The latest stars in the world of fine dining are not a trendy new class of Fancy Culinary School graduates or a new breed of pastry chefs or wine sommeliers.
The Washington Post recently reported that top restaurants are starting to give dishwashers their due, including the story of Ali Sonko–a dishwasher of 13 years that was recently made partner at the world renowned restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen.
It’s simple–top chefs are starting to recognize that the heart of the restaurant is the dishwasher. A poor one can bring a restaurant to a grinding halt, affecting the operations and the experience. And many dishwashers take on an important and diverse set of responsibilities outside of just washing dishes.
All this despite the fact that the average dishwasher in the U.S. (there are approximately 500,000) makes $20,000 annually.
Many superstar chefs got their start washing dishes so that they’d first learn where everything goes, how a kitchen really operates, and what the kitchen cleaning staff is going through when they have issues or complaints.
Food superstar Emeril Lagasse said, “You can’t have a successful service without a great dishwasher.” Lagasse even designed his most recent restaurant in New Orleans with the dishwashers in mind by creating a layout that would optimize efficiency for these quiet kings of the kitchen.
Fellow foodie Anthony Bourdain told The Washington Post that being a dishwasher taught him every important lesson in his life. He pinpointed a critical leadership lesson by saying:
“Respect the people you work with who work hard, shut up and learn, and be prepared to accept that you might well be the stupidest person in the room.”
You see, the thing is we’re all exposed to “dishwashers” around us in our workplace. Maybe they empty trash, water plants, do maintenance on line 7, clean the bathrooms, or answer phones.
And they, like dishwashers, despite their pay-grade, are probably some of the hardest working people you will ever meet. Ever.
So they, like everyone in your workplace, deserve respect.
Maybe you can’t make them a partner in your firm, but you can at least treat them like a partner in the great dance that is work life–making small (or grand) gestures to make them feel needed.
Progressive chefs teach servers how to arrange dirty wares to make the dishwasher’s job easier. Maybe you can do small things to help the “grunt work” require less grunts. After all, such workers are trying to earn, provide, do good work, live their values, and leave the day’s work behind with their head held high–just like you are.
Net, make such working folks the new star of your workplace, even with just a kind word, an inquiry, some conversation, some recognition, or a helping hand. Like the highest EQ restaurants, your workplace can serve up helpings of gratitude.
This article by Scott Mautz also appeared on Inc.com. To read more Inc. articles by Scott Mautz, click here.
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