Kitchen Assistant Job Description - Skills, Duties and Requirements
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What Does a Kitchen Assistant Do?
Kitchen assistants (kitchen helpers) are part of the kitchen staff in a restaurant. They work in close contact with the head chef, sous chef and the chefs de partie and assist them by performing a range of food preparation tasks.
The principal duties of a kitchen assistant in a restaurant kitchen include undertaking food preparation tasks, as directed by the head chef or chefs de partie, preparing ingredients, cleaning vegetables, preparing simple dishes, observing correct cooking times and temperatures, using cooking equipment, utensils and machinery (e.g. saucepans, pans, chopping boards, meat slicers), cleaning cooking utensils, and keeping work stations and surfaces clean and tidy etc. Kitchen assistants are sometimes also responsible for restocking the store room and cold room in accordance with the chef’s instructions, for bringing ingredients into the kitchen and for ensuring food is packed and stored in accordance with all applicable food hygiene and safety regulations.
In emergencies, a kitchen assistant must be able to stand in for their superior without the quality being affected.
In larger restaurants kitchens that have a number of chefs, the role of kitchen assistant may overlap with that of commis chef (an apprentice chef). Where this is the case, the kitchen assistant will follow the orders of a chef de partie (also known as a ‘station chef’ or ‘line chef’) and may specialize in a particular type of dish (e.g. meat, fish, pastries etc). Similarly, in smaller establishments, there may be some overlap between the job of kitchen assistant and that of kitchen porter (also known as a ‘kitchen hand’). For example, in addition to helping the chef in the kitchen, they may be required to carry out dishwashing or kitchen portering duties, or else help the waiting team serve in the dining room.
Kitchen assistants work in catering and hospitality establishments of all types and sizes, including restaurants, cafés, bars, pizzerias, hotels, and canteens (company, hospital or school).
Working hours usually revolve around traditional lunch and dinner times, although increasingly, there is a tendency, especially in some countries, for restaurants to stay open the whole day. Either way, the job of kitchen assistant is likely to involve working evening shifts, weekends and public holidays.
It is also important to bear in mind that cleaning and tidying tasks will usually go on well past the establishment’s official opening hours. As a result, the job of kitchen assistant is a tiring one - involving standing for long periods of time and exposure to the heat from ovens and stoves - which requires good physical fitness and stamina.
Vacancies for kitchen assistants usually arise in the hospitality and catering and the tourism and hotel sectors. Demand for kitchen staff varies depending on the time of year, with peaks when restaurants and hotels in tourist locations are recruiting their seasonal personnel.
Kitchen Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
The main duties and primary responsibilities of a kitchen assistant include:
- Prepping ingredients for dishes
- Washing and slicing fruit and vegetables
- Cooking ingredients according to directions received from chef
- Keeping all pots, pans and kitchen utensils clean and in order
- Managing store rooms and cold rooms
How to Become a Kitchen Assistant - Education, Requirements and Training
Professional training schools and courses will provide anybody wanting to become a kitchen assistant with the theoretical knowledge and the practical kitchen experience they need.
Working as a kitchen assistant requires a wide range of skills and knowledge, including food preparation and cooking techniques, the use and maintenance of cooking equipment and utensils, decorating and garnishing techniques, and storage standards for raw ingredients and foods that are susceptible to spoilage. In addition, it is also useful for kitchen assistants to possess at least a basic knowledge of table service.
Skills and Qualifications
A good kitchen assistant should possess the following skills:
- Knowledge of cooking techniques and methods
- Ability to use key kitchen equipment, e.g. stove tops, meat slicers etc.
- Ability to bone meat, wash, peel and cut vegetables, and prepare a wide range of ingredients
- Knowledge of hygiene and safety standards regarding food preparation and storage
- Ability to handle a number of tasks simultaneously
Kitchen Assistant Career Path
Experience, constant practice and a desire to improve are the key ingredients that will help a kitchen assistant or commis chef progress through the ranks of the kitchen brigade.
Starting out as a kitchen helper is an excellent route into the restaurant business that will enable aspiring chefs to gain an awareness of how professional kitchens work and acquire invaluable professional experience. The kitchen of a large restaurant can be a very competitive environment, but those who show they have what it takes can expect to rise up the ranks to positions such as chef de partie, sous chef, chef de cuisine or executive chef.
Top Reasons to Work as a Kitchen Assistant
For anybody considering a job as a kitchen assistant, an essential requirement is a passion for food and cooking, as this will make your daily working routine all the more satisfying and rewarding.
The job of kitchen assistant is suited to people looking for varied, dynamic and challenging work. It involves a wide range of different tasks and duties and can at times be hectic, but you can expect the effort you put in to be rewarded in the form of promotion to the upper echelons of the kitchen brigade.
Kitchen assistants are in demand more or less everywhere, meaning you can find work close to home, in your own town or city, or alternatively, take the opportunity to travel and work as a kitchen assistant in a holiday resort or on a cruise ship.