Keeping Cool in the Hot Summer months

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Joined Jun 11, 2004
:chef: I'm looking for ideas for keeping 'relatively' comfortable at work during the summer months. We have an 'ancient' exhaust system (just exhaust--no return). The Big Wigs are planning to upgrade soon, but we're not holding our breath. On a day over 90 degrees F, w/ high humidity, the overall kitchen temp can hit 120 F with areas by the grills hitting 180 F!! Forturatly, during these times we can be lax in our dress code--short sleeves and even shorts allowed. I've even taken 'ice blankets' from picnic coolers, cut them into strips, and rolled them into my scarfs. I keep at least 6 on hand for any shift--in a freezer near my station. They can last 30-45 minutes, and take about 90 minutes to refreeze.

Any other helpful ideas out there?
 

kuan

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I once worked in these conditions. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of money to fix. We used to put a big fan at the end of the line. It helped a little.
 
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Over the years I have acquired two portable swamp coolers. One of them goes on the end of our line for air circulation. They work fine till the humidity gets too high for the evaporative effect to be noticed. Then we just run them dry to get the air moved around. Then they make the neck collars that go in the freezer and stay frozen for much longer than a rolled up towel.
 
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The neck collars are nice but can become a hassle at times. We mostly just lived with it. We would fill a giant bucket with a ton of ice, water, lemon, lime and orange slices and dipped into that all night. During momentary breaks in the action it's time for a quick run into the walk-in or freezer and just stand as the moisture wicks off you. And believe me I have worked in some seriously hot(bad) kitchens! :eek:
 
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Joined Jun 11, 2004
All are great ideas, and we've tryed most--and saddly, of course, we do live with it. One of my greatest trills is going into the large walk-in freezer (0 degrees F) and building an igloo out of cases of frozen chicken. I did even buy a huge warehouse fan (cheap at a garage sale) that helped somewhat, but -believe it or not- it had to go because the clean-up crew wouldn't move it to mop, and it was "messing up the server's hair"-- :confused: honestly, you can't make this stuff up!!
But seriously thanks for the thoughts, and keep them coming--I'm going to grab a sports drink, and head back to the igloo!! :chef:
 

pete

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I've tried them all: wet towels around the neck, half frozen sweat bands around the forehead (be careful, if it's too cold you will get brain freeze, trust me), fans blowing on me (don't like that one due to it blowing my my food also). I've even steamed up a freezer so badly I couldn't see 2 feet in front of my face!!! I also worked with a chef who kept a box of corn starch in the freezer (I hope I don't need to explain further). But, mostly I have found it best to just tough it out, drink plenty of water and dream about the ice cold beers awaiting me at the end of my day!!!!
 
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Joined Dec 23, 2003
If you do find yourself sweating a lot, rather than guzzling all the nasty stuff in a sports drink, you might want to take electrolyte supplements instead. Potassium, magnesium, calcium, and possibly sodium (if you're not getting enough salt in your diet). Supplements will also be a lot cheaper than all the sports drinks.
 
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:chef: Alas, I've got too much salt in my diet--should cut back-gotta watch the pressure. The doctor has me on diaretics now. I drink at least 6 liters of water per shift, and was swelling up like Spongebob.
Doing better now though. I will look into the suppliments, but work supplies the 'gatorade' for free.
 
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If you watching your salt intake then definitely think about the supplement route. Gatorade is loaded with salt.
 
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Hey, if you can't take the heat, then.... :D
It's much better needing salt in this situation.
Loose clothing is best. I've heard alot of grill cooks down this way convert white fishing shirts in to cook shirts.
Sounds silly but heat is a huge distraction! Think cool, cool sox and shoes, better breathing, deep breaths in through the nose out through the mouth. Shallow breathing will increase persperation.
The beer idea is good, make something else your distraction.
Heading into the coolers and freezers, I don't think is a good idea.
 
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I'm not giving up my igloo, and I'll defend it with every last piece of frozen chicken at my disposal! Seriously, as you may have read in other posts, trips into the big freeze are a GLORIOUS treat, looked forward to by everyoine one on the staff. As to the loose clothes-great idea, I'm already in short sleeves, shorts, and a dew rag. Thats why I prefer Winter--If its too cold, you can always put on another sweater. In Summer, there is only so much you can take off before the cops show up :chef:
 
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Joined Dec 23, 2003
How about a trip to home depot for some ductwork and an exhaust fan? Maybe after making a hole in the wall to install it, the owners might get the idea that you need some ventilation.
 

kuan

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Problem is the hood won't work properly with the exhaust fan.
 
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The Big Cheese said they were at the bank this week to get the funding for the new exhaust system. Maybe soon--keep your fingers crossed, but still keep any clever ideas coming. Thanks.
 

kuan

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Why? With modern technology why put up with it? We're just like everybody else. If mechanics don't tolerate unsafe working conditions why should we? We're supposed to try and make things better for ourselves, not suck it up and watch our friends die of heatstroke and heart attacks.

Kuan
 
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You tell 'em Kuan! Yo-jpdchef, I have been dealing with it for over 25 years.
I'm just venting amoung my peers, and am always looking for new ideas. That is how we grow as individuals.
A mind that is unwilling to learn is stagnate. :)
 
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One would think that installing air conditioning in a kitchen would make it comfortable enough and improve the productivity enough to justify the expense.
 
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The owners of the kitchen I work in talked about putting in air conditioning a couple of years ago. Still waiting and sweating. I have tryed the mira cool bandanas but I find them to be a pain after they loose their cool. You are walking around with a warm damp bandana around your neck. Not very comfortable. I've resorted to shaving my head in summer months. I've done it for the past couple of years and it helps alot. My hair is normally very full and thick. The owners did spring for a velcro screen for the door to the loading dock but it is not very effective to keeping out insects and having the door open just lets in more heat and humididty. Some of my employees didn't believe me until one day in the middle of August I said fine leave the door open but make sure the screen is sealed tight. There was no breeze at all that day and with in 45 min. they notcied that the kitchen increased in tempature by what seemed like 20 degrees and were begging me to close the door.

If you want my advice bald is the way to go. If your head is cool the rest of your body stays cool.
 
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I too have thought about the 'shaved' look for the summer. :rolleyes: Alas, in a nut shell, it ain't gonna happen. With little exception(Montel Williams & Avery Brooks), the wife HATES the bald look. So, the choice is be cool at work, or happy at home. I choose the latter. :D She says she might reconcider if I lose some weight first. Bald and Chunky don't go well together. Thanks for the idea--maybe next year....
 
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