Chefs cleaning toilets

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Joined May 30, 2015
So, today, I was offered a job in the kitchen at a local restaurant. The kitchen looked very good (clean, well-maintained, etc.) and it seemed like it might be a good replacement for my current job which I dislike for a number of reasons, some of which I've talked about here previously and others that I haven't gotten into. However, something really struck me as odd about the position.

In my current job, we have more or less formally assigned duties (8 line stations plus 3 dish/sanitation stations) As a much smaller restaurant, they have a lot fewer lines and everyone does a little bit of everything - that makes sense. But, they also have no sanitation crew and instead use a rotating list where everyone has to clean the bathrooms at some point (during a cooking shift, I might add). As a small business, I want to be empathetic, but I just can't wrap my head around a chef cleaning the bathrooms - especiallly when on a cooking shift. At my current job, we contract bathrooms out to the skills center here, as do most restaurants in the area. It costs us around $15 a day and is well worth the money IMO.

Needless to say, I turned the job down. I was polite (you never know who you'll meet in the future) and they seemed like nice people, but I just couldn't do it. Besides the obvious health issues with a chef cleaning the toilets and then returning to cook food, I just don't see cleaning toilets as part of a chef's duties. Sure, I'll clean the kitchen, and I wash my own dishes when I hace time, but not toilets.

Has anyone else experienced this before? Do many restaurants use chefs to clean the bathrooms? I've never come across this before, so it seems like a rarity to me, but I've never worked outside of my current metro area so I was just curious.
 
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Joined Apr 5, 2007
Not to sound harsh but this comes off a little precious to me. In a smaller, "everybody does everything" venue I don't see the problem. Glove up, change your jacket (or whatever uniform) and toque, I don't see the issue. I mean, are you willing to clean a trap?
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Eh...no.
We prepare food, yes?
Human excrement is a bio hazard, as is urine, vomit, and other nasties (needles, sanitation pads, etc.). From a health inspector's point of view, you could clean toilets,PROVIDED you shower and change uniforms before coming into the kitchen.

I wonder, capriccosia, if it's only the cooks who have to clean the toilets, or is it the f.oh. staff as well? Customer toilets are the responsibility of the f.oh., just like the dining room cleanliness, no?

Just as a side note: I o/o my own busines for 10 years and did my fair share of toilet cleaning ( and repairs, and light bulbs, repairing the roof, and a host of countless other duties). But I reserved that special treat for the end of my shift, before I went home.
 
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So you never use a washroom during a shift? Please describe your method of toilet cleaning that requires full body decontamination afterward.
 
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I guess a lot of places do that.

A pub I used to work at did the same thing. But I simply refused to do it no matter what.

One of the servers ended up having to do it in my place.

By law (I think), you are allowed to turn down a certain task you deem unsuitable.
 
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Hi Allan,
Like I said, I cleaned the bathrooms and did any maintainence work after I was done in the kitchen, out of my uniform.

Look, would you as a customer, feel comfortable seeing a Chef enter a washroom with a plunger or cleaning supplies, and then emerge, going back to the kitchen, and then eat his/her food?
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
Hi Allan,
Like I said, I cleaned the bathrooms and did any maintainence work after I was done in the kitchen, out of my uniform.

Look, would you as a customer, feel comfortable seeing a Chef enter a washroom with a plunger or cleaning supplies, and then emerge, going back to the kitchen, and then eat his/her food?

I can't speak for Allan, but I would think the cleaning of the bathroom happens before the shift, i.e. when customers aren't there to observe a cook or chef cleaning the bathroom. I also can't imagine a scenario in which a chef or cook is pulled off the line during service to clean a dirty bathroom.

I don't see what "health issues" it presents that go beyond a normal trip to the bathroom. Obviously the cook/chef wouldn't wear an apron or a chef coat in the restroom. Chemicals are no worse than what we'd use to clean the kitchen (assuming proper cross contamination and hygiene procedures are utilized) and if you are wearing gloves, and you wash your hands properly after I really don't see the issue.

