New to this forum :)
At 37 years of age, I've decided that I want a cooking education. I don't want to be a chef and work in a michelin star restaurant. While I admire people who have such high aspirations, I do not share them.
So, I signed up for a short n number of weeks of education, that would allow me to be an apprentice in different businesses in order to improve my knowledge. The entire education should take about three years.
Unfortunately after about 6 weeks which contained a lot of theory and in total 8 days spent in the kitchen cooking new recipes in teams of two or three people, I'm starting to wonder if I'm mad and this is normal or if I'm sane and I chose the wrong place for my education.
It's not because I don't like the recipes - it's not like I have to cook them in future if I don't like them. What I have questions about is the hygene in the school kitchens. Below I wil mention all the points I have an issue with.
1. Cleaning the tables - after the day is done, liquid detergent is mixed with water in a bowl and then rubbed over all surfaces with a large brush that doesn't however really scrub. There is no rinsing of the tables, instead of using clean water to rinse, the soap is simply wiped of with one of those window-cleaning implements, with the rubber side, so that the tables (made of stainless steel) appear dry and clean. However if you run your finger over the surface or wipe it with a clean napkin, stickiness on the finger will be apparent.
2. Cleaning the cutting boards - no one actually told us how to clean the cutting boards after use, nor are there cutting boards for different uses (as in not colour coded to use with meat, vegetables, dough and so on). All they have are some large generic ones, when you pick one up that is supposedly clean and you run your finger over it with a moist finger, you will feel the fat (or soap or I don't know).
3. Knives - usually dull, but that can be helped with a sharpener, which they provide. I use my own knives, so I don't mind it too much. However, when in the kitchen you have to go trough 4 or 5 different graters to find one that is both clean and sharp.
4. Cuttlery - one day last week I opened a drawer containing supposedly clean cuttlery. I was looking for a large table spoon. And then I realized that several spoons, knives and forks were covered in what seemed to be dried egg (yellowish)
5. Plates - in order to see whether a plate is clean or not, all you have to do is to let light play on it so you see whether or not there are traces of water on it and such. Well, how about dried up vegetable bits?
6. Bowls - picked up from the cabinet next to the wash kitchen, supposedly clean, quite often however they are covered in bits and pieces of dried dough, egg and such things. Not to mention that even though they look clean, they're still fatty on both in and outside. Also, if accidents happen and bowls land on the floor from the cupboard, they are simply picked up and just shoved back into the cupboard, usually stacked in stacks of 5-6 pieces, all of which have been on the floor.
7. Cooking plates - with gas. The cleaning is done in the same manner as it is with the tables, but that's ok, since they're not work surfaces. However, below the sink where the cooking plate is, theree is an open shelf, where frying pans and pots are stored. The shelves themselves are full of drops of fat, detergent sprayed up from the floor cleaning and so on. Naturally, the pots and pans are the same.
8. The pots picked up as supposedly clean, usually need another wash to remove dried out layers of whatever it was they have been used for before.
9. The frying pans are mostly made of stainless steel. However, without exception, they are all black with soot. I made an experiment last week, I poured a generous amount of detergent on a frying pan and I began scrubbing. Before the first rinse, the foam was white and clean, however upon touching the surface of the pan, it was still sticky with fat, so I decided to wash it again. Surprisingly, this time over, the foam came out brownish. So I kept scrubbing and rinsing the pan for about 10-15 minutes only to finally have the real stainless steel shine through...
10. People leave the kitchen classroom for breaks and smoking, wearing their kitchen shoes, aprons and hats.While they do wash their hands (usually) after they've come in, I don't think it's sanitary to go out smoking or wandering through the school with your apron, touch whatever then touch the apron, then come back into the kitchen and wipe a plate clean with your apron.
11. Personal hygene - several of my young colleagues have serious problems in that regard. Some of them seem not to use deodorant after a shower, others simply don't shower while quite a lot of them show up with either long nails and/or dirt lodged underneath those nails. (sorry if it sounds very negative - unfortunately it nonetheless remains true)
12. We do have a theoretical hygene course in the education but none of the rules (and I mean none) are being reinforced during the practical cooking classes. So when I asked someone to wash their hands after having touched meat, they looked at me as if I were mad and went like 'why???' - 'you just knead your meat for meatballs together, using meat and egg. Isn't it normal to wash your hands?' - 'no, it's ok, the meat wasn't that fatty'. A disturbing episode was when the floors were already foamy with soap and one of the teachers knocked down a spoon. It fell in the soapy water. The teacher then casually picked it up, shook it to remove excess foam and simply put it back in place...
13. In some of the school kitchens, the hot water from the tap is only slightly higher than body temperature. While that's not a problem when washing your hands, luke warm water will not help dissolving the fat from your kitchen implements. Without exception, all manual dishwashing liquid bottles are so greasy that they slide out of your hand like soap if your hands are even remotely moist. (and it's definitely not soap that makes them greasy)
14. While not directly related to hygene in the narrow sense, is it normal to realize that some of the ingredients you are given are less than fresh? Lemons barely having any oil left in their zest and the likes.
I know that my expectations are maybe too high... but is this normal, especially in a teaching institution meant to help new talents find their way in life?
//rant over - this needed to come out :P
Thank you for reading and looking forward to your thoughts on these issues. (sorry for loooong post)