Kitchen assistants/porters help chefs by making sure that the food and equipment in the kitchen is always clean and in the right place. They also help to prepare food ready for use and may be involved in some cooking.
Their work might include:
Kitchen assistants/porters work as part of a kitchen team, and could be supervised by the cooks or chefs, the kitchen supervisor or front-of-house staff, such as the head waiter.
The normal working week is 40 hours, but kitchen assistants/porters often work early, late or night shifts. Split shifts, where staff work in the morning and return for the evening session, and working during weekends and public holidays, are also common. Hours are often more regular when working in industrial catering.
Casual and seasonal jobs are available, and around two-thirds of all kitchen jobs are part time.
Kitchen assistants/porters are on their feet most of their shift, and kitchens are often hot, steamy and noisy places in which to work. Busy kitchens can be high-pressured, exciting places. The job is also likely to involve heavy lifting and carrying.
Kitchen assistants/porters have to wear aprons or overalls, usually provided by their employer. Sometimes they need to wear waterproof boots and gloves, and other special protective clothing, for handling cleaning chemicals.
By law, some forms of kitchen equipment, such as meat slicers, cannot be handled by employees below the age of 18.
Starting salaries may be around £9,250 a year (at age 18).
There are around 400,000 kitchen and catering assistants in the UK. Professional kitchens are frequently in need of assistants, and there are opportunities throughout the country.
Assistants and porters work in restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, the kitchens of schools, colleges and private companies, in the Armed Forces and in hospitals - in fact, anywhere that food is prepared. There are also opportunities overseas, particularly in large cities and holiday resorts.
Jobs are advertised in trade magazines, such as Caterer & Hotelkeeper, in Jobcentre Plus offices and on specialist recruitment websites. Jobs may also be advertised in the local and national press, and there are many recruitment agencies that specialise in catering work.
Kitchen assistants do not usually need formal qualifications, although employers may prefer candidates with a food hygiene certificate.
A BTEC Introductory or First Certificate/Diploma in Hospitality or a GCSE/S grade in food technology may be useful. Some experience of working in a kitchen is an advantage, and it is possible to do a Young Apprenticeship in Hospitality.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Training is normally on the job, supervised by experienced members of staff. Kitchen assistants/porters learn standard kitchen procedures, how to handle equipment safely, and might also learn how to prepare simple meals.
There are a range of qualifications to work towards, including:
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A kitchen assistant/porter needs:
This job is a good entry route to a variety of careers in catering and hospitality, including to managerial roles.
Kitchen assistants/porters with a keen interest in food may be able to go on to train as a commis (trainee) chef after they have gained sufficient skills and experience in the job.
It may also be possible to move into related areas, such as food service or bar work.
Institute of Hospitality, Trinity Court,
34 West Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1SH
Tel: 020 8661 4900
People 1st, 2nd Floor, Armstrong House,
38 Market Square, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000
The Springboard Charity & Springboard UK Ltd, Coopers' Hall,
13 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4TH
Tel: 020 7497 8654
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.