By John Bartimole
Years ago, Ford Motor Co. proclaimed in a series of television ads that, at Ford, “Quality is Job 1.” ACF Chef Chef Anthony Brooks likes to use a version of that well-recognized phrase as his mantra in the kitchen. For him and those who work with him, food safety is priority No. 1.
“I’m retired Navy, and even before ServSafe became a priority, I was an instructor for food safety and I was passionate about it,” says Chef Brooks, who spent 26 years in the Navy. “It could be so easy to miss a step — things such as temp control or cross-contamination — and that could cause some serious problems.”
His time serving on U.S. Navy Air Craft Carriers — where 3,000-6,000 people were served a day — demanded that he be fastidious about food safety. That also applied when he hosted fine dining events for admirals and dignitaries from other countries, or during his five-year stay in Gaeta, Italy, where he served as a foodservice officer.
Chef Brooks says because kitchens are often not that big, that lack of space sometimes represents an unwelcome opportunity to cross-contaminate raw meat and produce, for example. “You have to be vigilant and aware of what food hazards might be,” he says. “Cleaning and sanitizing are two very different processes. A surface can certainly be cleaned and look cleaned, but it may not be sanitized. That is a big difference.”
He stresses keeping the food at the proper holding temperature, and cautions that, on hot days, it’s wise to keep the food in the refrigerator.
Currently a culinary arts and ServSafe instructor and proctor at Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Washington, Chef Brooks says that his students who have had some industry experience have more of a grasp of the need and the processes of food safety, while the younger students are often surprised at the complexities involving food safety.
“They often say to me about food safety, ‘Chef, there’s a lot more going on here than I thought,’ “ he says. “We definitely give them a different reality or impression of what’s needed to keep our food safe. We are giving these young adults an education so that are keenly aware of proper food handling and food safety.
The fact that each graduate of the program receives ServSafe certification is “great for employers,” Chef Brooks says. “That means they have an excellent grasp of food safety at a very high level.”
The Covid pandemic certainly heightened the expectations of — and the need for — safe food handling. “When the pandemic hit, I told my students food safety is now even more important,” Chef Brooks says. “So, in addition to teaching how to prepare food, how to service it, how to make it healthy and nutritious, we also stressed how important it was to make it safe.”
Click here to hear from another ACF Chef on the important of food safety and a few quick tips for training staff.