My wife panics every time I comment on a food safety concern when we dine out, “am I going to get ill, will the kids get ill, how will we manage if we are all ill?”
In recent years to create marital harmony when we eat out I now keep quite when I peak into a restaurant kitchen and see a chef lick his finger, see a dirty rag used to polish a plate or a waiter huff on a glass. All will be fine I think to myself with fingers crossed.
The savaging media, Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor have made customer comments very powerful and potentially damaging to hospitality business. One wonders why many high end establishment are still very complacent with simple every day hygiene practices. Our summer holiday highlighted these complacencies on two different occasions.
Washroom woe - We stayed in a lovely country house hotel and spa in the West Country for a couple of nights, beautiful design, fantastic facilities, excellent food however my enjoyment was interrupted by a personal bug bare of mine. Picture the gent’s toilets in question, marble, mahogany, linen hand towels, piped jazz music, hand moisturiser….. but NO soap!
I am sure you are thinking, soap runs out, the house keeper visits every hour, this happens.....
WAIT....I reported he lack of soap to the hotel reception first at 7.30pm, again at 10pm and astonishingly a third time after breakfast the following day at 10.30am. No male guests ( or staff members) spending a penny or even more had been able to wash their hands properly with soap. I hate to think what the consequences could have been if one or more of the 100+ male guests had diarrhoea symptoms, a potential for spreading bacteria around the hotel like wild fire. We returned home unscathed thankfully but who knows if there were any other guest memories spoilt by the consequences of a lack of proper hand washing facilities?
Ironically, the hotel in question has a well-known spa brand and sells soap around the world by the lorry load!!
BBQ bandits - The sultry summer has made alfresco dining such a pleasure in recent weeks and caterers of all sizes are capitalising on the popularity of outside eating. The pleasure associated with cooking alfresco outweighs the risks when simple, common sense precautions are made. Detailed and well intentioned HACCP food safety principles however often fly out the window (if there is one!) when the orders start stacking up and the staff pressures begin to rise.
Picture the scene, the sun is setting, cold beer glasses running with condensation, the smell of caramelised meat is in the air.... very tempting. The serenity of the country house garden masks the adrenaline pumping behind the charcoal grill, service was in full swing. On the face of it the external makeshift kitchen looked practical but for someone in my shoes the facilities were no better than you would expect at Glastonbury (but with a high end meal price attached) and in my opinion a nightmare waiting to happen, and happen it did right in front of my eyes.....
Raw chicken on the same chopping board as cooked, hands moulding raw kofte and then unwashed delicately placing salad garnishes, sticky hands wiped on oven cloths tucked into aprons, filthy oven cloths used to clean smears off serving plates......
To the untrained eye service may have looked presentable and very professional, chefs in whites with striped aprons, kitchen French commands, hands in blue vinyl gloves. Gloves were however unchanged, hands unwashed, a melange of raw and ready to eat ingredients…… a trail of bacterial contamination from start to finish.
Needless to say we passed on the alfresco option and moved into the main restaurant where food hygiene calm was restored.