As the latest summer heat wave engulfs the country, temperatures in many locations have have been rising above 100 degrees for days in a row. That kind of heat can make the inside of an already hot foodservice kitchen feel like an inferno.
To stay cool, those in the profession have come up with some practical and often wacky solutions. Gathered here are tried-and-true tips from working cooks and chefs to help beat the heat.
• Drink iced coffee first thing in the morning. Take off your shoes in the walk-in for a second and let the freezer floor cure all. Place a wet rag or towel in the freezer for 10 minutes and then put it around your neck.—Chef Jason Raffin, Curio, San Francisco
• Stay hydrated with ice cold water. Volunteer to clean and organize the cooler and put away all deliveries. Wear a vented chef coat!—Dan Wilk, Brand Development Chef, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
•Place a wet paper towel underneath your chef’s hat. If you wear a bandana, chill that too. And my top picks for favorite cool-down foods are water-rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers and strawberries; spicy foods, which help trick your body into cool mode; and cold beer—just because.—Executive Chef Chad Castanino, Top of the World at The STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod, Las Vegas
•Shave your head, wear sweatbands like a professional athlete and volunteer to keep cleaning the walk-in fridge and freezer.—Executive Chef Alex Sadowsky, Twin Peaks
• Roll up pants and make chef shorts (chorts!!) Go into the freezer for 30 seconds and take off your chef coat. Also, there is the old corn starch method ... —Carter Reyenga, Corporate Chef-Fast Casual Concepts, FB Society
• Borrow some ideas from the ayurvedic tradition practiced in India. Excessive sweating results in a loss of essential minerals and vitamins, but buttermilk or lassi helps replenish these essential elements. Cucumber or coconut water cool down the body without the shock of ice water. And take a recess from a high pressure and high temperature environment to relax for 10 to 15 minutes between lunch and dinner to calm and cool down. —Executive Chef Hitesh Gautam, Amber India, San Francisco
The r/restaurant community on Reddit anonymously contributed their thoughts as well:
• Roll up your pants. Just enough to get them off your shoes and let the air in. Floor fans help a lot, just keep them low so they don't blow off garnishes or cool the food. And a free meal for the busser/runner (because it's never a server) that refills water for the cooks.
• Turn off hot pans or keep them on a very low flame, raising the heat when an order comes in. Let the customer know that an order may take an extra 10 minutes as the staff is maintaining low temperatures in the kitchen.
• In the pet section of Walmart is a collar with an ice pack in it that closes with Velcro. I saw a lady wearing one at the beach, so I bought a couple for my cooks at my last job and they loved them. They're about $5 each.
• Gold Bond. Don’t leave home without it!