Ready, Set, Cook

When is the last time the ovens or the food thermometers were calibrated? Do staff check the food production label when products are cooked and stored? Does management ensure that staff members wash their hands? These are 101 foodservice principles that are essential to getting employees ready to perform. Cooking is an art and, as with any performer, the staff is on stage for each meal performance. An operator’s job is to ensure that the performers have the correct props, tools and script to deliver a quality performance.

As with any artistic production, there needs to be a clear understanding of the plot of the story. Fortunately or unfortunately, scripts and plots start and end with the FDA’s food codes. To name just a few:

· 3-401.11 cooking of raw animal foods.

· 3-401.12 microwaving cooked foods.

· 3-402.12 plant food cooking for hot holding.

· 3-401.14 non-continuous cooking of raw animal foods

· 3-402.11 freezing parasite destruction.

· 3-403.11 reheating of hot held foods,

· 3-5 and all of it subcategories, which relate to temperature and time control (TSC)

What can be a simple cooking process, however, can seem daunting and overwhelming, filled with the obstacle within the regulatory script after reading all the regulatory components in the FDA code.

Fortunately for foodservice operators, technology helps us monitor the cooking process. With the challengers of recruiting qualified staff, the push to improve output and the industry moving to toward advanced cooking processes, operators have no choice but to get on board with computerized food safety control equipment. Whether the monitoring equipment is part of the individual piece of equipment, such as combi oven, cook and hold oven, blast chiller or convection oven or there is an integrated system for the entire food process, food monitoring is essential in today’s kitchens. Relying on staff to document all critical control points in the HACCAP process constantly and accurately is an unrealistic expectation.

Another important factor to consider is, when during DOH inspections questions are asked about the quality and safety of the food process, that it is more creditable to show a stack of computer-generated forms than the hand-written forms we are accustomed to. Whatever the operation, food safety is all about knowing what is happening at each critical control point of the cooking process.

With all the focus on safer operations, operators who adapt these systems should use the information they produce to communicate to their customers that they take food safety seriously and care about their diners. Establishing good safety practices is not just about following the regulatory guidelines, it is also about good business and improving revenues. Making food safety a best practice can only catapult operations to new levels, both in quality and in consistency.