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What Is a Kitchen Steward?

A kitchen steward supports the chefs.
A kitchen steward may wash dishes.
A kitchen steward ensures that workspaces are clean and sanitized.
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  • Originally Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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A kitchen steward, also sometimes called a “kitchen porter,” is a person who works in a commercial or industrial kitchen as a sort of support person. He or she is not usually involved in the actual preparation of food, but keeps things clean and organized so that chefs and food prep assistants can do their jobs efficiently. The steward is often considered one of the lowest ranking members of the staff, but the job is nonetheless very important. Without someone on hand to keep things running smoothly, chefs and others could easily fall behind.

Scope of the Work

Kitchen stewards can be found practically anywhere that food is prepared on a large scale. Restaurants are the most common example, but many also work in hotels, in hospital kitchens, and in school cafeterias. Cruise ship and airplane kitchens may also employ this sort of help.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Keeping things clean is usually the biggest part of a kitchen steward’s job. At the most basic level, this involves washing dishes and scouring pans, though it usually also includes cleaning up workspaces and mopping floors as required. He or she will usually work with chefs and other kitchen staff to make sure that all of the tools and utensils needed for a specific meal or cooking task are washed and ready to go.

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Before preparations for each meal begin, the kitchen steward frequently inspects the prep stations, stoves, and appliances like refrigerators and freezers. He or she will make sure that all the necessary equipment is properly stored and readily available for the kitchen crew. If any of the stations require additional cutlery or tools, the steward is normally expected to have these clean and ready for use.

At the end of the day, the steward will typically help get everything put back away and tidied up. This often involves sanitizing workspaces, scrubbing floors, and sealing up unused ingredients. In many respects, he or she is in charge of “closing” the kitchen and making sure that everything is in order for either the next day or the next crew. This often means that the steward is one of the very last to leave.

Storing and Organizing

If the eating establishment has storage areas separate from the kitchen, the steward is generally in charge of their maintenance as well. This often includes walk-in freezers and refrigerators, pantries, and stock rooms. In addition to daily maintenance, the steward is often required to schedule and perform in-depth cleaning of these areas on a weekly or monthly basis. He or she may also be tasked with taking inventory and alerting managers when certain supplies are running low.

Additional Tasks

In small food service environments, the steward may be required to help operations outside of the kitchen as well. He or she may be asked to bus tables, for instance, or refill water glasses for patrons. Sweeping the dining room floor or doing minor tidying tasks during less busy times might also come within a steward’s job description, and in some places he or she might actually help serve customers when needed. This sort of direct contact is usually limited to special circumstances, like if a member of the regular wait staff is out sick or the restaurant is much busier than usual.

Shifts and Basic Expectations

Stewards, like most kitchen staff, work in what is known as “shifts.” Shifts are typically quite long, usually beginning a few hours before a meal prep and ending several hours afterward. They are not always regular, either — some days, a shift might be from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m., while on others it could be 5 a.m. to noon. A lot depends on the needs of the restaurant or kitchen owners, as well as the size of the steward pool. Someone who is the only kitchen steward will usually work much more regular hours than one who is on a team of many.

Though the work is not usually very difficult, it can be physically demanding. Success on the job often requires a lot of strength as well as the ability to stand for long periods of time. In most cases, the work is fast-paced and labor intensive. Stewards must have good communication skills so that they can interact with and take instructions from chefs and others.

Educational Requirements

There are generally no educational requirements to become a kitchen steward, though many employers want workers to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Background in a food service preparation environment is often considered a “plus” for kitchen steward applicants, as well. A passion for the job and a commitment to working hard are usually the most important elements of getting hired.

Advancement Potential

In some cases, a person might take a job as a steward as a way of working up the chain of responsibility in a restaurant or other establishment. Starting in on the bottom rungs can be a good way to learn about restaurant management, and can sometimes be a first step in promotion to busboy, waiter, or chef. Much of this depends on the establishment and the policies of individual managers.

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anon972126
Post 29

I think stewarding is one of those jobs where the *particular* place you're working makes all the difference. Sure, lots of jobs are like that - but with stewarding it *totally* makes it or breaks it.

I've worked at crappy little private food service businesses, and now I work for a large and well-organised big name resort complex. Same job title, totally different worlds! The first was pretty much like a combination of all the negative posts describe here, but where I'm working now isn't half bad at all! Sure, the work itself is a bit dirty and tedious, but it's generally well organised and relatively low-stress (compared to front of house work or being a chef, where you're in a more direct line of fire with customer demands), and there are nice perks such as free food and laundered uniforms.