"Not wanting to see a chef enter the washroom" would extend to any employee entering the restroom, no? Would a customer be happier to see a server with a plunger and chemicals, who then returns to bring food to the table? A manager? A bartender? Who in a restaurant during service is the one you would want to see enter a restroom to clean it?
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
Capricciosa.
Is the issue the cleaning of toilets in general or the cleaning of toilets during a cooking shift?
If it's cleaning toilets, in a small place, you should be willing to do anything to help. Even a large place. Cleaning the bathroom/toilets isn't a demeaning task. It's one of the necessary parts of maintaining a pleasant atmosphere for customers.
However, as others have stated, I don't understand the timing of the cleaning. Are you actually supposed to stop cooking and go clean the bathroom in the middle of the shift? I've cleaned bathrooms before opening and after closing but never during service, certainly not when I'm busy working with food for customers present in the dining room.
 
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I would have had my dishwasher clean the bathrooms. IMHO I worked my ass off to get into a position of being a Chef. It's up to me to manage the kitchen. It's my call, the dishwasher isn't dealing with food and they are the best choice for these kinds of jobs....It;s not that I think I'm to good to clean the bathroom, it's just I have better things to do........ChefBillyB
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
I'm going to side with those who say the chef or really any food handling employee has no business cleaning the restrooms. I've done my share of cleaning them, and all I can say is if you have no problem with it you probably work in a place that has a washroom attendant handing out towels and little candies to upscale clientele. Especially in pub type establishments, it's not uncommon to encounter all manner of disgust in the restrooms. Blood, urine, feces and vomit are bio-hazards and simply wearing gloves then going back to food prep doesn't cut it. We recently had a Norovirus outbreak in a diner near here that closed it for a week. With the health department they had an outside company come in to scrub and sterilize the place. All single-service containers that might have been touched by customers were thrown out.
 
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Not taking one side or the other, merely pointing out that dishwashers handle the plates, glasses, and utensils. So do bus people, wait staff, bartenders, etc. Who is left?
 
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When i first started reading this thread, I didnt immed realize we might be talking about
cooking and serving staff servicing restrooms...during their shift... be it on the
floor or on the line. Or even prep cooks. I assumed we meant at the end, during
end of shift clean up routines.

In my experience, both as boh and as a customer at many different restaurants,
its usually the busser and or dishwasher who are notified of urgent restroom
service, be it out of paper, accidents, flooded floor etc. Thats who I always
notified, or the manager who in turn callled a busser.
Makes sense, theyre already dealing with the "sanitation" side of things.

So I look at it this way, we all have to use the restroom during a shift,
cant avoid it--restaurant coffee is what it is! But why push our ...sanitation
luck so to speak, by having food handlers do it when someone else can.
Even the general manager (many of whom dont do much anyway) or cashier
would be better choices than cook, server, prep or expediter.
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
Someone will have to explain how cleaning a restroom is inherently more unsanitary than simply using a restroom, provided that basic hygiene standards are upheld (i.e. apron/jacket off, wash/dry hands properly, etc).

Also, there really isn't anyone working in the restaurant that doesn't have SOME contact with food or utensils. I mean, bussers clear plates, yes...but they also refill water, change silverware, serve bread, etc. Dishwashers touch clean plates and utensils coming out of the machine. Even hosts/hostess touch menus, napkins, etc.

And I also assumed that we are talking about cleaning bathrooms as a "daily" cleaning task before the shift starts, not as ongoing duties during service.
 
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Would anyone go to a doctor who interrupted a surgery to go clean the shitter? Commercial kitchens should have a sanitary level on par with an operating room. Sadly, that standard is not very common with or without employees being asked to clean bathrooms in the middle of their shift.

There is nothing wrong with being asked to clean a bathroom on a rotating shift if and only if that cleaning takes place after you are done working with food.

Someone who handles and prepares food, including dishwashers and servers, have no business cleaning a bathroom during their shift. Period. A bathroom is a breeding ground for a variety of dangerous germs and bacteria that range from Staph to MRSA, not mention Hepatitis, Shigella, Norovirus, Salmonella and about 77,000 other nasty bacteria and viruses.

