Kitchen Assistant/Porter

The Job and What's Involved

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:

  • Helping suppliers to unload deliveries of ingredients.
  • Unpacking and storing food.
  • Cleaning the kitchen floors and walls, fridges, ovens and work surfaces to ensure good hygiene.
  • Washing up, or operating the dish and glass-washing machines.
  • Cleaning pots, pans and other equipment by hand.
  • Collecting and disposing of waste.
  • Cleaning and cutting up vegetables, skinning and filleting fish, and chopping or mincing meat.
  • Using equipment such as electric mixers, chipping machines and cutters.
  • Rotating stock and checking use-by dates.
  • Making sandwiches, toast, soup, desserts, salads, tea and coffee.

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).

Getting Started with this Career Choice

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.

Education and Training

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.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

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:

  • A range of vocationally-recognised qualifications and NVQ's/SVQ's, including Hospitality (Level 1), Food Processing/Preparation and Cooking (Level 2).
  • Various health and safety courses.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A kitchen assistant/porter needs:

  • Stamina and enthusiasm.
  • To be able to work quickly and efficiently.
  • To work well in a team.
  • Good communication skills.
  • High standards of personal hygiene.
  • To be able to lift and carry heavy items.
  • To stay calm under pressure.
  • To be capable of doing several jobs at once.
  • Knowledge of kitchen safety requirements.

Your Long Term Prospects

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.

Get Further Information

Institute of Hospitality, Trinity Court,
34 West Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1SH
Tel: 020 8661 4900
Website: www.instituteofhospitality.org

People 1st, 2nd Floor, Armstrong House,
38 Market Square, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000
Website: www.people1st.co.uk

Springboard UK Limited, 3 Denmark Street,
London WC2H 8LP
Tel: 020 7497 8654
Website: www.springboarduk.org.uk

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