“[Working as a dishwasher] was the first time I went home proud of myself after a day’s work, the first time I wanted the respect and worked for the respect of others. Dishwashing was, in a world of gray areas, and ambiguity, absolute: Dishes went in dirty. They came out clean. You either kept up the pace or you didn’t. Merit was immediately and measurably apparent.” – Anthony Bourdain
Dishwashers are at the core of every restaurant. Without them, the whole place would go down the drain. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 504,770 people nationwide are employed as restaurant dishwashers. This critical role has proven to lay a firm foundation for the careers of notable leaders and industry legends, including Thomas Keller and Anthony Bourdain who both started out in the dish pit.
Responsibilities often go far beyond diving for pearls. From the glasses that guests drink out of to the knives cooks use to prep ingredients, the fruits of the dishwasher’s labor touch everyone within a restaurant's biome. To be a dishwasher, you not only have to be extremely humble, you also have to be willing to pitch in and literally get dirty – every shift. The bending, stooping, reaching, pushing and lifting required to maintain a clean, safe and sanitary kitchen are necessary and physically demanding.
Dish Pigs from CBC Short Doc offers a taste of what it’s like to walk in a dishwasher’s shoes. This short documentary follows the day-to-day lives of three eccentric dishwashers in Montreal, telling the often untold and underappreciated story of the restaurant dishwasher.