A Chef Talks About Food Safety
Q. What do you think are the biggest food safety challenges facing chefs today?
Jonathan Gelman: Allergens and cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is definitely the bigger issue but at the same time, you still have allergens that can severely hurt people if you’re not careful. Hopefully, you’ve prepared yourself for that.
Q. Do you work with both your front-of-house and back-of-house staffs on allergens?
JG: Yes, in depth. The front of the house — being that they’re our eyes and ears when they’re speaking with the guests — they’re the only ones that can interpret or understand the severity of our guests’ allergies. They can communicate that to us in the kitchen so we can get it right and don’t hurt anybody.
Q. And it also takes training on the menu items themselves.
JG: Yes. We have ongoing training so our staff is educated on all the menu items that we serve and what they can do outside of the menu to accommodate those concerns.
Q: Is food safety and cross-contamination strictly a “back-of-house” issue, or does it come into play front of house as well?
JG: It is just as important for our front-of-house staff to have a comprehensive knowledge of health department standards as our back-of-house staff. It’s the same on both sides of the fence. It takes constant daily coaching. If someone is not doing something correctly, they’re being coached on how to do the correct thing. For ongoing training, I bring in instructors every six months. They’ll come in and do group training for about two hours on allergens and all food safety regulations.
Q: How is the Rubbermaid Commercial Products Color-Coded Foodservice System working for you?
JG: Using a color-coded system offers a huge advantage. We use all the products that are offered by Rubbermaid Commercial Products — cutting boards, tongs, high-heat spatulas, containers, all with color-coded symbols. They leave it up to you as the operator to decide how to use them.
They have recommendations which we follow — blue for fish, yellow for chicken. It makes it really easy as a supervisor or kitchen manager or chef to walk into your prep areas or line and, right off the bat, visually identify the different color boards and know that it’s being done properly. If I walk into my banquet kitchen, I can immediately see that if someone’s cutting lettuce on a yellow board, I’m going to go question them right away. It encourages staff to rotate those utensils and cutting boards more so than if they were just all white, for instance.
A few weeks after we implemented the program at the Coto de Caza Golf & Racquet Club, the health inspector walked in and his jaw just dropped. He said, “Wow! This is amazing,” because we had it all organized and color-coded. Before leaving, he said, “I wish all the properties I have to go to had these tools in place, because it makes it
so much easier for everybody.”
For more information on Rubbermaid’s color-coded system, visit www.rubbermaidcommercial.com