The real trick with this job is to just be realistic with what you can do when it gets busy. If cooks or other people give you attitude and try to unreasonably sidetrack you with their personal errands around the kitchen - simply ignore them - while ensuring that you're keeping busy with your *main* tasks. Nobody can really say anything at that point.

I've been doing this job in different places for five years, and the above is my $0.02.

anon969716
Post 28

It's amazing how something can look perfect on the outside and be completely different on the inside. There's a reason for stock photos, isn't it?

People commenting here would at least tell their job place or country because I think situations vary but in general this kind of job is slavery. You are treated like some kind of processor as you get thrown everything at you and expected to have all cleaned out.

I worked at hotel for a little over half a year with guys from India which, despite conditions, were all cool and cared as we all were in same boat. It was high pressure on holidays with the kitchen full of staff running around and a few would come at the same time yelling and demanding help, which wasn't physically possible.

My first week on the job was so hard that I barely walked home after a nine hour shift and it took almost week to get adjusted. Initially I worked morning shifts of nine hours, then I transferred to morning and evening shifts for a combined total of 18 hours, which was crazy period, because I also got four hours of sleep.

At the end on my time at that place, I was moved to night shift, which I liked most since the last two hours were without supervision and I was trusted to do the job.

I am surprised as people didn't mention chemicals associated with this kind of work because I got to deal with stuff that couldn't get washed without chemical. I even remember chemical's name: PL-2. It was very hazardous as it caused burns to your skin and it would later hurt and chip off if not treated with medication. I had to always make sure there were no cuts in my gloves so the chemical wouldn't get on my skin. At one time, I remember even buying heavy duty gloves by myself to be safe.

Even though I was not afraid of physical labor, I was still vulnerable in moral and manner aspects. I hated being yelled at and treated like crap so I am glad that ended. Never again!

Someone mentioned no need to go to gym with this kind of work. Not really, because this job will turn you into a skinny, fit person instead of one with a muscular shape which is achieved with the gym. The dilemma is there is not enough time for the gym.

anon961919
Post 27

It's the most degrading job. It can be OK at times, but most of the time it is hellish. I work at a huge place, though. I have been doing it for over three years now. Every person thinks you're their own slave. They talk down to you, even though they couldn't even do the job themselves.

One thing I like about is days go quick because you are non stop busy, washing, cleaning around, making deliveries, taking out trash. Always busy and all the good looking women in the place. Other than that, it stinks.

anon958458
Post 26

This is a very hard job, It is basically all about speed. I am always on late shifts mainly and they always have a big gap between shifts. I come in at 5 or 6 most evenings and it is piled up high when you come in. so you are already playing catch up with all the washing up.

The main negatives about this job are it's hard, dirty work, you get no respect and you are often expected to do 10 things at once by chefs who stand around when they are quiet.

I like the fact I get a fair amount of hours. I would struggle getting this many hours doing another job, maybe. Most the staff are nice. The waitresses are also pretty, and even the restaurant bosses are nice too. Most the kitchen staff are witchy, though.

anon348640
Post 25

Back when I worked as a kitchen porter, the worst things were chefs were always on your back -- well some of them. They expect you to do 10 jobs at once: potwash, clean the kitchen, empty bins, take out trash then sort deliveries and they slip out for breaks while you're there scrubbing skirting walls and skirting boards while on your knees.

I preferred doing the washing up side of it. The only thing is you get backed up bad a lot of the time because of the waiters/waitresses who just pile everything up on the potwash area and don't clear plates so you end up doing their job for them on top of your own. It was a lot of crap due to the fact we were always understaffed. I hate when they do that -- bring huge piles in and just dump them.

It is a crap job in all honesty, but it is a job, better than nothing. On the nights I was on my own and it was busy, and never finished until about 3 a.m. most of the time.

anon345756
Post 24

The closing shifts are the worst. The chefs will wait until the end of the night and then they chuck everything at you all at once, then demand you clean the sinks and other work areas that they have made messes on. It stinks. It's like you have to do potwash, clean around and do other menial tasks, whilst the chefs stand around talking to the pretty waitress at the front. How is that fair? And yet, everyone looks down on you.

