School kitchen assistant (Roles and responsibilities)
Updated 11 April 2023
School kitchen assistants play an important role in a school's daily operation by ensuring students receive nutritious meals. They work alongside chefs to prepare, cook and serve meals to students, promoting healthy eating habits and supporting their overall wellbeing. If you're looking for a job that involves preparing food and working with children, this role may suit you. In this article, we explain what the position entails, including their responsibilities and skills to help you decide if this is a career you want to pursue.
What is a school kitchen assistant?
A school kitchen assistant is an individual who works in the food service department of a school to assist in the preparation and serving of meals to students. They often work under the guidance of chefs, and they may be responsible for a wide range of tasks, such as preparing ingredients, cooking food, cleaning equipment and kitchen areas and ensuring that the team follows food safety regulations. These assistants play an important role in the daily operation of schools and are also responsible for cleaning kitchen equipment and facilities and ordering the necessary food and supplies.
Job requirements to become a school kitchen assistant
The specific job requirements for a kitchen assistant in a school may vary depending on the school and the food service provider you work for. The following are the general job requirements for a school-based kitchen assistant:
There are typically no specific educational requirements to gain a role like this one, though having secondary school qualifications or equivalent is beneficial. Some employers may prefer candidates with GCSEs or equivalent qualifications in subjects such as English, maths and food technology. While formal education is not mandatory for this role, kitchen assistants who work in schools require knowledge of food safety regulations and the ability to follow them correctly.
Food safety training
School kitchen assistants have knowledge of food safety regulations and have usually completed a food safety training course, such as a Level 2 Award in Food Safety in Catering. This course covers such topics as food hygiene, food storage, personal hygiene, cleaning and cross-contamination. A range of organisations provide food safety training courses, including training providers, colleges and industry bodies. It's important to choose a course that the Food Standards Agency recognises and meets the specific requirements of the jobs you're applying for.
Some schools and food service providers may require candidates to have previous experience in a similar role when looking for a school kitchen assistant. Others may be willing to provide on-the-job training. In both cases, previous experience is beneficial and can increase your chances of securing the job.
Previous experience might include working in a kitchen or in a food service position, such as a catering assistant or kitchen porter role. These roles give you the opportunity to develop transferable skills, such as customer service or food hygiene skills. Experience in preparing and cooking food, handling kitchen equipment and working in a team are valuable skills that you can apply to a kitchen assistant role that's based in a school.
A positive attitude
Besides qualifications and work experience, having a passion for cooking and an interest in food can help you secure a kitchen assistant role at a school. Successful candidates are usually those who show a willingness to learn and develop new skills. School-based kitchen assistants also have a positive attitude and strong communication skills, which help them perform their duties effectively.
Physical strength and stamina are helpful to those in this role because of the physically demanding nature of the job. For example, they often stand for long periods of time while working. The role also typically involves lifting and carrying heavy objects, such as bags of ingredients, kitchen equipment and boxes of supplies.
Kitchen assistants may also bend and reach frequently while working in a kitchen, such as when they're retrieving ingredients from low shelves or reaching for pots and pans on high ones. This means it's often helpful to be flexible and have good mobility. Lastly, assistants are to be able to work in a fast-paced and warm environment.
Kitchen assistants undergo background checks before starting work. Schools conduct these checks to ensure these professionals can work with children and don't pose a risk to their safety. This process may include passing a Disclosure and Barring Service check. This is a criminal record check that reveals any convictions or cautions you may have.
A school may also carry out a right-to-work check to ensure that you can legally work in the UK. This involves verifying your identity and checking your eligibility to work in the country. A school may also conduct an employment history check to verify your previous employment and check for any discrepancies in your employment history. They may also contact the references you provide in your CV to determine whether you're the right fit for the organisation.
What are the responsibilities of a kitchen assistant in a school?
The responsibilities of such an assistant can vary depending on the specific school and its food service operations. They typically handle tasks related to the preparation and serving of meals to students, such as:
Food preparation: kitchen assistants often help chefs prepare food by cutting vegetables and fruit and measuring ingredients.
Cooking and serving: they may also cook and serve meals to students by heating pre-made meals or preparing meals from scratch to serve.
Cleaning and maintenance: they clean kitchen equipment and facilities by washing dishes, sweeping and mopping floors and maintaining a clean and hygienic environment that's safe for food preparation.
Food safety: assistants ensure that a kitchen team follows all food safety regulations by monitoring food storage temperatures, labelling and dating food items and properly storing them.
Inventory and ordering: school-based kitchen assistants may take an inventory of kitchen supplies and order food and other kitchen items when necessary.
Dietary restrictions: kitchen assistants are aware of students' dietary restrictions and allergies and take the necessary steps to ensure they provide students with suitable meals.
Related: 10 essential chef skills
Kitchen assistant skills
These professionals possess various skills that help them carry out their duties effectively. These include:
Food handling skills: assistants know how to prepare and handle food safely and hygienically, cut and prepare ingredients and measure quantities accurately.
Cooking: kitchen assistants can cook a variety of foods by following recipes and adjusting portion sizes based on the number of students they're serving.
Cleaning: these professionals know how to keep a kitchen and its equipment clean by washing dishes, wiping counters and sweeping and mopping floors.
Time management: kitchen assistants know how to manage their time effectively to ensure they prepare and serve meals on schedule.
Attention to detail: school kitchen assistants are detail-oriented, which helps them ensure that their team follows all food safety regulations and prepares meals correctly with the correct portion sizes.
Teamwork and taking instruction: kitchen assistants work well as part of a team, following instructions and communicating effectively with chefs and other kitchen staff.
Adaptability: they know how to adapt to changes to menu items, portion sizes and the number of students they're serving.
Customer service: kitchen assistants interact with students, teachers and other school staff in a friendly and professional manner.
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