Richard recently completed ServSafe, a sanitation course that is now required in New York State for all food service operators. This series of classes was developed by the National Restaurant Association and taught locally at Ulster Boces in Port Ewen. Here are some of his thoughts:
“You can only imagine that a state mandated food safety class could have the potential to be a crashing bore, but I’m happy to report that the three four hour classes taught by Victor Arnao were both interesting and informative. They were peppered with numerous videos illustrating real life situations, instructions about food safety and finally “the dreaded” exam, which I passed with flying colors.
I’d say 50% of this course is common sense, things your mother told you about basic cleanliness and hygiene. A good chunk of the information however, was stuff the average person OR cook would not necessarily have considered. For example potato salad… did you know that the potatoes will spoil quicker than the mayonnaise and are more likely to be a cause of food related illness? I certainly didn’t.
Here are some other important tips I learned:
- Cleaning work surfaces and sanitizing them are two different procedures that require clearly labeled buckets for each job. We now have them both here in our kitchen.
- Some types of bacteria can cause illness and others spoil food; some can survive freezing and others are not destroyed by cooking. We learned how to identify many of these and understand the environments in which they grow, which is the first step in controlling them.
- How to calibrate those little thermometers cooks wear in their shirt pockets to monitor their accuracy
- The best way to wash your hands! (a minimum of 20 seconds of vigorous scrubbing with soap and hot water up to your wrists – then dry them with a disposable towel). Now you’re ready to put on your food service gloves!
It was great to meet other people in our local food service industry: a woman in charge of a school cafeteria, another from Meals-on-Wheels, the Queen’s Galley, and so on. It’s interesting to note that those people who work with children or older people have an even greater responsibility for food safety, as they are often more at risk due to food related illnesses.
All in all, the entire experience left me feeling proud to be a part of the food service industry and a heightened sense of responsibility to our customers. I have always worked hard at running a clean operation and it felt good to see that we were doing all the right stuff. Over the years the health inspectors have often commented that if everyone were as committed to cleanliness as we are it would make their job much easier. Many thanks to Victor Arnao for teaching such a great class.”