I used to work as a kitchen steward for over a year, and I'm glad I am done with it. It's a slavery job. I respect anyone who does it because I know how hard it can be. Doing nights I was always out at like 2 a.m., and some nights could be even later.

anon344143
Post 22

This is easily one of the worst jobs. You get crappy pay for nonstop, tedious work, not to mention most chefs treat you like you're their own personal slave. Don't do it. I have done this job myself and it is horrible. Even the nicest, hardest working person would get fed up with this job. It's a pain most of the time.

anon337159
Post 21

Where I work, the only perks to the dishwasher job are not dealing with people and most of the workers there. Waitresses and the restaurant managers are nice fit women, but the job is a pain the butt. If it was just washing dishes, it wouldn't be so bad. I'd prefer just doing pot washing, but I hate doing all the cleaning jobs on top of it.

anon336721
Post 20

This is a horrible job. I am mostly stuck with the closing shifts. I never get out most nights until one or two in the morning. Chefs chuck everything at you: big pans with cloths, spoons and other stuff tossed in them. It's an absolute pain and they just throw plates all over the trays just to make even more hassle. Then, at the end of the night, of course they throw water all over the floor and then get me to deck scrub the whole kitchen floor on my own, which takes ages when you just want to go home because you're burned out from working nonstop for 10 hours.

You get no respect, as others have said. They treat you like a slave. It's basically slave labour. Only do it if you're a very hard worker, have a thick skin and don't mind getting your hands dirty.

The only pros for me are the fact I don't deal with guests. I did it once at a cinema and couldn't stand it. The fact is, I pick up a good pay packet every month, but the job itself stinks.

anon336565
Post 19

You have no chance getting a break. I never take one because you get backed up and fall way behind. You struggle badly as it is, and struggle to keep up and that's working non stop for eight hours straight. Most of my shifts are six to 10 hour shifts too.

It's a crap job, but it's a job. You get treated like crap. Even the restaurant supervisor asks you to do jobs that the waiters should do. Basically, everyone is lazy except the kitchen porter, who works his butt off and still gets no respect.

anon334120
Post 18

I've been doing this job for a bit in an a la carte restaurant with a hoity-toity chef who used to have a show on the food network, and it stinks.

You're treated like trash by most everyone with only a few small exceptions. Some are nice and helpful, while others treat you like you are their personal slave.

One of the waitresses is usually too lazy to put the glasses in the racks like they are supposed to, and if you happen to be near the doorway when she walks in, she will hand you stuff instead of putting it where it belongs, as though you have nothing better to do.

What is the worst though, is that this restaurant has two kitchens, one downstairs and one upstairs. The one downstairs is the main kitchen which is used for prep and for the catering off-site. This means many trips up and down the stairs during your six to eight hour shift, as all the glassware is also stored downstairs. Then if your shift also overlaps into the supper hour, you're non-stop with pots and pans as they need them quickly in a wash and return method.

They automatically deduct 30 minutes worth of pay from every one of my shifts as though I actually get breaks or a mealtime; the most I've managed is a total of 15 minutes in small increments during an eight hour shift.

anon329232
Post 17

It is a very hard job, so don't do it unless you are desperate for a job. It does have some perks though, like free food. The chefs are actually cool where I work and all the waitresses are fit, so it gives you something to look forward to.

anon326963
Post 16

The hardest job in the restaurant is kitchen porter. Everyone treats you like crap even though they couldn't do your job of kitchen porter to save their lives. One day, I had this moody waitress tell me to speed up while I had a huge load in front of me and I said, "Do you want to have a go on the potwash on your own and see how you go?" She went bright red and was like "sorry. Most people will give it out, but they wouldn't even last a week doing a job.

I hate the chefs who talk to you like crap. There is no call for it except they think they can do what they want.

anon320827
Post 15

It depends on what the team is like, some days seem really easy, while others are so hard. It's odd, but factory work is worse. I have done both, I was a kp for two years and I also have worked in factories and it was horrible

anon312436
Post 14

I actually like this job, do it currently and have done for three years. It's not as bad as people say. Sure, the work is not pleasant and chefs are temperamental. They will yell at you when busy and stuff, but who cares? It's a stressful, fast paced environment, so that is to be expected.

You don't deal with customers, which is great as I couldn't deal with them personally. I did that once and they money about the most ridiculous crap. You can get free food and drinks, etc. One chef looked after me and always made bacon and egg sandwiches and muffins, etc., for me. It was great.

