While my 12-year-old daughter did her homework in the living room yesterday, I joined her and did mine. For the first time in two decades (arguably more), I studied.
Those who know me well will assume it’s a ploy to have an excuse to get a steamed pork bun or some duck feet (for making stock) at the Asian Supermarket in Albany, pick up a cider doughnut at Golden Harvest in Valatie, perhaps grab a bowl of fantastic soup to go from O’Kenny’s Express or, more nobly, visit my grandparents.
And yes, I will do all of those things. I don’t get onto the Thruway often, so when I do, I make the most of it.
But really, this is about really starting my food service education. Today, a ServSafe class and exam. Next week, a three-day conference with food service workers from other Christian camps.
ServSafe is a food training program that’s pretty much the gold standard for anyone who supervises a kitchen. It covers all of the ickiness that commercial kitchens are prone to, and all of the awful things that can happen to your food, like bacteria, metal shavings from the can opener and toxins in fish that result in victims coughing up worms. I didn’t know about that.
There’s a lot I didn’t know. I know food service fundamentals, and I’ve been formally dinged only once by the Health Department in four years — for chipping paint in the pantry, where sealed boxes and cans are stored. But I didn’t know the difference between clostridium perfringens gastroenteritis and bacillus cereus gastroenteritis, though after today, I know which one results in watery diarrhea.
I owe it to our guests. They’re coming to our banquets, they’re bringing retreat groups, they’re sending their children to camp, and while I know it’s for spiritual enrichment, relationships and an incredible program, I owe it to them to ensure they’re in good, sanitary, clean hands. And that means more than simply ensuring the steam table food is warmer than 135 degrees.
Next week’s three-day program, held at a beautiful camp in eastern Pennsylvania, will include several workshops on cooking for guests with allergies, which I’m very excited about. It’s an opportunity to get a relevant education, to have a pro sharpen my knives and talk shop with other Christian food service directors about ideas to help us be more efficient and make better use of what God’s given us.