Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Chef's Office-To Glove or Not To Glove

The Chef’s Office
May 2006
To Glove or not to Glove

To Glove or Not to Glove that is the question:

Man…how deep is that????????

This is going to be a pretty deep newsletter because there are so many issues to address that I am pretty adamant about, not to mention quite a few views of some of my chef friends.

I want to touch base on a little info before I get into the almighty glove debate. Although some of the information is basic knowledge to some of us, I wanted to start off the conversation by laying a foundation for this and upcoming articles pertaining to sanitation and our livelihoods.

I know that I have offered this little article before, but one of our CheffyBuddies, Ray Inhot, wrote this article a couple years ago and I really love it, so I thought I would share it with you again. “Letter from a Microbiological Contaminant” go check it out, it is pretty interesting.

Clean versus Sanitized

What is the difference between being clean and being sanitized??

Being clean is a state, just as being sanitized is...I can clean a counter, I can clean a cast iron skillet, I can clean my stove top, but does my cleaning these things stop bacteria from growing???

Absolutely not!!!

Being sanitized can only occur by using a chemical that is going to stop bacterial growth. Bacteria and germs in general are not happy unless they are multiplying, and when you take the time to sanitize your areas and your body, you are making these germs unhappy individuals (and that is exactly what they are-individuals) until the handler (meaning us) gives the bacteria and other germs room and a reason to migrate and multiply.

There are three major factors to consider in sanitation.
1) Food- its safe condition, preparation, and storage
2) People- The sanitation of the people preparing and serving food as well as those consuming it.
3) Facilities- Is the food prepared in a safe environment? Is it served in a safe manner?

Without going into details about certain foodborne anomalies such as salmonella and botulism (because that would be another story altogether), I want to explain a little bit about bacteria growth, which effects both salmonella and botulism.

A bacterium grows between certain temperatures rapidly. There are many foods that fit into this category, but the basic rule of thumb is any protein...meat, poultry, wild game, boiled or baked potatoes, soy-based products; any dairy...shelled eggs, milks, cheeses, curds, butter...the list could go on and on....

The general gist of what I am trying to say is this. Bacteria survives and grows between 45 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, Between 60 and 120 degrees, bacteria goes crazy...sometimes multiplying 6 or 7 times its normal growth and right around 99-101 degrees it goes ballistic...

These are just a few of the things to consider as far as food sanitation is concerned and I will address a bunch of these in this succession of newsletters.

To Glove or not to Glove…

One thing that we all must consider is that all of us are guilty of violations, myself very much included. The key is to be aware of all the sanitation violations that occur in our worlds and to be able to teach/re-direct our staff in the proper techniques.

I am an advocate of gloves, but gloves, as well as bare hands are carriers if the operator is not aware of proper food handling techniques.

This was best explained by my buddy Executive Chef Tom Dinardo:

”…All bacteria can stick to gloves. Gloves are meant to be disposed of after you use them. They can still cross contaminate, they can still pick up and spread bacteria just like your hands can. That's the false sense of security some people have when they put gloves on.

I used to follow a guy around the kitchen that worked in a cafe at a healthcare account I was at, and he would touch doorknobs, move a garbage can and then think he could go and make a sandwich for someone.

Because he was wearing gloves it would be okay...wrong.

Gloves are not meant to protect your hands, they are meant to protect your customers. People need to be trained how to use them...if you are making 20 ham and cheese can wear the same pair of gloves as long as you don't touch anything a cooler door, etc. When you are done, toss 'em.

I use gloves when I handle raw chicken, raw pork, some raw seafood, etc. I don't when I'm using a knife to cut the raw meats sometimes because I find them clumsy.

I hate them too, but again, it's customer perception. 9 times out of 10, if one of your guests sees someone making their food and touching all of it with their hands, they are going to wonder if they have clean hands and why is the cook handling the food without gloves. I see that our comment cards say that from our hotel if a guest observes one of my cooks not wearing gloves through our open kitchen line from the dining area. ..Chef Tom…”

This hits the thought process on the head. As handlers we always need to be aware of sanitation issues, and my friend Chef Keith and by Chef Tom both made a valid point. Chef Keith said that he wears gloves to protect himself from the food, not to protect a client from him…it is the difference between being aware versus unaware of sanitation.

