Nobody wants to be tasked with reminding the new head chef to apply a little extra deodorant in the mornings, but personal hygiene is important in a cooking environment.
It may be a little awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved, but it’s one of those jobs that has to be done whether you like it or not: Make sure to keep your employees in check when it comes to issues of personal hygiene.
This is especially true for the serving staff, but it applies across the board for all restaurant employees. Cleanliness starts with oneself.
Remember, most people aren’t capable of smelling their own body odor, so someone who maybe doesn’t apply enough deodorant in the morning probably has no idea that, well, you know. There’s also the issue that applying deodorant for your usual day to day activities isn’t quite as demanding a job as applying the same for a day at work in a hot, humid, sweaty kitchen. The truth is that nobody actually wants to be preceded by their signature scent a minute before they enter a room, and, as awkward that little discussion might be, chances are that they’ll be grateful in the long run that you’ve pointed it out to them.
So, if you need to talk with an employee about any of the points listed below, just wait until they’re free for a moment and you can talk with them alone, and, as politely and as briefly as possible, just give them a friendly reminder.
We’ve all had those mornings where we miss the alarm clock, jump out of bed, take a thirty second shower and throw on the first shirt we can grab, only to find… once we’ve already arrived at work, that it’s that shirt you spilled coffee on last night…
Make sure your kitchen staff each own more than one uniform. Not everyone is able to do a load of laundry every single night, either because it’s too expensive or too time consuming. Besides which, washing the same set of clothes every night will only serve to shorten the lifespan of said uniform, fading colors and wearing down the fabric.
Ideally, your staff should never wear the same shirt two days in a row without washing it the night before. You can get away with wearing the same pants three days in a row with an office job, or for a week if you work from home, but the hot, messy environment of a kitchen means that you’re pretty much guaranteed to have nothing but a sweat soaked rag by the end of each workday.
And of course, for both safety and health reasons, you don’t want clothes hanging all over the place- Shirts tucked in, no baggy pants, and no more than a single button undone at the top of a dress shirt. You don’t need someone’s extra long sleeves dipping into the tomato sauce, so do your best impression of your high school metal shop teacher and remind everyone to keep their clothes tucked and tidy.
Most restaurants have the staff wear hats or hairnets these days. Make sure your employees know the golden rule of keeping their hair wear it belongs- Tuck it under the hairnet BEFORE you put the gloves on! If it falls out and starts brushing your nose, take the gloves, tuck it back in, and put on some new gloves. It’s a hassle to do this when you’re right in the middle of something, but it’s better than getting a hair in the customer’s meal, or worse, sneezing right into the clam chowder.
The rules for how an employee can wear their hair differs from restaurant to restaurant, but it applies pretty much across the board that anyone with long hair needs to keep it under wraps, and hair should always be neat and well combed before work.
Some of us were born with less active sweat glands than others. Some of us, when working in a kitchen, are forced to go to such extremes as taking a second shower during our lunch break. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, genetics just happen to take it easy on some people while giving others more to do.
Again, if you have an employee who, well, maybe sweats a little more than the next, suggest that they bring an extra work shirt with them in the morning, or keep an extra stick of deodorant handy, and, if nothing else seems to work, don’t be afraid to give them an hour long lunch so they can go home to clean up.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again- You sweat when you work in the kitchen… To be more specific, you sweat a lot when you work in the kitchen.
You often see people wearing bandanas around their foreheads in restaurants. These are usually the people working on the grills. When you’re leaning over a four hundred degree rack of hot flame all day, you’re going to sweat, there’s no getting around that (you might also notice that these are the crewmembers always carrying around huge water bottles. Truly the marathon runners of the kitchen staff).
It may not be such a priority when you’re working primarily with ovens or even with cold food, but if you have a grill in your kitchen, make sure the grill crew knows to wear headbands or hats of some sort to prevent their sweat from dripping into the food.
Washing your hands
Here we go again with washing your hands! All employees, even the serving staff, are required to wash their hands on an almost obsessive compulsive basis. After using the restroom, every time you take your gloves off, after a cigarette break, after getting something from the freezer. Essentially, your staff should feel like Jack Nicholson in “As Good as it Gets” by the end of the day. We know, we know, we’ve emphasized this at least a dozen times in the preceding chapters, but it can never be said enough- Kitchen and serving staff must always keep their hands clean and sanitary.