Gluten-Free Catering Cuisines
Dining out in restaurants or eating at a catered affair can be a risky proposition for anyone who is restricted to a gluten-free diet. While many restaurants and caterers offer gluten-free options – along with other offerings that take into account various food intolerances and allergies – not all take the time to train staff about the dangers of food sensitivities and to ensure that those “free-from” items are also free from cross-contamination.
These days, however, given how many gluten-free products are available – including vegetables, meat, legumes, and flour alternatives, such as cornmeal and rice flour – chefs can offer menus that are entirely gluten free, making life for a caterer whose client has gluten-free demands much easier. Caterers can offer a wide range of gluten-free cuisines, many of which we’ll discuss here, such as Mexican, Thai, and Indian.
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How to Minimize Food Waste in Commercial Kitchens
Food waste has long been an unfortunate byproduct of commercial kitchens – including both restaurant and catering kitchens. According to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), every year, roughly 40 million tons of wasted food is sent to landfills in the United States. At the same time, record numbers of Americans – about one in six – are receiving government food assistance. In the United States, organizations like the FWRA are taking on the challenges of food waste with the dual goal of shrinking our environmental footprint and addressing hunger in America. So, what can you do to reduce waste in your commercial kitchen? Read on.
What is Food Waste?
The sources of food waste are varied and many. Food waste is generated by consumers and the food-service industry (restaurants and catering companies, for instance), but it can also be a byproduct of manufacturing operations. Food waste is food that can be used again but that is instead sent to landfills. This food is thrown out because it looks weird and inedible; it was not eaten during a meal; or, it is unused and beginning to rot. Food waste amounts to the equivalent of about 20 pounds of wasted food per person per month in the U.S.; and in monetary terms, that’s about $1,000 of food waste per year per four-person family.
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Restaurant Health Department Inspections
Restaurant owners generally view a visit from the health inspector as an inconvenience – or worse – as opposed to an opportunity to learn. Most restaurant owners dread health inspections; however, as we previously discussed, preparing for these inspections means that there is no reason to fear the inspector’s visit. Proper food storage, careful personal hygiene, meticulous attention to cleanliness, ongoing training, and self-inspections are all part of the “before.” Now, we’ll talk about how you should act during, and after, the health-inspection process.
Frequency of Health Inspections
The more complex the food-service operation, the more often the health department will visit. A restaurant where meat and fish are prepared and served could be visited two or three times a year, whereas a coffee house or a small bakery will require inspections just once annually. However, other factors can affect the frequency of an inspector’s visit. If, for instance, you regularly receive low inspection scores, you can expect to be inspected up to four times a year. Similarly, if someone reports your establishment for a foodborne illness, or for substandard operating procedures, the health department is authorized to come out and inspect based on that complaint.
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How to Work with Health Inspectors
How you interact with health inspectors can go a long way to securing the health of your customers and the reliability of your license to do business. If, as a restaurant owner or caterer, you view your local health inspector as a nemesis, the time has come for you to rethink this position. Health inspectors are not your enemy; if anything, they are your partners, and the goal is to work together to prevent foodborne illness and ensure your customers’ wellbeing.
Why Restaurant Inspections Are Important
Health inspections are not designed to cause stress to restaurant owners and caterers; rather, their goal is to ensure safety for your customers. According to Food Services of America, more than half of all foodborne illnesses are acquired from eating at restaurants. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that half of all produce has chemical contamination. Faced with these challenges, it makes sense that the food in restaurants and catering facilities should be stored, thawed, and cooked according to strict regulations, and that the kitchen, freezers, and storage areas kept sanitary and sterile.
Continue reading Train Staff to Always be Ready for a Health Inspection