Anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen would be lying if they told you the stewards didn’t matter. The men and women in the dish bin are the unsung heroes of a kitchen. They don’t ever receive the same level of clout as chefs, or  the praises of servers, but make no mistake without these guys everyone in the kitchen would be weeded.


“The unsung heroes in the kitchen”


Night in and night out they are the custodians of clean. They dictate the speed of the restaurant and ensure both the front of house and back of house can keep up with the pace of rush. Constantly moving, forever battling trays full of dirty dishes, napkin-stuffed pilsner pints, and the occasional broken wine glass. They look at the mess you’re handing them, smile, and go about their business. Tending to be an introverted crowd while at work – more concerned about keeping their heads down and finishing their work, dishwashers understand they are at the bottom of the restaurant hierarchy.

ACC dishwasher, Ray Schroeder  Photo Cred - Robert Span
ACC dishwasher, Ray Schroeder
Photo Cred – Robert Span


However, this doesn’t mean they enjoy having plates plastered with puree slammed down in front of them. Naturally, such rude actions can agitate your stewards. Rightfully so, the typical unwritten rule in a restaurant is, “keep the dishwashers happy.”  If they are feeling disrespected then that puree-plastered plate you just slammed in their station will either come back at your face or sit there untouched the rest of the night.



The men and women who work in the dish pit don’t want any extra nonsense during their shifts. No one in the industry does, but when you’re up to your elbows in grease, water, and gunk then one can become a bit more perturbed.

Perhaps it is because I worked my ways up the kitchen ranks from being a dishwasher back in high school. I understand how despicable the job can be. Sometimes these guys deal with more nonsense in a night than any server or chef can understand. All the sauce pots and dishware used during an afternoon of prep is awaiting these guys as soon as they arrive at work. Stewards walk into a mess and handle ‘the mess’ all night.  That little demon child at table twenty, who just happened to heave all over – guess who has to clean up that mess.  That annoying ten top that decides to come in just before closing; well once the food is cooked, the chefs leave. Once the table finishes desert the server(s) can go, but the stewards have to wait until all the dishes and silverware come back plus shut down their machine and clean their areas (not to mention the take out the last bit of trash).

Their job may not seem like hard work, but without them everything falls apart. If the dishes are not clean and put back in the proper places, lord knows the front of house will have a meltdown. If the dirty sauce pans and skillets are not returning to the line quick enough you better expect a chef to start throwing a temper tantrum (along with some pans). The dishwashers enable everyone in the restaurant to do their jobs. More importantly they allow everyone to do their jobs with as minimal stress as possible. Without the dish crew absolutely nothing would be accomplished.

photo cred - Ray Schroeder
photo cred – Ray Schroeder


It is why every chef (and server) should make sure these guys are taken care of day in and day out. They should get a little special treatment during staff meal or get first dibs on any leftovers from prep. Since they are doing the job no one else wants to do stewards deserve some of the extra perks the kitchen has to offer. Dishwashers epitomize the ‘pay-it-forward’ attribute to this industry. If you take care of them – they’ll take care of you. Dishwashers don’t need to be reminded about how deplorable their job can be. Instead, they should be reminded how appreciated and valuable they are. So, next time your restaurant crew goes out for an after-shift drink buy them a round and tell your stewards, “Thanks for being the unsung heroes in the kitchen.”