Thursday, March 8, 2007

Food Safety 101 Cross-Contamination

Food Safety 101 Cross-ContaminationCross-Contamination can be described as the contamination of a food product by microorganisms form another item or source. This is a common cause of Food Borne Illness. Prevention is the best defense against this illness. There are 3 most common ways for cross-contamination to occur.

1. Utensil or equipment (cutting board, knife, towel, etc.) to Food.
2. People (dirty hands) to Food.
3. Food to Food (raw chicken dripping on to other food in fridge or raw meat coming in contact with ready to eat food).

We all are guilty of performing these contamination exercises at one time or another. Being aware of the potential hazards is the first step to keeping yourself and your family safe. The second step is to practice good food handling which uses a lot of "common sense". This can come in many versions:
a. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap after every time you handle food.
b. Wash and STERILIZE all utensils and cutting boards after each use.
c. Make sure not to let raw meat come in contact with any other food.
d. Make sure the food is properly stored in the fridge; do not let anything leak onto other items.

These are all simple things we all can do but it becomes inconvenient when we get in a hurry. A trip to the hospital for food poisoning is inconvenient also. So use these simple tips and enjoy your meals!!!
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Charles W KingBBA / MAOM

Food Chemistry
By Charles King

I surprised my class the other day when I started the lecture off by saying to them " You do know, you are in a chemistry class don't you?"
You do know your in a chemistry class don't you?Needless to say I got more than one curious stare from the class. Cooking is all about chemistry and how acids interact with alkalies and heat mixed with water and other items create delicious dishes. An example of chemistry in the kitchen is spaghetti sauce. The basic recipe is; tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Granted your recipe might have other items or might be missing a few of these but this a basic recipe. This recipe has a lot of ingredients that all are of an acidic nature. If when you are making your sauce and it has a bitter taste to it that could be from the high acid content. I have had many people tell me to use sugar to remove the bitterness and while it will tone it down some it will not remove it. That is why knowing the root cause for the bitterness gives you an edge. I had an old cook teach me one time that the way to REMOVE the bitterness was to use baking soda. The baking soda will react with the acid and neutralize it. I must WARN you to use just a very small amount several times until you reached the flavor you are searching for.
There are two unique reactions that occur when you put the soda in the sauce: 1. There will be an immediate foaming action that occurs in the pot. Stir in the first "pinch" of soda giving it a couple of minutes to complete the reaction then taste. 2. the reaction of the soda and acid will cause the sauce to have a sweet taste if you use too much soda. It is very important to taste each time you add the soda to see if you have achieved the flavor you wanted. Milk will act as an agent in many dishes to help balance the acid in the spices. The blending and melding of flavors is what cooking is all about and chemistry plays a huge part in that process. Bon Appetite!!!!

Sell the Sizzle Perception

Food Management 101; Selling the Sizzle (Perception)
We all have gone to the Steak House that brings you the steak on a metal platter “sizzling hot” or the Mexican restaurant that brings the fajita meat out “sizzling hot”. This is a great marketing tool for meeting the public’s expectations. It is a great way to keep food hot to put it on a metal plate, but it is great marketing because of a thing called perception. We perceive the meat to be extremely hot and more importantly very freshly cooked. I do not in any way want to leave the impression that the meat might not be hot or fresh, my point is in the food industry we live or die by perceptions.
I had a boss tell me one time that “Perceptions are reality until proven otherwise.” This is why it is as important as a restaurant manager or owner that you reinforce the public’s positive perceptions. It is equally important to try and dispel any negative perceptions. This is why so many restaurants don’t survive their first year or two in business. How many times have I heard my wife say that if the bathrooms are a mess what does the kitchen look like? If the tables or chairs in the dining room are dirty what kind of attention to detail are they paying in the kitchen? Both of these are very sound and viable questions that could very well have a great answer that will explain the perceived problems. There could have been a bus of 40 people just came in with no warning and the staff have not recovered yet or they may be very short handed due to illness. The important point is perception is what it is and the only way to keep a bad perception from forming is to try to anticipate potential challenges and be prepared for them. This is management’s biggest hurdle; that of anticipating potential challenges before they occur and being prepared to solve them.
I truly do enjoy eating in an establishment that has that “sizzle” down because they are working as a team. In a restaurant that is working as a team then the “sizzle” is what the perception will be and it will be a positive dining experience. In today’s society eating out is a form of entertainment and as such the standards have been raised. The dining experience should be fun not just filling. So go enjoy the “Sizzle”.
Bon Appetite!!!!