Being a clean line cook

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Joined Jul 24, 2010
Hello,

 What are some of the less obvious, but important things to do in order to be a clean line cook?

I know the basics of how to handle food, and that I should keep my work area clean. But I've been wondering about the towels: how dirty do they get before you switch them out? Do you have to wash your hands often at work, or are you able to work extremely cleanly? Also, where do you keep the towel- on the shoulder? In the side pocket?

 Right now I just try and leave a clean one by every station, because I have to move up and down the line a lot. I've only been a cook for a few months, and it's a small kitchen (1-2 cooks) with pretty slow business - mostly it's a bar. It's also extremely grimy. I'm not sure if I'm really learning the appropriate habits for the more serious kitchens that I aspire to eventually work in. Sometimes I just wipe my hands on my apron (not with raw chicken!) - is this bad?
 
818
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Joined Oct 13, 2001
I would purchase the book "The New Professional Chef" which is one of the school books for the CIA . It has a great section on sanitation in it as well as all of the basics of food preparation . The Chapter on Mise en Place is especially helpful to new cooks but really the best thing you can do is find a kitchen with some experienced cooks and a good chef and go to school on it. You can only learn so much at a bar and grill type operation where you are the main man with most of your learning coming from trial and error.

For your question yes hands do hit aprons a lot depending on where you are at and what you are doing but a towel is much better. You should keep a bucket by the line and in the prep area filled with sanitizer (quat preferably but bleach works) solution and change your wet towels as needed and sanitizer as needed also. I do a dry towel on my shoulder for use as a pot holder when handling hot pans and such and oh if you are slow,now is a good time to learn how to clean up that grimy area. Hope this helps...............
 
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Joined Jul 19, 2010
DRY towel on shoulder, or in my case..... left side of apron.  (wiping, emergency pot holder, clean up, anything).  I change that constantly.

BLEACH towel.  On station.  Depends on how you fold it and use it.  I can get 16 uses out of every towel with a clean side.  Method = fold in half the long way.  Fold wide.  Then again.  You can back-fold as the sides get used. 
 

HOT-HANDLE towel - always wrapped around my tongs, which is ALWAYS in my left hand or on the stainless. 

This are just my personal habits.  It works though, and I am OCD about being clean and sanitary. 

My first suggestion would be to get out of a grimy kitchen, or clean it.  Just my $.02
 
1,632
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
I'm with cheese on this one.. either get yourself into a better place or clean the one you're working in.  Grimy kitchen=sketchy food in my book and you can't risk selling that kind of food. 

For me.. bucket of quat sanitizer filled with rags on the line, and whenever I have down time I wipe down my station.  As it was once said to me back when I baked at Tim Horton's... if you have time to lean you have time to clean...  and that is so true. 
 
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Joined Jul 25, 2010
I pretty much do what Culinathusiast said. I keep two towels on me at all times. We went through so many towels that, at one point, our HC started putting us on towel rations. We were only allowed to have TWO towels for our entire shift- with shifts going for 5-9 hours a piece.

Needless to say, that proved futile and unsanitary. I INSIST on keeping a clean station and kitchen,  which requires wet towels and sanitizer for cleaning. At one point, I took initiative and cleaned the slicer at it looked as it hadn't been cleaned IN DAYS.

We have two kinds of people who work in our kitchen, those who just see it as a job and do the bare minimum to get in and get out (they barely clean, don't wrap or cover food properly, etc) and those of us who actually give two squats and try to keep things spotless. *sigh* Often the latter has to clean up behind the former.
 
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Joined Oct 28, 2008
It was either Ramsay or Keller who commented on wiping down after service, saying that the surface should gleam, as your reflection is the first thing that will greet you the next morning. One place I work at rations out 2 towels per shift, so I keep one on my station for wiping dishes and one in my apron strings for hot pans.
 
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Joined Jul 7, 2010
Im rationed towels at my place too... one stack of usually six-seven towels for the whole kitchen, per shift (3 people, 8 hours) and I think its a joke sanitation-wise... I try to keep a clean one on me whenever possible, but damn sometimes its hard.... any ideas on trying to keep the few towels I have as clean as possible?
 
8,550
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Joined Feb 13, 2008
Have a couple of friends call the manager to say they saw cooks using filthy towels in the kitchen and it looked "gross" or "disgusting." Then have them call the County Board of Health to complain that your kitchen is using filthy towels.  Add your own complaint to the B of H, anonymously, as well.  Make sure everyone keeps calling until hilarity eventually ensues.

It's typical of people who have very little actual power, are wasting a great deal of money and resources elsewhere, or both, to try and look good by nickel and diming something important that only costs pennies anyway.  It's a way of showing they have everything under control, which to anyone who actually knows anything at all only shows they couldn't find their own behinds in the dark.  Unfortunately for us, the people to whom they report are usually more clueless yet.

