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I've been trying to figure what is the best way to describe school cafeteria workers without sounded too formal or too rude (just a normal way of saying cafeteria worker)

Would you say “食堂员工” “工人”? or is there a less formal way to imply “worker” in this instance?

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Probably not as rude as you thought. In mainland China, there was a long tradition of glorifying workers. I think that sentiment still lingers today. Here's a 80's song dedicated to janitors: – George Chen Sep 2 '14 at 4:16
Similar to being called a soldier in America. – George Chen Sep 2 '14 at 5:35

You can use 食堂师傅 as an informal way to refer to those cafeteria workers. Actually, you can use 师傅 every time you want to refer to someone with a skill, e.g.修车师傅(bike/car reparation worker). But here 师傅 has nothing to do with Master Shifu in Kungfu Panda. It is not like that Shifu :D

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Correct me if I am wrong, but I would imagine you want to use the term 食堂师傅 only for workers who are actually involved in the cooking of food, and not for other cafeteria workers such as cleaners and cashiers? – Heng-Cheong Leong Sep 2 '14 at 5:58
Well, you can call them 师傅, which shows your respect, when you intend to talk to them. If you want to refer to them when talking with someone else, 师傅 will definitely refer to those who cook. For cashiers and cleaners, there are many names you can use: 清洁大妈/大爷,收银大妈/大爷, etc. – leonard Sep 2 '14 at 6:39
Actually 师傅 here is like Master Shifu - a person who possesses certain skill and teaches apprentices. The difference is between master of cooking and master of martial art, but the sense of 'master and teacher' is the same. – NS.X. Sep 2 '14 at 7:29

Generally, I often call cafeteria workers 大哥 or 阿姨, these sound good, and they feel better than 师傅

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For description you may use 食堂/饭堂伙计, buddy in cafeteria.

伙计 also can be used during order. 伙计,给我一碟XXX。

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