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Restaurant Health and Safety

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Restaurant Health and Safety,

If you've worked on a line, you know what I mean.


Discuss this topic, to understand or voice experiences. However do not attack me or anyone else for my/their opinions.


My experiences in the food industry is very small at the moment but I have worked at several locations some longer, some briefer.


To explain a bit of myself.


I am a Niagara College Graduate of 2014, Culinary Management - with honours (I did my homework and handed in assignments on time, unlike in high school)


I hold a Food Handers Certificate, which is required in restaurants.


I am still learning the industry.


I want to shed some light on the darker side of the culinary industry I have been unfortunate to experience.



I shall go into a side of the topic that I thought was pretty straight forward. First in First out FIFO. Date dots, and scheduled time for being on the shelf.


The two corporate places I worked at had fairly decent standards for food handling and ordering. The first place - lets call it Turtle – tended to order too much for some of the slower stations. Maybe it was a case of not being able to order what was needed. The sad thing was, to keep it quality a large amount of the vegetable material I was dealing with had to be thrown out. But this is not too bad. They wrote the waste down in a book, weight, time, day, reason and who did it.


But the concept of FIFO was skewed (I find this in a lot of places) Old product - such as pico - was put on new product. The old product would eventually go off, spoiling the entire batch. Yes, we have a literal bad apple spoils the batch. One of the prep cooks kept doing this and I was at odd with her about it. I would make backups and keep them in my fridge to exchange containers - or in worse case, plastic wrap the new container, and put the old product on that barrier. Another thing she and I were at odds about was my sense of smell. I have a very keen sense and I can detect spoilage very fast and usually sooner than others - I will get to this in detail shortly. But that complaint aside, the food was fresh, vegetables are washed, salads spun. They did line checks twice a day.


Interestingly the pantry station - which deals with salads and desserts - was kept well away from the main line. It was the cooler position and the food usually stayed fresher. Although I think of it as solitary confinement tongue.gif


Yes, I would eat there - and I still do.


The second place - lets call it Creek – was very extreme in their food handling. My photo-copied certificate was pinned to the wall. I was one of the staff who was required on shift. Date dots were mandatory with date of product creation to the date the product came off the line. It changed depending on the type of product. Sliced cucumbers, for example were removed after 1 day. Meat I believe had a 3 day life. Dry products had a week, as did the sauces we made. The fridge only had enough food on hand that should serve our expected volume. It was a beautiful fridge, very clean and very sanitary. They were not as diligent about writing down food waste though. Large amounts of stuff yes, but at turtle, we would write down the weight of the peeled carrots. I tell you though, if you forgot to remove a product that was expired, you knew about it! Line checks were about twice a day.


Communication was pitiful there. Too many people giving conflicting orders each day it was a different way to do things, depending on who was the manager on. Taking sick time due to migraine was not too bad. I felt bad usually but they never made an issue of it. I am currently working with a guy who left before me because he was very very ill and could not get out of bed. And the sous chef insisted he come in regardless. The sous chef also thought migraines were easily treated. Clearly this man never had one. However the head chef, and my immediate supervisor both had them and understood. They also appeared to get them at roughly the same times I did.


I left because of lack of hours. My shifts would get cut and there were a couple weeks where I got no shifts. My understanding is its really getting dead there. They changed some things with décor and atmosphere and the reviews on the joint was really bad.


They were also unrealistic about how fast items would get out to the table. We had an amazing computer system, it posts up appetizers, and puts a timer on them. But with one person on the station, taking care of salads, desserts, appetisers and fries for mains, it was very hard to get these out in the required 10 minutes especially if 15 or so popped up on two screens the station uses at the same time. As so on as a certain type of nacho came up, that was it. They took a while to prep, then there would be an order with “no onions” and that would mean I would have to get out the vegetables and cut it to order as oppose to using what is already repaired. It was frustrating for getting scrap for issues that were largely out of your control.


I would eat there.


