It’s never too early in the season to start on every kitchen’s favorite task: spring cleaning. Even for operators who take regular stock of their kitchenware, an annual harder look at what’s in those drawers can shed light on gear that’s past its prime.
“Food safety should be the first thing [to consider] when evaluating kitchen tools and equipment,” says Tony Harn, Lee Health’s food safety and quality assurance manager.
“Certain conditions should raise a red flag: Things such as gouges in cutting boards, scratches on wooden-handled utensils, rust spots on metal, torn equipment gaskets, broken welds and chips on cutting blades or knives should be reasons to discard or repair equipment.”
Harn suggests asking the following questions during an annual kitchen evaluation:
- How easy is it to clean each tool? Does staff understand how to break items down to key components so that they can be cleaned properly?
- Which staff member is tasked with conducting regular, visual safety inspections of the equipment? Is that person a busy manager, or someone who has the time to devote to these inspections?
- Could you consider using an ATP swab to assess kitchen cleanliness? They’re easy to perform and give an instant read that can help determine whether sanitation has been effective.
- What kind of condition are floors, drawers, drains and ceilings in?
- How do the handheld cutting, slicing and peeling tools look? Do they have chips or food buildup in hard-to-reach areas? If so, best to replace them outright.
Safety is the top concern, but if a utensil is ever on display to diners, whether as part of a display or an open kitchen, give it extra scrutiny, says Shep Drinkwater, executive chef for Vi at Bentley Village in Naples, Fla.
“Scratched saute pans, chipped-rim glasses, those all have to go,” he says. “Anything that does front of house, you have to think about differently.”