by Egi Gaisie

Irrespective of position, anyone who works in a hotel kitchen must take the orientation of its basic acceptable practices seriously. It is observed that even our culinary professionals seem to easily forget themselves and they sometimes go about their tasks rather casually in this environment, the hotel kitchen. I tend to excuse them sometimes but some of the practices are just not acceptable, though they may be overlooked in a domestic kitchen.

I must confess that my best orientation in preparation to work in a kitchen was not in a hotel kitchen but a fast food, KFC; that was long time ago ‘over-the-seas’. Having been employed, my first week or so, entailed going through a pack of training materials, referred to as “study guides”.  The training materials comprised of about 35 booklets with pages ranging from 6 to 60. it was a self -study.

The booklets were in categories:”sanitation series”, “food preparation series” and “customer service series”. There was also an introductory set of booklets, among which was one I was quite thrilled about, “You are KFC”. I was expected to go through each booklet which was accompanied by an audio visual(precisely, a filmstrip), answer questions at the last page of each booklet and go to the Manager for evaluation!

Food for thought: Managers, Chefs, Kitchen supervisors, how do you orient personnel coming to your kitchens? I must confess I am concerned about our professional kitchens.

With the above background, you may appreciate why what many Ghanaian culinary professionals may see as negligible is considered otherwise by this writer.

I am yet to enter a hotel kitchen in Ghana to find cooks, sous chefs or Executive chefs with POCKET THERMOMETERS as part of their uniforms to ensure foods are cooked thoroughly and not overcooked as most Ghanaian dishes are. An understanding of the relationship between food, cooking practices and temperatures is just a brush of the ‘science of cooking’. The Ghanaian culinary professional tends to focus on the ‘art’ rather than the ‘science’.

My little understanding tells me food presentation artistically/attractively is not sufficient, it needs to be supported by desirable flavors, textures and colors(the science of cooking).

The footwear of staff is often compromised in Ghanaian hotel kitchens. I often wonder if  kitchen personnel know that what they label as a ‘sensible’ pair of shoes is adequate for their foot protection and reduces slips; that slip-resistant footwear are required for their own safety.

While not technically part of a chef’s uniform, a kitchen towel(side towel) is an important accessory for individual personnel to have on hand in the kitchen. The state of cleanliness of these kitchen towels is critical but that is usually not an issue in hotel kitchens. The concern is the towels are usually found on the shoulders of staff instead of being tucked in the waistband or in the pockets of their aprons. Often these towels have the tendency of slipping off their shoulders to the floor.

Note that outdoor clothing and footwear is not permitted in the kitchen.

A hand washing sink  is expected at the entrance of every hotel kitchen. The slogan here is CLEAN HANDS: HEALTHY FOOD. Elsewhere there is hot water and scrubbing brush to ensure the thorough washing of the hand including the fingers. There is a whole technique involved, after which dry disposable towels are used for wiping. Compare this with the practice here.

Observing personal hygiene is not limited to keeping oneself clean and fresh. Ghanaian culinary personnel are good in ensuring that their hair is restrained, finger nails are short and free from nail polish, rings, ear rings and other  jewellery are avoided while on duty. How about giving excuse duty to a staff who has caught a cold? ‘It’s a mere cold.’ We reason it away.

For many of us, nursery rhymes such as ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’, and a few others learned during our early childhood days comes quite readily to us even after forty or fifty years. Such has this phrase been: “Clean as you go.” I picked it up during cookery ‘practicals’ under the supervision of a particular teacher in secondary school. Somehow, I find this habit not easily practiced by some of our professionals. It just involves cleaning as you work; cleaning a little at a time makes it less of a chore.

We are still not used to the use of two spoons for tasting. We are never to taste anything from a stirring utensil. (the Ghanaian will say, “stop the ‘brofosem’.” Perhaps its because its easier for personnel to place a sampled temperature hot sauce on the fingers and they lick to taste the food rather than find the two spoons to do the right thing.

I cringe when I see foodstuffs placed on the floor; whether its just been bought from the market and the goods are being received or in storage where a bag of rice or yam is directly on the floor or while pounding fufu the bowl of water used to help turn the fufu is on the floor.

These are just few of the basic practices which betray us as culinary professionals. Perhaps you can think about a few more to alert us in the profession.

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