All food preparation, be it in a factory, restaurant of home kitchen is prepared in stages. Raw material comes in at one end and a finished product comes out of the other end. As far as I am concerned, this makes the preparation of food a production line.
I have worked in the food industry for quite some time and I know how to apply the production line principle to any situation. It is this principle which I would like to write about today.
Every production line begins with choosing the raw materials you are going to work with. You need to identify who your suppliers will be and be very clear on why you want to work with them. Firstly, you should get to know their reputation for reliability. If you have a business to run you do not want to be left without supplies. Several questions need to be asked. Is the produce fresh? Is the quality good? Is it consistently good? Is the price fair? Is it delivered in the appropriate conditions as defined by law?
Once you have chosen your suppliers your next task is to ensure that products delivered are stored in a correct manner. Frozen produce goes straight to the freezers, keeping meat and fish separate from frozen vegetables and dough products. Fresh vegetables should be stored by themselves as should meat, fish and eggs. Dry foods such as pasta, spices, canned food, flour, salt, sugar, legumes, should all be stored in a dry pantry.
In all kitchens the morning should start with the cleaning of vegetables. Some kitchens may have machines to assist workers perform these tasks, other mostly smaller kitchens will do all this by hand. In the kitchens I worked in, we had a separate enclosed department to each function so we could continue to work on all stages of food preparation all day. Smaller kitchens are not lucky enough to have this luxury so food must be prepared in stages. I strongly advise that all staff wear disposable aprons while they are cleaning vegetables fish or poultry.
After the vegetables have been cleaned and stored away the kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the next stage. The next logical stage would be to prepare fish and any other type of meat or poultry that needs cleaning, cutting, deboning, mincing or any other form of initial preparation. Again, the kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned before moving onto the next stage.
Once all the initial preparation and cleaning has been finished we can now concentrate on the preparation of the food dishes themselves. Remember, when preparing your menu you will still be bringing potential elements of cross contamination into the kitchen. The most dangerous of these will include eggs, milk products, tin cans, bottles and spices. You must never put any of the items that you bring into the kitchen at this stage onto the work surfaces on which you are preparing food. Always keep them on a service trolley. Remember to always wash your hands after you have touched any item which has not been cleaned during the initial preparation stages. Do not put anything like eggs directly into your food dish. Always open them into a small bowl to inspect them first taking out any egg shell that may have fallen into the egg..
Remember to implement food hygiene principles at all times. Keep meats away from salads. Do not prepare meat or fish together with vegetables that are to be served separately. Wash your hands and tools when moving from task to task.
Most of all clean your work area completely when you are plating your food. Make sure that plates are hot. Make sure that they have not come into contact with any stage of food preparation and most of all make sure that the person serving the food is both immaculately clean and in good health.
So in conclusion, the preparation of food should be undertaken in stages. Each stage should be completed and the work area cleaned before moving onto the next task. By doing this you are ensuring correct food hygiene procedure by avoiding cross contamination and by doing so bringing the risk of food poisoning down as far as is humanly possible. Knowledge, preparation, organization and attention to detail are the key to good food hygiene and quality food production. This is the job of the chef. A chef never compromises on correct food preparation procedure.