Sharp knives, hot stoves and near boiling vats of oil are just the short list of things that can go horribly wrong in the heat of a professional kitchen. As Chef Dan likes to point out, “There are five ways ‘till Sunday we can kill you.”
It’s Week 3 now for the afternoon class in Culinary Arts 1, and the students are itching to get out of the classroom and into their chef whites. These first five weeks of theory are essential though, to ensure that minor cuts and burns (and a lot of misinformation) are the only casualties in our training.
Some students embrace the book learning. Others, not so much. The chef-instructors know that proper food handling, memory-taxing lists of food-borne pathogens and equipment safety measures are not for the feint of heart. To keep us all engaged, they serve up sides of stories from the front line to help us digest all the material we’re covering.
Chef Dan is animated in his hair-raising tales of skewering one cook with a meat fork (he survived), fishing another’s severed digits from a meat slicer, and rescuing a third colleague after his knife slipped across his wrist. Chef Bill Sharpe has his own style of story-telling with anecdotes from his many years in hotel kitchens and his own restaurants (Blowing the door off the stack oven has been the best so far.) Their overall message? We are heading into a profession that requires teamwork to stay safe. “We can only have a good time in the kitchen,” says Chef Dan, “if you are communicating, paying attention and on your game every day.”