasher in activities that unify your team around your philosophy. Include them at the table for your family meal, ask their opinion on new menu item tastings, and make sure that they share the limelight when guests thank you for a great meal.
Here as an interesting read through the eyes of the dishwasher: