Categories: Cooking Tips


Wash your hands…PLEASE!

I always started the school year teaching my culinary students about safety and sanitation – even before I would instruct them on basic cooking skills. I wanted to be sure they understood the importance of safe kitchen practices and proper sanitation concepts.

“Sanitation is not an option, it is an obligation” to the health and safety of your family, friends, you – or anyone you feed. This begins with one simple task – HAND WASHING. That’s right, washing your hands regularly, and correctly, can help reduce the spread of bacteria significantly.

Think about what you do with your hands, the things you touch. When you cough or sneeze into your hands, or blow your nose, do you wash them immediately? What do you do if you’re using a public rest facility where soap and hot water aren’t readily available?

Hand washing helps prevent cross-contamination, that is, the spread of germs or bacteria from your hands to another person, food, utensils, equipment and/or work surfaces.

Personal hygiene is very important when working with food, too.

Here’s a perfect example of how poor personal hygiene affected food preparation and customer safety:

Years ago, a Fort Lauderdale, FL restaurant, The Ancient Mariner actually went out of business because of one employee who didn’t wash his hands thoroughly. He caused hundreds of guests to become ill over a period of a few months. How?

Here’s how. He worked on the salad station, preparing salad dressing, tasting the recipe with his fingers. The unsuspecting guests who ate salad with the dressing he made ended up ill – many were hospitalized. The Board of Health investigated & found this one employee to be the culprit. Not only did he have hepatitis, but they discovered feces under his fingernails! (Remember that part where he tasted the dressings with his fingers? Need I say more?)

People think they know how to wash their hands. Turn water on, rub a little soap on their palms, swish, rinse & done.

How Culinary Professionals Wash Their Hands – and you should, too:

  • Use water as hot as your hands can comfortably stand.
  • Wet hands & apply soap (antibacterial preferred).
  • Scrub between fingers & under the nails (keep nails trimmed short).
  • Rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds (hum to the tune of “Happy Birthday”)
  • Rinse hands thoroughly.
  • Turn off faucet with a single-use disposable towel or your elbow.
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  • That Fort Lauderdale restaurant was the one on the boat floating in the New River, wasn't it? The Ancient Mariner or, at another point, it was called Livingston's Landing. Nice idea for a restaurant that didn't turn out so well. It was eventually sunk off the coast to become an artificial reef. Or maybe you're thinking of a different case.

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