It just takes one incident to shut you down. IMO, its just not worth the risk.
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
Someone will have to explain how cleaning a restroom is inherently more unsanitary than simply using a restroom, provided that basic hygiene standards are upheld (i.e. apron/jacket off, wash/dry hands properly, etc).

I can't believe you are asking this. When you clean a restroom (properly) you expose yourself to fumes, odors and mists along with pathogens that permeate your clothes and shoes and get into your hair and on your skin. If you do it at the end of your shift, go home and take a shower good. But you know with most places that's not going to happen.

As said, the most logical people to do cleaning are the bussers and dishwashers since they have limited or no exposure to food. And that cleaning should be at the end of their shift after closing.
 
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Joined May 30, 2015
Thanks for the input. To clarify a few things, it would be the general/public bathroom. And, yes, it would be DURING a shift not at the end of the night. Besides the sanitation issues, I just don't think it falls in the realm of cooking. Chefs are not exactly unskilled labor. Like BillyB said, it's not that I'm above cleaning a bathroom, it's that I have better things to do (things that are in line with my training and skillset). I've refilled paper towel dispensers/soap dispensers my shair of times, and I've pulled garbage at the end of a shift, but I draw the line at cleaning toilets - especially general public toilets. To those who've said "you use it, don't you?" I would say, by that same logic, everyone should be cleaning the bathrooms at the local grocery store as well - doubtful. As far as who would do it, as some have asked, there are plenty of options. As I said before, our restaurant (and lots in the area besides ours) has people from the skills center do it on a daily basis. They get minimum wage and work for around 2 hours a day, something most any business should be able to afford.
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
As far as who would do it, as some have asked, there are plenty of options. As I said before, our restaurant (and lots in the area besides ours) has people from the skills center do it on a daily basis. They get minimum wage and work for around 2 hours a day, something most any business should be able to afford.

Excellent point I remember from your original post.

It looks like the management of that place wants to squeeze as much out of their employees as they can and don't respect them. They don't care or know about sanitation either.
 
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To those who think cleaning a bathroom is no dirtier than using a bathroom, consider this. When you use a restroom, your shoes and hands touch stuff. When you clean a toilet, I can't imagine digging in and not having something touch your arms/chest/shirt. When you clean a toilet (low to the ground), you're probably going to have to get on your hands & knees. When you clean a mirror/vanity, I can't see how you can avoid having the fixtures touch your shirt/waiste. All of these are pathogen contact areas that you would not have during a normal bathroom trip, and areas that can't be cleaned with a standard hand-washing sink or covered with gloves. Unsanitary work in general, and unacceptable during a food service shift.
 
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I will say that it is a strange request on the part of management. I would expect the cooks to clean the kitchen, not the public bathroom. Being willing to clean and being expected to do it are not the same. And other than the occasional problem scenario or to refill the TP or paper towels, I can't see anyone cleaning the bathrooms in the middle of service. Isn't the entire staff pre occupied with taking care of the customers? If the bathroom is clean before service, why does it need to be cleaned During service. Are the customers really that sloppy?
All else being equal, I think I'd get the resume together.
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
I can't believe you are asking this. When you clean a restroom (properly) you expose yourself to fumes, odors and mists along with pathogens that permeate your clothes and shoes and get into your hair and on your skin. If you do it at the end of your shift, go home and take a shower good. But you know with most places that's not going to happen.

As said, the most logical people to do cleaning are the bussers and dishwashers since they have limited or no exposure to food. And that cleaning should be at the end of their shift after closing.

"fumes" "odors" and "mists" are all the same thing, by the way. WTF is a "misty" bathroom. And if there is "mist" in a bathroom then you are exposed whether you are cleaning or not.

And not to be vulgar, but I don't think wiping after I go number 2 is somehow more sanitary or more inclined to cross contaminate than cleaning a toilet. Empirically one is no "cleaner" than the other.

There are just as many germs on most door handles than in most bathrooms. You guys sound like you need a freaking hazmat suit to clean a restroom.
 
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