Friday, March 04, 2011

Teaching food safety

I'm not the only person on staff with expertize in the cooking arts. Over the past 15 months, I've tasted a number of wonderful dishes that staff have brought in to share. Plus, several staff can prepare a meal in my absence.

Cooking is just one aspect of my job. While it's my most public function, my expertize extends beyond the kitchen. As the chef, I purchase all food for the house, develop menus, plan meal production and supervise residents in the kitchen.

Last week I explained one of my most important tasks to staff at our weekly training session. I discussed the importance of food safety on the kitchen. This topic is critical because line staff supervise the resident cooks on weekends when I'm enjoying two days off.

I used a PowerPoint slide-show to present the topic. Back when I taught food safety to prison cooks, I used a four-fold approach to emphasize the importance of developing habits that prevent foodborne illnesses in large institutional kitchens.

I led the training with a review of important terms, like "potentially hazardous food" and "time-temperature abuse." I explained that potentially hazardous foods are typically moist, high in protein and are slightly acidic. These are the foods that are associated with outbreaks of foodborne illness.

I next introduced the four elements of a well-designed food safety program. Such a system establishes controls to prevent:
  • Time and temperature abuse
  • Cross-contamination
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Improper cleaning and sanitation
I will cover each point in detail over the coming two or three weeks.

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