Operators outline the risks of failing environmental health inspections.
That was the message from chefs contacted by SLTN, who stressed the vital role regular cleaning regimes play in their restaurant and hotel kitchens.
Steven Caputa, head chef at the Italian Bistro in Glasgow, said at least half of the working day is spent cleaning, with a deep-clean carried out once a week.
To fail an environmental health inspection, he said, would be “probably about the worst thing that can happen to a food operation”.
“Cross-contamination is probably the main [risk],” he said.
“Working in a clean kitchen is so much better. I’ve worked in a few skanky kitchens myself, and it’s definitely a lot nicer if it’s clean.
“But the cross-contamination and health issues are top of the list.”
Regular cleaning eliminates the risk of grease and bacteria building up in the kitchen – and can also lead to fewer visits from environmental health officers, according to Gary Leishman at Musselburgh’s Carberry Tower.
“When they [environmental health officers] come in they can tell straight away what the kitchen’s like,” said Leishman.
“If they come in and the kitchen’s spotless you’ll probably only get an inspection once a year. But if they come in and there’s a lot of problems, a lot of issues, they’ll probably come twice or three times a year, just to keep on top of you and make sure you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing.”
Leishman said he uses daily cleaning rotas in his kitchen, with different duties assigned to members of his six-strong team.
“I’m fortunate here in that I’ve got a really good team,” he said.
“I’ve got two KPs who are absolutely fantastic, and they do a lot of the cleaning as well.
“I’ve never had any issues about the state of my kitchen.”
A regular cleaning regime is crucial, whatever the size of the kitchen.
Damien Rolain, head chef at Edinburgh restaurant The Mulroy, said the floors in his kitchen are washed twice daily, with a deep clean carried out every weekend, despite the kitchen being “the size of a large shoebox”.
“We have only had one visit [from an environmental health officer], and they said the kitchen was to a perfect standard,” said Rolain.
“They said they were not worried. Because the floors and walls are all tile it is very white and you can see quickly if it is dirty. It shows up.”
As crucial as a clean kitchen is from a hygiene and environmental health point of view, opinion is split on whether customers take an active interest in the cleanliness of an outlet’s kitchen.
While Caputa and Rolain said diners would generally assume a kitchen was clean if the front of house area was tidy, Leishman disagreed.
He said the cleanliness of everything, from the appearance of the chefs to the kitchen itself, is “right in the minds of your customers”.
“With all the things on TV now people’s expectation are getting higher and higher, so you need to make sure you’re on top of your game and your kitchen’s clean,” he said.
“If you have a dirty kitchen you never know what’s going into the food.”
Image – The importance of maintaining a hygienic kitchen cannot be underestimated, chefs told SLTN.