The work is totally mind numbing and repetitive, pot wash is a bit brutal, pots and pans are the worst manually scrubbing everything in between all the cleaning jobs like cleaning all the equipment, washing bins and sweeping and mopping all areas.

The time will go by quick too, because most of the time, you're busy. There's no rest for a kitchen steward. One downside is you don't get to chill out though, where sometimes, chef's waiters stand around talking and you're there busting your butt, but it's not the worst job by a mile. I have done factory work at a big metal place which is worse. That was hell. I earn good money too, but no tips, which stinks.

anon311194
Post 13

It's a lot harder than most people would think you are on your feet for 8- 12 hour shifts all time moving nonstop, pot washing and cleaning the whole kitchen areas and equipment. It is not technically hard but it is hard, messy work. You have to clean all the fryers, grills and tops, which I hated. I didn't mind the washing up part of it. The worst is cleaning at the end of your shift because chefs make such a big mess and it takes ages to sweep and mop down at the end of the night.

The good thing is you get good exercise- you don't need to go to the gym. It's not a bad job at all but hard work depends on what the team is like. If some chefs get nasty it is hell. I did it for a long time, and while it's not a nice, pleasant job, it is OK if you just get on with it and work hard.

It's not overly bad unless you do the late closings. I was always there till 2 a.m., easy.

anon308519
Post 12

It's not the worst job, just really tedious, fast paced and awkward. It gets messy. You're always busy, which is a good thing in one way as time goes quicker. I prefer it to be in between -- not overly busy or quiet. The place I work is always very busy though. I've done it for two years. At least I don't deal with customers and earn good money doing a basic job, although it's tough work. My hands get all cut and all soft from the scrubbing, etc.

It builds character though. One thing I hate is people who look down on dishwashers, for example, and it's the hardest work. Go into a kitchen anywhere and see who are the workhorses. Waitresses walk around like top dogs and they get tips too, and they leave when done.

I never leave before 2 a.m. most nights and all the cleaning at end of shift stinks. Basically, you have to and the job is very hard when busy. Pots and pans are the worst and those damn trays all burn. The chefs chuck everything at you in one burst at the end of the night.

anon307240
Post 11

Yes, I do it, and I mean it is hard work. It's naturally harder when you're on your own. Most places should have at least two or three kitchen porters on because it's not just all the washing up, but the cleaning jobs. They get you doing little crappy jobs that the chefs won't do because it's too gross for them, and even putting away deliveries, but I work it at a huge hotel. Pots and pans are the worst.

Most of all, it depends on two factors: the kitchen team and your work ethic. You must be a hard worker. Otherwise, you are screwed in this job. Try to be organized and just work hard, It's very tedious work and fast-paced.

anon305907
Post 10

Did this for a month on a work placement. I didn't take the job because I didn't like it. Fortunately, I have a job now but is it me or is this a very hard job? You don't realise how bad it is until you have done it. I only did it, as I said, for a month and I hated it. Fair play to anyone who does this job.

anon305425
Post 9

This job is hell. Waiters have an easy job compared to dishwashers. I have done serving, bussing, dishwashing, etc., all of them. You do all the dirty work, and there's a lot of graft involved. It's a wet, hot, nasty atmosphere working with stressed out chefs who are as nasty as the waitresses and all you do is get moaned at. You basically do the hardest work in the place yet get no respect and no tips. I did it for exactly one year and a bit, and I'm glad I got out of it and got another job.

I stuck it out and never moaned when I worked as a kitchen porter, but it stinks -- trust me. Chefs throw everything at you in any way: massive boxes with food stuck in them, plates in pans, spoons in pots with soup in them.

There's a reason most people don't last long in this job. It's tedious, mind-numbing labour. Expect to work late. you'll never get out before 2 a.m., while all the chefs and waitresses go home, leaving you to clean up everything.

anon303035
Post 8

Being a kitchen porter is damn hard work, very true. It is a hard grind. You are so exhausted at the end of your shifts, and your feet will kill you. I did it for over a year at a big hotel years ago. It is really horrible, They expect you to do everything, like wash pots and clean every damn, thing even corridors and outside areas. It is ridiculous and you get paid minimum wage.

