Imagine a day without a kitchen porter? It’s a serious question.
After they’ve stopped laughing, leading chefs from around the country will give responses like – “It wouldn’t be very pleasant”, “Chaos, a blinking mess”, “I’d rather not”, “It’s no fun, it puts you all in the Sh*t!”. These are all real responses that we received when interviewing chefs on our quest to find Kitchen Porter of the Year.
Why would we choose to celebrate the work of the lowly kitchen porter?
Scratch below the surface of many chefs who work in leading international kitchens and you won’t find many who haven’t done a stint as a KP. It got us thinking; why wouldn’t we want to associate ourselves with the chefs of the future? And so the KP of the Year concept was born. Outwardly, very little credence is given to kitchen porters; the potato peelers, the pot washers, the cleaning kings, the recyclers. Ask any chef about their KP and they become animated, impassioned and reflective. The KP is often overlooked in the commercial kitchen but they are the critical cog, the backbone of any successful operation.
Being a KP might not offer a professional qualification (although many will hold a variety of health, food and hygiene related certificates) but it comes with one massive, often over-looked opportunity; it could be the first step towards becoming a successful chef. Absolute fact.
The great thing about the catering industry is that it doesn’t discriminate against background, education, gender, ethnicity etc etc etc??..but it does reward hard work, passion, creativity and the desire to do well. That starts with being a KP and goes all the way through to the leading chefs in the world.
There’s no question that being a KP is a bloody tough job. On our travels we met Tom Kitchin, chef patron of The Kitchin in Leith (and former KP). He spoke about his main man Idris, who is one of the KPs at the Michelin starred restaurant. Idris conducts his regular duties with diligence and often humour. During Ramadan he will have fasted for 16 hours but continues his duties, in a hot environment, without a mutter of discontent. There’s no better illustration of the mettle required to be a KP.
The route to becoming a good chef?
Being a KP is a credible route to being successful in the kitchen. It provides a solid grounding not only in the operation of a kitchen but the ingredients, the preparation, sourcing, recycling; in fact there isn’t a facet to which a KP isn’t exposed.
Tom Kitchin suggests “It’s a great opportunity for young people. If you can prove yourself as a KP in a good establishment that could be the gateway to becoming a top chef.” Will Holland who is currently head chef at Coast, himself an ex-KP, illustrated further: “I used to harass the chef to give me food related jobs whether it was de-bearding mussels or preparing wild mushrooms. Just taking an interest in what you want to progress on to do is key”.
Emily Watkins from The Kingham Plough, also an ex-KP, summarises: “A good kitchen porter is priceless”.
If you know, or want to recognise a priceless KP, enter Winterhalter’s competition.