When is a Chef’s Knife Not a Screwdriver?
Of all the issues that one can single out for criticism in aprofessional kitchen, the topic that irks me the most is the misuse of equipment. I’m not talking about the occasional sheet pan drafted into use as a deep fryer cover; it’s the wholesale misapplication and underutilization of the tools of the trade that gets to me.
Rolling-pin-tenderizer-users aside, who’s responsible for (not) training people this way?
I won’t mention the patently dangerous, like frialators next to open flames. (Well, OK I did mention it.) No, I’m talking more about the mundane dangers such as bartenders who fill glasses by dipping them into ice instead of using a scoop, or wait-staff who put their fingers into glassware to carry multiples.
It seems that a chef’s knife is viewed by kitchen staff as though it is a substitute for its Swiss Army cousin doubling as saw, screw driver, bottle and can opener, hammer, and yes even fingernail cleaner. YUCK! I suppose this creates job security for grinding services.
China caps become impromptu fryer oil filters. Bamboo skewers are mini torches to light pilots. Fry pans double as pot lids, meat tenderizers, and sizzle platters. Tongs are everything else that the chef’s knife can’t be.
Char broilers being used as stock pot ranges will eventually warp under the concentrated heat. Refrigerated merchandisers, intended (by the bottling companies that supplied them for free) to be used in the FOH for sealed products, can’t keep up with the rigorous demands of the BOH environment. Walk-ins designed as storage boxes, when used as extemporaneous blast chillers, put the stored product at risk by raising the box temperature and keeping everything in the danger zone longer.
Knives shoved in the filthy cracks between appliances, dupe racks hung by string, equipment on extension cords, vegetables prepped in pot sinks, soiled bus-tubs used to transport clean wares, oven doors and refrigerated drawers used as step ladders create hazardous, dangerous and unsanitary conditions.
Ice bins hijacked as personal refrigerated storage by staff, products from home stored in the cooler, out-of-service heated or refrigerated drawers used for stashing personal items all detract from the professionalism of the establishment and are code violations.
I’ve seen wire rack shelving used as bunk beds in the dry storage room. Bourdain speaks of flour sacks used as mattresses (but not for sleeping). I charitably spare you the details of the stock pot as rodent exterminator story.
A site survey can serve as a stark reminder of the human propensity to violate the spirit and the intent of the design of the equipment and/or the facility. Foodservice equipment and supplies professionals should always consider the Murphy’s Law of commercial kitchens: anything that can be used wrong, will be.