Tag Archives: A way of life

A Quick Science Lesson

Chalkboard

Let’s stop and think about what food is for a moment.  Food is organic material, coming from either Plants, Animals, or Fungus.  Meat comes from a slaughtered animal that has been dissected piece by piece and ground up into hamburger meat or dipped in batter to later be fried. Vegetables grow right up out of manure from the ground. Mushrooms are, in fact, a fungus.

Food is inherently unsanitary. Food comes from once-living things that have been harvested, taken apart and repackaged in hopes of arriving at their final destination before decomposition sets in.

In short, food is kind of gross when you think about it, and it can get even grosser if you don’t know how to properly prepare, store and cook it.

Of course, the point we’re trying to make here isn’t just that food starts out icky, but rather, that health concerns should be of the highest priority when working in the food industry.

The fact is that food is not merely prone to come in contact with germs and parasites and the like, but that food is inherently tainted. Food inherently carries bacteria and other pathogens. Keeping food safe for your customers or dinner guests is not a matter of preventing the food from coming into contact with germs, but of keeping those germs to a minimum, killing bacteria through freezing and cooking processes, and in keeping the food as safe and healthy as possible.

The bottom line is that, every time you eat anything, you are ingesting potentially harmful bacteria and all sorts of other nasties, but, fortunately, the human immune system is quite capable of dealing with E. coli or salmonella… in small doses, at least.

With this in mind, we give you…

A Brief Lesson in Pathogens

We’ll begin with a brief definition of a pathogen-

A pathogen, or a germ, is identified as being a biological agent capable of causing disease or illness to its host.

The body itself is capable of defending against common pathogens by way of the human immune system, as well as through helpful bacteria which occur in the human body’s normal flora However, should this defence system, either the human immune system or helpful bacteria be damaged in any way, such as through chemotherapy, HIV, or antibiotics (often taken to kill existing pathogens), then pathogenic bacteria or viruses can easily infect, proliferate and, in some cases, become terminal.

The fact is that every pathogen is capable of killing its host. Without a defence system in place, there is nothing to keep bacteria from simply eating and eating away at the host without cease.

A number of pathogens, such as Yersinia pestis, believed to have been the cause of the Black Plague, and the Malaria protozoa, have been responsible for casualties on a massive scale.

Types of Pathogen

Pathogens can be either viral, bacterial, fungal or pr ionic.

Viral pathogens generally fall into the families of:

· Adenovirida

· Herpesviridae

· Hepadnaviridae

· Flaviviridae

· Picomaviridae

· Retroviridae

· Orthomyxoviridae

· Paramyxoviridae

· Papovaviridae

· Rhabdoviridae or

· Togaviridae.

Notable viral pathogens include smallpox, influenza, measles, chickenpox, Ebola, the mumps and rubella.

Interestingly, the vast majority of bacterial pathogens are either harmless or, in fact, beneficial, but there are those that can lead to infectious disease. The most common bacterial disease is T.B., or tuberculosis, which is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacteria which affects about two million people, with the majority being in sub-Saharan Africa.

The most common strains of food borne bacterial pathogen include shigella, campylobacter and salmonella. Pathogenic bacteria can cause infections including tetanus, typhoid fever, diphtheria, syphilis and even leprosy (though this is hardly common in the 21st Century). Bacterial infections are generally dealt with by way of antibiotics.

Fungal pathogens are capable of causing disease in humans, animals and even plants. This type of pathogen typically infects immuno-compromised people or vulnerable individuals with weakened immune systems. The majority of antibiotics cannot be used to treat fungal infections as fungi and their hosts both have eukaryotic cells.

A prion is a pathogen that does not contain nucleic acids. Associated conditions include Mad Cow Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Transmission

Pathogens can be transmitted in several ways. Here we’ll deal with airborne, blood borne and food borne pathogens.

Blood borne pathogens are not necessarily transmitted strictly through contact with blood, but can also be transmitted through other bodily fluids such as saliva, mucus and tears.

Airborne pathogens are those which are transmitted through the air. This can include those transmitted through sneezing, coughing, or simply those drifting in the air.

Not to alarm you, but the air you breath is literally packed with all sorts of bacteria and other substances, including, but not limited to, dead skin flakes and microscopic bits of faecal matter. There is simply no getting away from airborne pathogens. While more extreme measures of controlling airborne pathogens may be put in place in places such as hospitals and treatment centres, the primary method for dealing with airborne pathogens is simply in ensuring that they do not cause infection.

The truth is that food will come into contact with pathogens, and so, proper cooking and clean hands are a requisite in keeping these pathogens from spreading and causing infection or disease.

Food borne pathogens are those which are, of course, transmitted through food.

Understanding Salmonella

The chief offender with regards to salmonella would be, of course, poultry. Typically, poultry contracts salmonella due to unhygienic thawing methods. It is of course common to use ice water to thaw chicken, but using, say, warm water, instead, can easily attract bacteria and cause it to multiply. This is because the melt water contains condensation from the chicken, which proves to be a literal Petri dish for the minuscule amount of the bacteria already in the water.

