At the center of every restaurant stands a station like a beating heart.
Just as a heart pushes and pulls blood to keep a body alive, a dishwasher maintains the flow of dinnerware, glassware, and kitchenware essential to running a restaurant.
They have, arguably, the most important job in the house. Without them, the whole machine quickly comes to a grinding halt.
The French call them plonguers, but they have other names like pearl divers (referring to white plates hiding under soapy water), sud busters, dish dogs, and in Canada, dish pigs.
In Thomas Keller’s star-studded restaurants, they are referred to as porters.
The most common name and most modest is dishwasher.
Bourdain is famously quoted as saying, “Everything important I learned, I learned as a dishwasher.”
It’s where many of us get our start in the service industry, and it teaches us to work fast, efficiently, and safely. You learn the language of a restaurant, the names of the tools we use, the ebbs and flows of service, and how to navigate a busy restaurant without hurting yourself or others.
It’s where we build our foundation and discover if we love this crazy industry of hospitality.
Many people have humble beginnings as a dishwasher; Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, Micheal Dell (CEO & Founder of Dell Computers), Buzz Aldrin (first man on the moon), Jay Leno, Emeril Lagasse, Ronald Regan, George Orwell—the list can go on for a while.
I started as a dishwasher, and even after years of cooking, if I was in between jobs, I could always pick up a dish shift at a local spot.
While getting a job washing dishes might be easy, as you can learn from Pete Jordan’s book, Dishwasher, One Man’s Quest To Wash Dishes In All Fifty States, doing the job day after day can be brutal.
Once he became a full-time sud buster, Pete describes the physical changes to his body, like acclimating to scalding hot water, developing muscular arms, shoulders, and back from moving fully loaded glass racks and filled trash cans, and split fingertips from constantly being submerged in water.
As a cook, server, bartender, busser, or any other position in the house, you’ll at some point receive words of praise from your patrons.
—”Tell the cook this dish was perfect.”
—”Your service was amazing. Thank you so much for a wonderful evening.”
—”How did you make this drink? It’s literally changing my life right now.”
Customer feedback and compliments go a long way in helping us get through the weeds. It helps shape our work performance and lets us know when we’re doing things right.
No one comments on the cleanliness of silverware and plates.
—”Wow, there’s no food stuck to my fork! Give the dishwasher my compliments.”
Everyone expects clean dishes, and when a dishwasher does their job to the highest standard, the thought of them toiling away in clouds of steam deep in the restaurant never crosses a customer’s mind.
Dishwashers don’t receive these words of encouragement and affirmation from the public, yet they still work hard for no praise and will likely still be hosing down plates after everyone else has clocked out.
Not only do they knock out dishes, they often have many other duties, including cleaning the floors, emptying immensely heavy trash cans, putting away deliveries, and peeling and chopping food for Chef.
If someone yarks in the bathroom or there’s a clogged toilet, more often than not, a dishwasher is asked to mend the situation.
I had the privilege of working with a dishwasher, Antonio, who would cook staff meal every Sunday outside of his regular duties.
Though Antonio never worked the line, everyone looked forward to his posole, chilaquiles, or potato rolled-tacos. Servers kept an eye on him as he cooked, and once he was finished, everyone would line up to make sure they didn’t miss out.
Antonio was the perfect example of an exemplary dishwasher.
Year after year, he cranked out dishes with a great attitude. He always had a smile and a joke (usually inappropriate, even for kitchen standards), and he was always willing to lend a helping hand whenever he could.
In honor of all the hardworking Dishwashers out there, Poached wants to show your favorite Dishwasher some well-deserved recognition. Nominate a Dishwasher you think could use a chance at winning a $500 Gift Card by heading to Poached’s Instagram Story and adding your favorite Dishwasher, or tag us in an Instagram Story. We’ll pick one lucky winner Monday, May 23rd, 2022.