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Treat Or Threat? The Easter Brunch Buffet

 

easter-egg

Many a time I’ve been in charge of setting up the Easter brunch buffet and over the years I’ve seen many things in that self service line that have been, well lets just say… gross.  How can you make sure that your guests have a nice Easter experience and don’t get “grossed out” by other guests or even get food poisoning from your buffet?  Well, here are a few simple rules.

The most important thing is to assign a buffet attendant. This person should be responsible for the guest side of the area.  They should be interacting with the guest like a host and monitoring for guests returning to the buffet with dirty plates or utensils and providing them with clean ones.  The attendant should also be shifting utensils around in the area to make sure the handles that the guests are touching are extended away from the food and if something falls on the ground,  the attendant will be there to replace it.

Children should be monitored closely in self service areas as well, schools report major incidents of children touching food and returning it to the lunch line and lunch workers are instructing them to keep the foods on their plates. It might even be viewed by parents as a nice touch to have the buffet attendant helping their children with their plates.

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Don’t forget that time and temperature are also an important factor in keeping food safe in a self service area.  Even though keeping foods cold with ice or hot in warmers is the best way to keep food safe it is also acceptable to just use it up in a reasonable amount of time.  For the most part using food within four hours is the best way of using time to keep food safe but remember someone needs to be checking. Make sure that there are labels on food containers for foods that need to be used up quickly so the buffet attendant will know when the food was put out and when it needs to be thrown away.

And lastly, if you do an omelette station make sure those eggs are being handled correctly.  It’s recommended that the eggs are prepared ahead of time but when these eggs are pooled they must be kept cold with ice or in the refrigerator and can never be left out on the counter.

There is nothing better than a really great Easter brunch, especially with a nice mimosa. But it could easily turn into a disaster for your facility if you don’t take precautions to keep your customers safe or make they sure don’t get a negative perception because of what other guests might be doing. I hope that following these tips will help ensure nobody wakes up the next morning with food poisoning and that you don’t end up with a bad yelp review.

Happy Easter!

Valentines Day: Let’s Not Break Any Hearts

heart

Valentines day is just around the corner.  Imagine making reservations, arranging care for the kids and taking the time to visit a new restaurant for a romantic evening with a loved one.  When you get home there are chocolates and champagne on ice for a romantic movie when your partner says their stomach is hurting, then they begin to sweat and finally have to excuse themselves to the bathroom where they stay for the rest of the evening. Not such a nice evening after all is it?  But what could have caused it?

Well lets rewind this scenario back to the restaurant, earlier in the day, during the lunch shift.  As the lunch shift winds down, the cook will set up for the night shift.  Part of the set up is to make sure all of the food is fully stocked.  But they are also required to change out all of the utensils for clean ones but in the chaos of the transition from lunch to dinner this important step was missed and all of the scoops that have been used all day continued into the night without being washed.

The problem with this is when the cook uses these implements they transfer a common pathogen that many humans carry, Staphylococcus aureus, to the utensils which are then left in the food products. In fact, this same pathogen staph is the same thing that causes people to get infected cuts or wounds.  The problem is when you allow this pathogen to grow on the food via our scoops it creates a poison that quickly makes people sick, within 1 to 6 hours.  Will this turn into a major food born illness outbreak? Hopefully not.  Could this happen to more than one customer? Absolutely, and their probably not going to call the health department but you can be sure these folks will never dine in your place again. And hopefully they don’t share their experience at you facility on Trip Advisor or Yelp.

One thing that we have to be aware of is that these busy holiday nights are not just an opportunity for a profitable shift but an opportunity to show people who might not have ordinarily dined with us how great of a place we are.  It doesn’t have to be a full blown disease like we had in the scenario above, it could be as simple as a stomach ache that turns them off. Heck, they might not even get sick but they happen to see a busy staff member doing some that just looks gross like wearing their apron into the bathroom or eating behind the bar.  These days need to be planned out carefully with thoughtful preparation and staffing because if you can’t get them right they can really hurt your business in the end more than the profits for the day are worth.

GMO’s Are Good!

Cavemen cooking food

Imagine for a minute, 2 prehistoric people sitting around a fire 500,000 years ago.  One of them puts their meat on the fire to cook it and explains to the other that when this is done the people who eat the food don’t get sick as often and the meat lasts longer so less people starve to death. This prehistoric person then goes on to say that they spend far less time chewing and eating so they get to spend more time with friends and family talking, exploring new ideas and solving other problems they have.

On the other side of the fire the man says, “Well, I tried this out on that wolf that comes around who is already sick and it didn’t get any better.  I think because of that we shouldn’t cook our meat because we don’t know what might happen to us in the future.”

We’ll it turns out that we do know what happened in this story.   According to Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, the prehistoric people who cooked their food evolved into homo habilis, an early predecessor of humans that became who we are today. Without cooking we might still be trying to figure out how to not be eaten by bears and lions as our everyday activities.

Compare this scenario to our newest food technology GMO’s. A GMO or genetically modified organism is a food that has DNA that was altered with the DNA of another plant.  This can happen through selective breeding, introducing species from different parts of the world to each other or introducing desirable genetic traits into a host by insertion, which it then absorbs naturally. This technology is our future and it is not going away. If we want to get past all of the hurdles our current food system is facing like water shortages, weed and  pest infestations or chemical issues then GMO is the best way.

Some people say that it is not natural so it can’t be good. That is why I gave the example of our early ancestors.  Imagine if cooking food, a seemingly unnatural process, was banned.  Then humans may have never evolved into the amazing creatures we are today.  We also may have never discovered the beautiful things that make us human such as religion, art, civilizations and science because we had to spend so much time just trying how to figure out how to find enough safe food.

The science that has been presented by opponents of GMO’s, such as the now infamous Seralini study, has been refuted by scientists on both sides of the GMO argument for being sloppy and poorly documented. I’m not going to site a bunch of sources but they’re out there, look them up.  As a matter of fact there have been more thorough studies done in Japan recently showing no negative side effects from GM soy beans on rats that use the same technology as our GM corn.

Well then what about the cancer it causes?  According to Kevin Folta, professor of horticulture science at University of Florida, “the basic science says there’s no plausible way these well-understood genes could cause or promote cancer”.

It’s easy to say we shouldn’t be using science to make a more nutritious, safer food supply for the world when you are not hungry.  But think about how many people will be affected by starvation this year due to malnutrition.  Well according to the WHO, “malnutrition is a significant factor in approximately one third of the nearly 8 million deaths in children who are under 5 years of age world wide”. How many of those children could be spared with a better food supply? How many of those mothers would say no to a plate of nutritious GM golden rice?

Genetic engineering is going to be a big part of our future just like cooking has been for 500,000 years.  The transition to acceptance is happening now and imagine all of the unknown possibilities the future  holds for us if we can figure out the problem of a safe food supply for all humankind.  We can’t even imagine what is to come, just like our ancestors, but it is time to close the door of starvation, disease and malnutrition and open the door towards a more advanced world.