Third place – lets call it Tavern – This is not a corporate place like Creek or Turtle, and it had been at its location for at least twenty years. Food handling is at its extreme worst. The Staff are long term, yet there was a big shift with their head Chef, and they brought in a young guy who may be before his time in that position. Other older staff have some very bad and potentially dangerous habits. Food is left out in the air to defrost as opposed to the two required methods (cold running water or in the refrigerator) This place plays havoc with my sense of smell, because there is often BAD smells – indicating food spoilage.


Too much food is ordered, so there is a fridge loaded way past capacity for the product. They do rotate product, but there is never a “Use first” label on any of the older product. Product is placed directly on the floor - which is in violation of food handling, It should be about 4 - 6 inches off the ground on a shelf or rack. I won't describe the floor. Too much product is made at one time, so it sits in the fridge until used. That could take a week or two for some meat products which by that time gets really ripe and I get disgusted in handling it.


I have stated a few times. I want to throw an item out because it is BAD. I am told by the others no we can't throw it out. And example was Saturday evening, I took a fish package out and it smelled, it smelled so bad. I said to the senior staff member, I am gonna throw it out. He said we can't throw it out. I opened the package and nearly threw up the smell was so bad. I said I was not serving it. He came over and threw it into the frier – I walked off the line. I did not want to be part of that. Rotation and flips of cold table containers is terrible. I think I am the only one who does it. They tend to put fresh happy lettuce on sad composting lettuce, then get a bit irritated with me when I grab a new container and put fresh in its own bin. Yes, they serve food that is not fresh, or even safe. I will not like serving that which I would not happily eat. Currently I am still there, but I am looking for a wholesome place of work. I am gathering info for a complaint to the health inspectors in any event. Would I eat there? No. Not unless I was on my shift and I could ensure what I ate was fresh and healthy.


Forth place – Call it WTF – I will be brief because I was briefly there. I can sum up the entire contents of this post in probably a paragraph. It was potentially the most deranged place I ever worked at and I get the strong impression the man wanted me as a head chef. (I am not skilled enough for that job – no way!) He seemed to be clueless about cost control. He had a menu item he was trying out then came to me “how much to give?” Its a mathematical equation. I would get my book out to refresh myself, but its actually quite a simple math formula. Not to mention he is so afraid of cost, that he would keep the ovens off until needed. Try to bake a solidly frozen spring roll in an oven in 10 minutes, which has been turned off for an hour. It'll cost more in power to heat the thing up and turn it off, rather than just maintain it. It also had several health and safety violations. I left after 2 days... I did not want to damage my rep. Would I eat there? It changed hands and names so fast in the past two yeas I may have to check it out again. - possible.


Fifth Place – Lets call it Spankies – gorgeous fine dining restaurant. I did win a labour dispute against them. This place had the most potential for my career if I was wanting to work in a sweat house as a slave - which seems to be a common point of many places like this one. It was full of staff making prep, they do work for catering to weddings, brunch, and other things. They had creepy words on the walls saying things like “A good chef works through pain and Injury - Anthony Bourdain” which gave me twinges of the chrysalids (this is a book). My stage (working interview) was a long shift. About 8 hours (unpaid – illegal) I made loads of volcano cakes. Cracked over 100 eggs.... But the pastry chef had some strange habits that grossed me out, and the fact I was disallowed a break (All levels of illegal) in that shift. The pastry Chef licked the spatula clean before using it again >.< gross. One of my next shifts was a “split” and I expected to be able to go on a break part way though, Turtle gave me two hours off between the split shifts. But this did not happen. I asked for one, but they said we couldn't. If I sat down, I had to be working – and not get seen sitting down. By the end of that shift my feet were in so much pain, my knees hurt I was in tears. I was fully crying. That night when I got home I was screaming - very literally – screaming in pain because my feet hurt so badly. And nothing could make it stop. My husband was upset because this was hurting me. He said he'd rather me not work there, than damage myself trying to. I told them I was going to quit, the shifts were too long, then they asked me to stay, they'll shorten the shift, but I did get a break that time. By the time I got home, my husband had sifted through the labour regulations, found all the information I needed, I emailed my quit note and then contacted the labour board. In the end, Spankies attempted to pay me for only 10 hours of 37 hours worked. Labour board got me the remainder of my money. Would I eat there? Yes. I would not order Desserts. BUT - due to their sweat shop manner of running, and their mandatory 20% gratuity, I think not. I will never eat at spankies.


