Do you think you would be successful as a chef or a cook? The responsibilities that are associated with this profession are very challenging. Whether you go to a tiny cafe with only one cook, or a large restaurant, the success of that business primarily rests on the shoulders of the “kitchen commandos!”
The chef or cook in charge has to plan and oversee that their menus are prepared correctly, and also determine the quantity of food needed for each day. It is their responsibility to order all the needed supplies and see that the kitchen is keep running in tip-top condition at all times. If they are in charge of a hospital or other healthcare facility kitchen, they must also ensure that special dietary needs are met.
Keeping foods safe in the kitchen are of the utmost importance. We are late in mentioning that September was National Food Safety Month. The Centers for Disease Control estimates there were 80 million reported cases of foodborne illness, with 325,000 persons hospitalized, and around 5,000 deaths from this sickness in the U.S. alone annually. One wonders how many illnesses from food poisoning go unreported.
The person in charge of a kitchen must ensure that the kitchen is clean at all times, as bacteria can be harmful. Many times there are only one or two persons working in the kitchen of a restaurant, and it is up to them to be sure the work area is kept spotless. Professional cooks know that washing hands before and during cooking is a very important part of keeping foods safe for their patrons. Large kitchens have people dedicated to keeping the food preparation area clean.
Cooks or chefs must be alert to the many hazards that are connected with working in a kitchen – sharp knives, how to handle and store them, and the risks that other types of equipment they use impose. Cooks have to do repetitive manual tasks, such as chopping, mincing, and slicing. Lifting heavy produce or carrying heavy trays are parts of their duties, as well, and they must practice good lifting techniques. They also must avoid getting burned from deep-fat fryers, steam, or stove fires. Kitchen areas have to be kept free from clutter. Many times, cooks must maneuver quickly, and shouldn’t have to worry that they might take a fall. There should be a person who works in the kitchen that is trained in first aid in case of accidents. First and foremost, fire extinguishers should be readily available, and a first aid kit, as well.
Kitchen workers need personal protective equipment, such as non-skid shoes, certain eye protection, and cut-resistant gloves, as well as gloves for processing and handling foods. They also know to not wear loose clothing around the stove. Persons handling foods must wear hair nets.
Catering services are very popular and are responsible for preparing, delivering, and serving foods at a chosen location. Caterers know that they must transport the foods in a safe manner in order to keep them fresh. Another choice for those who live in cities, is to visit certain markets where there are chefs who have prepared gourmet foods for you to serve at your dinner table. Your guests will think you whipped up that amazing meal!
Thank goodness for those talented and skilled persons who enjoy preparing the foods we so enjoy!