My dish hose has a mind of its own.
Every time I use it to spray a geyser of water onto a dirty plate, it splashes clean whatever it touches — and shoots much of the detritus back into my face. By the end of my shift, I’ve ingested specks of just about every dish at this restaurant: rice, seafood, salsa, black beans, you name it. And each time I set the wriggling rubber snake down between tasks, it repositions itself, obliging me to apologize to colleagues for soaking more than just myself.
Until recently, the most dishes I’ve ever washed were at home, following a dinner party for 10. So why would I sign up to do it at a 250-seat restaurant? Because I wanted to experience firsthand the job that CNN star Anthony Bourdain says taught him “every important lesson of my life,” the one New York chef Daniel Boulud calls “the best way to enter the business.”
Plenty of bandwidth has been lavished on the men and women who cook the food, pour the wine and otherwise pamper us in restaurants. Scant attention has been paid to some of the lowest-paid workers with the most responsibility, the ones chefs say are the linchpins of the restaurant kitchen. “You can’t have a successful service in a restaurant without a great dishwasher,” says Emeril Lagasse, the New Orleans-based chef and cookbook author with 14 restaurants across the country. “Bad ones will bring the ship down.”
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