by Egi Gaisie

This is not a popular subject to delve in, but it is necessary. I am therefore going to be treading a tight rope.

How does it feel like to be stigmatized as an individual? It must be difficult despite efforts to undo the negative image. It would be harder still, I think, if you are a member of a profession which has been stigmatized. We all know a few of such professions, yet among them we also know professionals who come ‘clean’ and have proved to be exceptional.

 I have often wondered if the professionals in the kitchen are aware of this stigma hanging like an albatross over their shoulders. While I empathize with the ‘clean’ ones among them, I have often wondered what efforts could be made to remove the stigma, at least in Ghana.

As usual establishing a common understanding is critical in continuing the discussion.

Taking anything from an employer without permission is stealing. It does not make any difference if the item is something to be thrown out or if someone is taking food to feed their family. This forms the basis of the discussion which follows.

I have caught a kitchen staff with the heads of smoked fish. First, I was embarrassed and I was embarrassed for the staff. I was also disappointed. Was this really his/her first time? Could the individual have taken some uncooked lobster the previous day; some left over or excessive amounts of food last week and many other things earlier without being caught? Was she alone or the practice was done in turns among the staff? Those were thoughts I battled with.

Would you fire for stealing food irrespective of the type of food? That theft involved a number of fish heads.

Personnel sometimes purchase foodstuffs for the kitchen. In the market, they are given surpluses. Who gets those surpluses; the kitchen or the individual?

A few times I have observed some kitchen staffs that work long hours prepare private orders taken for cakes and pastries, at the job site, in the kitchen. They claimed they brought their own ingredients but they never bring their own equipment do they? The hotel’s equipment, fuel and time are utilized. How about that? Would you fire?

Sometimes it is equipment which are ‘borrowed’ (being taken home without permission but with the intention of returning them).

Would your attitude be different if the individual is walking out with a dozen matching ramekins, uncooked food or leftover food?  Some would fire for stealing equipment and uncooked food but not leftover or food to be thrown away. Wouldn’t this be inconsistency?

If you are in a position of power, how would you react? Would your reaction be influenced by what has been stolen?

If someone steals from you…there is no excuse; it is wrong. It is a violation of trust.

A lot of losses and waste occur in hotel kitchens particularly where foods are prepared from scratch which ultimately leads to increasing cost of food. A little here and a little there adds up to likely profits going down the drain. Theft is therefore costly.

What could be the possible causes?

  • A lack of trust between staff and management
  • Organizational dishonesty
  • General employee unhappiness.
  • Unfair or inequitable employment conditions often associated with hospitality workplaces.

Something needs to change. Perhaps the Ghana Chefs Association will need to take ‘this bull’ by the horn; or would that be muddying some waters? It will be history in the making if they did.

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