Although I am not one that demands the use of gloves, I do kind of insist, especially when handling hazardous foods or a food that is leaving the kitchen directly to a customer. At first, I really hated using those darned things, but now that I have become accustomed to it, it is almost like second nature.

But there are things that go on in this industry that some just let pass as a norm and I have quite a few pet peeves as far as that goes.

Everytime you leave the kitchen and then return, the first thing you are to do is wash your hands…don’t care, that’s the bottom line…I once had a cook that got ticked at me when he came in the kitchen and then proceeded to go back to work. I told him to wash his hands, he said “Chef, I just went to the bathroom and washed my hands there…” And then I asked him how he opened the door….needless to say, he immediately went to wash his hands….Instances like this are things that people really don’t think about, but like I said it is the difference between being aware and unaware.

Never and I mean never stick your finger in food….My solution to this problem is that I keep a water pitcher full of spoons all around the kitchen. We affectionately refer to them as “CheffySpoons”…and when the example is led, it does not take too long for everyone to follow suit without having to be confrontational.

Food is a sensual medium, always has been and always will.

Chef Keith and I got into this conversation and here are a few of his insights…

“…OK Mike...

I gotta chime in here.....

I was trained by some classic old school chefs who actually encouraged me to touch food when I was learning how to cook. Rightalong with touching the food they taught me to ALWAYS have clean hands as well-stressing the importance of sanitation.

I love touching food with my hands and here is why: Cooking is very much a sensual thing for me. I use my 5 senses so much. When I hear the sizzle I know my pan is hot, when I see the outside of my pot pie turning brown I know its close to being done, when I smell the bread coming from inside the oven I know its close, when I taste for various flavors of any dish I know which ones to accentuate-and yes, when I feel the doneness of the filet mignon with my fingers I know how much longer to cook it to the right temperature. I can tell so much about food when I touch it...I can touch for temperature hot/cold, I can touch for dryness moist/wet, I can touch for viscosity of a sauce thick/thin, I can touch for textures-smooth/coarse, I can touch for doneness-firm/pliable, etc.

I am actually a much worsened and handicapped cook when I put on a pair of gloves. It takes all of these senses that I have learned away from me, strips away my culinary "oneness" with the food and makes me feel like an idiot in the kitchen. In the past I have only worn gloves to protect MYSELF from the food-not to protect anyone else from me. Times are changing and companies have their rules, but it’s hard for a chef like me to conform. Just being honest......

I know I’m not alone in this "touching of food" sensation I have going on here. I had a chef instructor at JWU who never used flatware when he ate food. (unless the situation demanded it of course) but he liked to eat everything with his bare hands..yes... salads, entrees and desserts all with his fingers. He said that’s the only way to really know food was to get close and personal with it. It made for a more ritualistic approach to eating and it was more personal and sensual for him.
In my case, that’s the way I cook....I am a nut about my sanitation and hygiene-clean sanitized counters, areas, cutting boards and aprons & uniforms. Only a few soiled hand towels in a solution bucket to change a few times a day. I love touching food-
There, I said it. Spank me…”
Executive Chef Keith Angell

OK, that’s it for today’s issue of the Chef’s Office, we will be back in another week or so to carry on this conversation and bring up some pet peeves of Chef’s as far as food and sanitation are concerned. So stay tuned.

Here is hoping that Peace and Serenity find its way into your day today and everyday…

Chef Michael Hayes
“Pleasing the World, One Palate At A Time”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just the thought of a healthy man, who must deal with his morning wood daily, touching my food bare-handed makes me want to puke. Compound that notion with his touching his penis through out the day when he goes to urinate and I am totally horrified. Wear clean gloves and change them often. This is non-negotiable.