[box type=”shadow” ]He is a cool chef, a team player, a cheerful motivator of innovation and experimentation in the kitchen. But when it comes to cleanliness, he is a stickler for perfection and an enforcer of tough protocols. Ajit Bangera, Sr Executive Chef, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai talks to Vijayalakshmi Sridhar about how he has educated his staff on his own and ‘in-thekitchen- rules’ and the easiness with which they are followed in the organization.[/box]
AT THE heart of the muchrenowned ITC group are its tradition and trend-setting practices. The hospitality chain has its own standards and style of processes & operations that have been followed and perfected all through these years. The three-year old ITC Grand Chola, in Guindy, Chennai, is yet another quality reckoner for the brand.
Why is kitchen hygiene important?
Hospitality is a highly competitive industry. The food that is served is central to any brand’s reputation. Though, as diners, we get to see only the end product on the plate, it is pretty much a reflection of what goes on behind the scenes, in the kitchen.
On the technicality & creativity of cooking, Chef Ajit says, “Hygiene is very crucial to food that has a short shelf life and is involved with different stages of it such as procuring, storing and preparing it. The palette and hygiene go hand in hand. A clean kitchen is the basis for creativity, energy and inspiration to flow.”
The ITC branded practice involves 3 imperative stages of cleaning; WASHING, RINSING, SANITIZING.
The ITC branded practice involves three imperative stages of cleaning; washing, rinsing, sanitizing. Every food item is processed, vacuum packed, labeled and then frozen. A sanitizing kit is at the staff’s access and they are trained in an integrated process involving eight steps of cleaning and sanitizing.
The in-house training
ITC conducts induction and reinduction programs to inculcate good personal cleaning practices among its kitchen staff. It starts from the most basic facet as washing hands and covers in-depth regimens of how to wash, when to wash, how important is the first wash, how often to wash after, how long to wash, washing while switching handling one food to another, the significance of wearing gloves, the hygiene practices that apply to it and so on. Restraint, on the other hand, is also a much prominent trait while working in the kitchen. In addition to hands, tongs, spoons, ladles are used to handle food wherever appropriate.
The 24 cold storage rooms at ITC are maintained at an optimum temperature. Engineers and chefs monitor to ensure there are no temperature fluctuations.[/box]
The training for aspiring chefs is what helps ITC nail and tighten the screws at the most basic of levels. ITC’s training varies for different people with different responsibilities. If it is a direct food handler, in addition to the induction, they are exposed to everyday briefing and training in the kitchen not only by the chefs in charge but also by different technicians from the industry. The training is continuous and is spread out throughout their tenure with the organization. As it is, ITC is updated with anything that is happening around the globe and is open to pick up and adopt pathbreaking learning for all of its 180 kitchen staff and 80 support staff.