A few years ago I had some “interesting” experiences with foreign staff in one of my client’s restaurant. At that time I was involved in the kitchen preparation of opening the restaurant. I am no chef and I don’t have any professional training on kitchen but I do have years of experience cooking in the kitchen so I know the standard of cleanliness in the kitchen.
My client hired cooks from a foreign country. He tested their food, liked what they cooked for him, processed their employment visas and brought them to Malaysia. I tried the food too and they were fantastic. I really believed they were the right people to run the kitchen of my client’s new restaurant.
When I went to the kitchen during trial period, I was shocked to find assorted flour lying inside open containers on the floor. I saw baby cockroaches inside the cabinets. The floor was wet because of melted ice cubes, dripping from the chiller counter. The vegetables were piled at the back alleys, uncovered, waiting to be chopped. The meats were left in open aluminium containers near the door, making friends with the buzzing flies.
I called the cooks and showed them what I saw. ALL of them gave me blank faces. They didn’t understand why I was furious. I told them that the kitchen was dirty, the food was not supposed to be uncovered, the flour should not be on the floor. They insisted that the kitchen was clean…!! They said they mopped the floor in the morning, they cleaned the wall, they scrubbed the sink and they wiped all the spills from the tables.
I was speechless… I didn’t know what to say. Yes, the floor was mopped, the walls were cleaned and I didn’t see any spill of sauces on the tables. But there were so many things they needed to do before they could say the kitchen was clean.
After taking a lot of deep breaths and glasses of ice water, I sat with them and explained the meaning of clean in this country. Cleanliness standard in our country is different from their country. It was partly my fault for assuming that we had the same standard. I didn’t set a clear standard. My standard was vague and can be easily misunderstood.
Fortunately, those cooks had great attitudes. Instead of offended, they were willing to learn and improve. I set some measurable standards of cleanliness for them. I gave them some check list. I also told them about some “punishments” if they didn’t follow the set standards.
Examples of clear standards:
1. All meat should not be left in room temperature more than 15 minutes.
2. All food should be covered.
3. All perishables should be stored in a chiller with temperature no more than 10 degrees.
4. Kitchen Floors should be scrubbed with soap and wiped clean after closing.
I assumed those basic things were common knowledge that chefs understand and practice. Apparently that’s not the case.
So, set your standard crystal clear.
Set clear and measurable standards, not only for the kitchen but also for the floor operation. Write down the check list about clean toilet as standard cleanliness about toilet varies tremendously. Write down the check list for your waiters. If you want them to smile or to greet customers with good morning/afternoon/evening… write it down to the details.
You will be surprised to find your standard is totally different from the staff’s.