This same principle applies to all other foods, as well. Unclean food, food not prepared to the proper temperatures, food left out for too long are all breeding grounds for the minuscule amounts of salmonella in the water and air to thrive and multiply.

E. Coli

E. Coli, or Escherichia Coli, is a gram negative bacterium most commonly found in the lower intestine of warm blooded animals. The majority of E. Coli strains are, perhaps surprisingly, harmless. Several other strains, however, can be responsible for serious food poisoning in humans.

The harmless strains of E. Coli are actually a part of the normal flora of the human gut and can actually benefit the host by producing vitamin K, as well as preventing the establishment of pathogenic bacteria within the intestine.

E. Coli can typically only survive outside of the body for brief periods of time, however, food that has not been prepared properly makes for a fertile breeding ground for the bacteria, and should infection occur, serious and life threatening complications can possibly take place.

The Severity of the Situation

As mentioned above, pathogens are everywhere. They’re in every meal you eat, they thrive on your hands and they’re in the air you’re breathing right now. It’s simply a fact of life that germs are everywhere, even on Mars (if those fossils recovered in the mid-nineties are to be believed).

The importance of serving safe and hygienic food, then, is quite a priority. We can never ensure that the food that we serve is one hundred percent free of pathogens, but we can, fortunately, make sure that those pathogens are kept to safe enough levels that the average individuals immune system will be able to efficiently deal with any germs that come in contact with the body.

Here we will emphasise the number one point…

Wash your Hands

c4577-2a3602_de0b6f24c2e448fcb3a6160c6ee76830mv2We’ll warn you here and now that you should expect us to “get on our high horse” about this one a few more times before this text is finished. The fact is that keeping your hands clean is the absolute number one best method for preventing the spread of pathogens in a kitchen environment.  Keep your hands clean, apply latex gloves any time you need to come in direct contact with food, and your battle with food borne pathogens is already half-won.

Link’s

  1. Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education 

  2. Food Safety Network 

  3. Foodservice and Hospitality Magazine 

  4. Health Canada 


What is Mise en place?

The easy answer is, “everything in its place.” It’s a French phrase meaning that everything is organized and ready…But it is sooo much more!

In the professional kitchen mise en place is more of a philosophy or a way of life rather than just a simple phrase. Mise en place is everything needed to make the shift as smooth as possible. We learn it, we teach it, we get it tattooed on our bodies! As Chef Randy Burns has said, “Mise en place is a state of Mind.” It becomes an integral part of how we think. Whether we are working to implement a new recipe, planning an off-site catered event, or going camping with the family, the philosophy of mise en place infuses our souls with the need to hope for the best and plan for the worst. Everything in its place. A plan for everything.

Proper mise en place means that you are the master of your domain. You know how many covers you should do tonight, you know if it’s a holiday, or if there’s some other special event going on which may impact your covers. If a prep cook does some of your mise then you have verified the quantities and seen where the backups are stored. Trust no one, you verify it yourself.

Mise en Place is defined as:

  • The Ethos of the kitchen

  • So much more than minced shallots

  • Hope for the best, plan for the worst

  • Seconds save minutes

  • The foundation of success

  • The foundation of a successful shift

  • It makes or breaks you

  • A way of life

  • Learn it, know it, live it

  • Prep, Attitude, Focus, Drive

  • Slapping Murphy’s Law into place

  • Telling that bitch Murphy’s Law to sit the fuck down

  • Organisation of product, tools, and mind

  • Seeing and preventing a problem before it arrives


“Mise en Place”; what an exquisite phrase, it slides right off the tongue, effortlessly, like a lightly seared fresh sea scallop drizzled with a rich lemon Beurre Blanc, garnished with a chiffonade of fresh “fine herbs” and shaved truffles…  Seriously, mise en place is the principle, the base, the philosophy that rules every cook’s life; it is a term not just applied to your prepared ingredients, your fridge with prepped meats, your base sauces, stocks, garnishes, etc. ready to assemble; it is your organization, your knowledge, your ability to work with others, (kitchen work is definitely a team activity), your mental ability and preparedness. It is a philosophy; a state of mind! There are so many meanings, connotations and levels of “mise en place” that you’re constantly fine tuning your perception and definition of it. A Cook’s life revolves around “mise en place” and it’s what “makes you, or breaks you”. You’re only as good as your mise en place. It encompasses your prep, cooking, serving, menu design and execution; your ordering, scheduling, managing of the kitchen. The concept of “mise en place” can be applied to virtually any circumstance or scenario. It has taken me years to begin understanding this application to ALL facets of the kitchen, of business, of life; it’s not just my tray with chopped shallots, garlic, various herbs, garnishes, etc. all ready to go into the frying pan ‘ala minute”, it’s applicable to any strategy or action, ; and I’m still learning this every day.

For such a small, eloquent phrase it carries a lot of power, weight and meaning.

Cleanliness/Hygiene and organisation is an integral part of “mise”, they go hand in hand, the sooner you recognise and embrace this fact the further ahead “of the game” you will be.


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