They were out and about in numbers (well there was more than one of them anyway) hitting a few areas of West Yorkshire last week. Hats (with snoods) of to them for the job they’re trying to do. I wait with anticipation to see how they follow up on this crackdown as there is a definite need to issue a few notices to some of these dudes masquerading as chefs though experience tells me that it’ll be a letter with a few guidance notes as these days the authorities appear to be running scared from upsetting the apple cart and therefore the clog now appears to be firmly on the other foot (other foot, business type dependant of course)
Whilst I encourage the development and advancement (is that a word?) of professional hygiene and safety standards in all commercial kitchens my moan is that there is absolutely no framework for measuring uniformity of standards across differing styles of operations.
The ease at which EHOs can enter premises (for which I am 100% in agreement by the way) is the easy part. It’s the follow-up; via requirements, guidance, training or simple recommendations that is un-balanced business-to-business. Yes, we all know they have the power to take immediate and decisive action but I refer to my earlier point at the end of paragraph one.
Now I reckon many chefs will be in disagreement with this so allow me to explain that I reckon those who disagree are probably the ones who embrace a visit from an EHO as they appreciate the importance of their role within the industry. They’re probably also the ones that want to continue developing their own personal standards through good hygiene and safety practices alongside utilising a solid HACCP system to protect them, their team and the customers who pay for the pleasure of eating what they create. There’s also a chance that they’re the talented ones with craft skills that are the envy of many of their peers with a team that realise working alongside them will ultimately progress their own skill set.
It’s the ones that get away with it that de-value the system and are, in certain real-life cases, making a mockery of the whole thing. Cost and time are the two most commonly bantered about words used as an excuse for not doing the basics such as paying for gas to heat the water, training staff to store food safely or by simply not providing the tools required to do the job. These are also the ones that know how to play the system – by any means necessary – to ensure they continue to operate in conditions that should not be accepted by the visiting authorities.
Scores on the doors has addressed this issue to a very small degree with a healthy amount of professional chefs and small business owners that I know taking pride from their star rating and advertising it on their business literature and websites but there remains a more significant number of food premises out there that seem to be exempt from having to do anything about their bad practice.
Personally I’m for a chefs passport type system. Not quite on the cat and dog system of international travel as humorous as that may be – I’m thinking more of a career passport stamped as and when a premises are assessed and visited by the powers that be and the chef carries this passport with them as they progress their career. Recording the path of a professional chef can realistically do no harm (unless you’re further left than that Galloway bloke) as both long term vision and traceability will give only increased weight to current and future positions and professional standing. Wheat and chaff. In today’s technologically advanced world it surely shouldn’t be too difficult to hook up a big computer in a government office somewhere to collate and make sense of all this info?!? It’ll also help in eliminating the ‘couldn’t care less’ and ‘I only cut carrots’ brigade which, if we’re all honest, would be no loss to our profession.
Anyway, regardless of what I think, the fact remains that standards are double and whilst some gladly conform others don’t appear to have to even try. There is tremendous confusion about what is required depending which county and type of establishment within this fair kingdom you cross blades in.
I was confused earlier but now I’m at a loss.