Those are my experiences.


My thoughts on the industry is that it needs to change. But how does one change the industry that is built up by macho attitudes, where chefs burn or maim themselves on the line and “work through it” “Ho ho ho I am macho, look at this 3rd degree burn!!” An industry where you refuse to come in early because you closed the night before and are met with “Well I can do it.” Don't give me that Bot Slag, I am not you. How can a person deal with an industry that seems to exploit its staff in conditions that are extremely hot and disallow breaks. I admit it is hard to take off when there is so much to do, but I do take a few moments to sit down and cool off, then regroup.


How does one deal with an industry that violates labour laws in so many ways. What sickens me is they seem to get away with it. People tell me, “this is how the industry is.” Restaurants are not an exception to the rule. I don't care if it is the perceived way things are, it is not legal, ergo it needs to change.


How can people take pride in their work if they they are serving food that is clearly rancid? I cannot take pride in it. I love to cook. I love making people happy with good food.


Unless I own a business, I do not see the point in working to exhaustion or body destruction for someone else. I will do my job, I will do it loyally and well, but I will not allow my employment to infringe on my loyalty to my family and myself. This is where I differ.


I am looking for a new place of employment because of the food handling violations. But I am still employed there.

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Oh my god...


I pointed out that I felt the chicken tenders were unfit for consumption. They smelled terrible. I feel bad for any guest purchasing this trash. They pay good money and expect good food. This is an out rage!


So I said to my chef and the - what I would possibly consider the sous chef that i felt it stank, and was not edible. Unsafe. I was told to keep it to myself.


That translates into - you challenge my beliefs in what is right and wrong. I am a certified food handler. I am going to bring this to attention of the restaurant owner. I spoke ot the owners son, asked him to speak with me after the other line cooks have vacated the premises.


I told him to smell the chicken and he said that the chef assured him it was being tossed tonight. I said it was being SERVED. I said to him it was packaged just before fathers day weekend (we had an event that weekend). That's why its off.


I told him I would not serve it and that I want to serve good food I can be proud of. I told them the problem is over prep. they make way too much for what is expected. I said the solution is to calculate, based on history what is needed. Sure we may come up short, but that is better to miss a couple sales than to serve rotten meat/fish/poultry to people.


I am actually a graduate of culinary school so I have learned very important factors of how food should be handled, and care given to a food item. It must be safe to eat. this includes proper handling.


I think the manager would like me to be in charge of health and safety of the food seeing how i understand. This is not exactly a job I want for myself. But something that needs to be done.


Admittedly, I am looking elsewhere for work. I am going to a job fair this weekend.

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I am so glad this thread exists. I've had my fair share of restaurant horrors... when I was a little kid I went regularly to a mexican restaurant, yet I always ordered their kid's burger. We didn't know at the time what horrible things occurred in this restaurant, but we did know some things that could be better; the bathrooms were THE most unsanitary and smelly. The food didn't have consistency; if you order the same meal two weeks apart it won't taste the same. But what really stopped us from going is when I found out too late that they fed me (a LITTLE CHILD) a raw burger. After eating raw meat the pain was so intense that I had to be carried out of the restaurant. I couldn't stand/sit upright and laid in agony on the backseat cushions all the way home.


My sisters both worked in fast food joints when they were teenagers... My oldest sister was at McDonalds, and she would often complain about how nearly everyone in that establishment (employee AND customer) was as rude as could be. One time at the drive-through this man came back around ranting about how they got his order wrong. They offered to make him a new one but no, he decided to take his burger apart and throw the contents straight through the window at the employees.


Then my middle sister worked at Burger King, where the employees NEVER washed their hands and then would proceed to fumble through your fries and chicken nuggets to steal tidbits.

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In my situation, the health inspectors are doing an investigation today. I won't be silenced.

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