There are way more negatives than positives. I once had a waitress say something to me and I answered her and the head chef would scream at me, saying stop talking, after I talked once in seven hours of nonstop hell, while the chefs stand around talking. It's hypocrisy. Forget it all. The dishwasher gets no respect. It is no wonder most people quit this job. Hell, if you can stick this job out for more than six months, some people would be impressed.

I did it for 17 months, then got another job afterward, which I like much more. The only thing I liked about it was the fact I was away from customers, and getting paid a decent amount because I was full time, but getting wet, dirty and covered in crap was not fun.

You work really late too. I remember one of my shifts was scheduled 4- 12. but I ended up working till 2:30 a.m. on my own. I was often out anywhere between midnight and 4 to 5 a.m. on real busy nights in the hotel. It's a horrible job. Fair play to anyone who does it, is all I can say.

anon300170
Post 6

I did it myself only for three months. I quit and got another job, though. It is really hard work. As others have said, you always get screamed at, and work under pressure when busy. It was always awful and I always dreaded going in. Now I work in a store and I prefer it.

anon298928
Post 5

I did it for three years, which is a very long time doing this job. It is a horrible job in truth. You get treated like crap, you're basically a slave in a kitchen. If you can deal with huge amounts of washing up quickly it might be O.K. It is never pleasant. You will get screamed at. I remember the head chef screaming at me when I chilled out for two minutes when I had worked eight hours of hell without a break. It is totally soul destroying and you'd better have a thick skin. Otherwise you will lose it after a day.

And I did waiting tables myself and I found kitchen porter to be way harder than that. It is a hard grind and it is the hardest job I have done to date but everyone finds different jobs different. I found it hard but being a waiter not so hard, if that makes sense.

anon298695
Post 4

I did it for five months before quitting. I tried my best but I just hated it. I have so much respect for people who do this job. Trust me: they get treated like crap and they are doing the hardest work. Believe me right now, the kitchen porter has the hardest work. They do the grossest work and work longer hours than chefs, in most cases because you clean down whole kitchen when the chef is finished.

Reasons I hated it: No breaks. I never had one. I was scared to, believe it or not, because I wold fall behind and once you fall behind even a bit its so hard to catch up. The work is non stop and repetitive. Ridiculous hours. I would sometimes work until 1 a.m. and be in next morning at 7. After a while it gets on your nerves. You will smell so bad. You smell of crap and you're so sweaty and have food all over you, not to mention you get soaking wet. No respect from others, although it is to be expected.

Waiters/ waitresses don't do their jobs like clearing plates or scraping food for the KP, so you end up doing their jobs and then the chefs scream at you because they have no plates. Yes, it stinks.

Bad working environment. At no point is it ever pleasant washing up mountains of plates and pans under pressure when a chef is screaming at you to speed up. The only pleasant thing is checking out all the hot waitresses and even then, you are all sweaty, so they are not going to be too impressed.

Not paid enough for amount of work you have to do.

Things I liked: Not dealing with customers; don't have to talk rubbish just get on with the job; sometimes you can be unsupervised for a while, just cleaning around.

anon279109
Post 3

I did a 10 hour shift yesterday. I started at 3 p.m. finished at 1 a.m.. It is very tough work.

anon279108
Post 2

I am a kitchen porter and have been for two years now. It's damn hard work. Before I start, I already have a huge pile waiting for me, like massive pots that take ages to clean. I have to scrub hard because the stuff that sticks to all the stuff. I hate breakfast and all the eggs and beans stuff that sticks. I work all hours -- mornings and nights. The worst is when you're on a close because you can never get out on time. I'm always there till like 2 a.m.. doing all the cleaning.

Pros: Getting paid, not dealing with customers, being able to go to work stoned and still hold a job.

Cons: Long days, wet, tired, sore feet. You get wet and dirty. Screaming, hostile co-workers when it gets busy.

Working hard nonstop and still being yelled at and waiters who look down on you and are doing nothing compared to what you are doing.

Working in a stressful environment and under pressure when busy, which is pretty tough for an entry level job.

anon250563
Post 1

A kitchen porter is basically a person who helps out in kitchen. He or she washes and has general cleaning duties around the kitchen, etc. It is a very physical job. A lot of people think this type of job is easy and it certainly isn't. It's hard labour and graft. Most kitchen porters work very long hours on their feet nonstop. You're basically the lowest rank in the kitchen so you do what the chefs say, etc.

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