We will be the first to admit that kitchen uniform is not the most fashionable of clothing. We doubt many kitchen workers sneak out on a Saturday night in their checks and whites. However, it is an important part of food hygiene and the right clothes should be worn if you want to stay inside the legal requirements.
There are very good reasons for the use of clean clothes, and commonly a recognisable uniform in a kitchen. As with many jobs, the right equipment and the correct clothing are for the safety of yourself and others. The style and design of the workwear may vary from plain white or black through to branded uniforms, but they all perform the same basic functions. While it probably isn’t absolutely necessary to wear a traditional kitchen outfit such as a chef coat, most businesses choose to use them because they clearly differentiate between outdoor day clothes and the kitchen. As usual, the old enemy of cross-contamination is top of the list when considering the right clothes. The particular needs will vary kitchen to kitchen, but here are some things to consider:
- Kitchen clothes should always be clean at the start of the shift and should have had minimal contact with anything outside the kitchen environment to minimise the risk of harmful bacteria spreading from your clothes
- Hats or hair nets should be worn to help prevent a nasty surprise hair in your food, but more importantly a loose hair can be a source of contamination
- Enclosed shoes with non-slip soles are the best footwear. Kitchens are prone to spills, dropped knives, the occasional incident with broken crockery or glass and many other potential dangers, so sturdy shoes are a good idea. Clogs are a common choice, as are comfortable work boots
- Jewellery, watches, and so on should be removed before entering the kitchen. Apart from the potential for things like necklaces and rings to fall into the food you are making, they also tend to harbour quite a bit of bacteria
- No make up. Nail varnish in particular is not welcome in a kitchen because it can easily flake and become a source of contamination. For safety, it is best to avoid make up
- Tuck and cover. Your hair should be tied back (then under a hat or hairnet) and your work clothing should completely cover any personal clothes. The purpose of the uniform is to act as a barrier between your interaction with the world outside the kitchen and the food. So, the rule is that covering is the key
Approaching your shift with a high level of personal cleanliness is vital to a safe food preparation area, and that means that you should be wearing the right clothes and taking the right precautions before you start cooking.