Show biz provides some really great examples when line producers save $1200 on two juicers and two extra-hammers at scale, but ends up costing the company $40,000 in meal penalties and golden hours that can be blamed on someone else.  Forgive me if I still sound bitter; it's only because I still am.

Moral of the Story:  When you'll only hurt yourself trying to go over someone's head, you must go around.

Anonyomous ex-grip
 
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6,367
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
Frankly, the places that ration towels have to be filthy by definition.

I use more than two just cooking at home, supplemented by paper towels. How can you keep a professional work station clean that way?

BDL, you get no sympathy from me. Hollywood has always taken advantage of the folks who do the work.

Ya wanna talk about how they used to screw extras by using historical reenactors? Used to be that they'd pay reenactors ten bucks a day plus lunch. These are people who brought their own "costumes," their own weapons, and who often were combat-trained (for those not in the know, each of those things carries a premium payment over scale---especially those certified for combat).

Great for the producers. For professional screen extras, not so much!
 
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Joined Jul 25, 2010
Frankly, the places that ration towels have to be filthy by definition.

I use more than two just cooking at home, supplemented by paper towels. How can you keep a professional work station clean that way?
You CAN'T. Eventually (after about 3-4 days) our HC had to relax that policy as the owners of the restaurant were LIVID when they saw cooks using filthy towels to wipe down surfaces.
 
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Joined Aug 3, 2010
How about in a place that is just replete with grease? I'm in a BBQ joint, and with all the grease in the steam and coming off the food and whatnot, it's really, really difficult to keep clean. God knows I try, but it's really tough. Suggestions?
 
8,550
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Joined Feb 13, 2008
KY,

What makes you think I'm the ex-grip?  He was, after all, anonymous. 

Besides, I have it on good authority that the ex-grip -- whoever he is -- would prefer a large, well aged whiskey to sympathy.  Elijah Craig is fine.  I understand you can get it nice and fresh in Kentucky where it grows wild.

BDL

PS.  Whiskey with a "e" dammit. 
 
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6,367
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
.....where it grows wild.

Only near Bardstown.

And why would that any nee mous grip be drinking that acrid stuff when there's Woodford Reserve to be had? True, the Woodford is farm raised rather than wild, but still.......
 
8,550
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Joined Feb 13, 2008
Craig 12 is very smooth.  If anything it's a little too light.  Craig 20, in spades.

Funny you should mention it, Woodford Reserve is one of the anonymous grip's two favorite everyday whiskeys.  The other is Bulleit.  Trader Joe's carries both.  How great is that?

BDL
 
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Joined Jul 19, 2010
Two towels is just retarded. 

I'm with boar_d on this one.  It's not even frickin' expensive.

I'm a bit biased though, because I go through towels like crazy.  I am a CLEAN cook though.  I don't over-use them at all.  My method works.  I don't think 6-9 is unreasonable.

A clean kitchen is worth MUCH more than a linen service invoice. 
 
6,367
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
Craig 12 is very smooth......

Not to hijack this thread, but a little background you might find interesting.

Elijah Craig was a Baptist minister in what is now Georgetown, KY, who is credited with the "invention" of bourbon. The whole secret, of course, is the aging in charred white oak barrels, and he was the first to do that.

The folks at Wild Turkey make a series of single-barrel special blends, one of which is as close to Craig's original forumula as it's possible to be. By today's standards it's the antithesis of mellow. After tasting it, I shudder to think what they'd been drinking before that.

Woodford Reserve's claim to fame (other than it's smooth taste, of course) is that it's produced using pot stills, same as single-malt Scotch. If you're ever out this way I'll take you to the distillery, and you can watch the process.

Now back to our regularly sceduled programming.
 
8,550
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Joined Feb 13, 2008
Should I have guilt over putting bourbon over towels?

With all respect to the good rev.,  I'm not talking 'bout the original recipe but the stuff them Beam boys are stuffing into bottles. 



Yum-O. 

But nothing's better than Woodford Reserve after the second sip.  Well maybe some nice, ancient, not even bourbon Dickel. 

I'll take you up on the tour,

Anonymous Ex-Grip
 
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6,367
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
.....but the stuff them Beam boys are stuffing into bottles. 

I'm thinking Ol' Any Knee Mous has been sucking on bourbon soaked side towels so long his eyes is getting dim and he caint see the labels clearly.

Elijah Craig (which, btw, comes in 12 YO and 18 YO, but not 20) is a Heaven Hill brand, not Jim Beam. That's a nuther place altogether. Heaven Hill is in Bardstown; the last operating distillery in what had, at one time, been the bourbon capital of the world.

Woodford Reserve is produced in the old Labrot & Graham distillery, in Versailles (pronounced Ver Sales, not Ver Sigh), and is the oldest still-in-operation distillery in the state. The buildings date from 1812, and the place is gorgeous. Makers Mark is also a wonderful place to visit, btw. Beautiful, park-like grounds.

Fact is, my friend, I don't know a heck of a lot about that spoiled grape juice you guys make out there. But when it comes to the golden elixer, I do know a little sumpin.
 

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