Chef Ravi Kumar Reddy Varikuti works as a Garde Manger-Chef Instructor at Culinary Academy Of India
Cold kitchen was an essential aspect of food production in the hotel industry. This kitchen was not just connected with cooking, instead, this kitchen operations start from receiving goods to placing food on a buffet in an artistic way. This kitchen also protects all the ingredients, processed food, ready-to-eat food and so it was aptly named “Garde manger” which means protecting food.
Cold Buffets were synonymous with most modern food service styles owing to both the visual appeal, aid in placing variety, and low-cost service model. Cold kitchen, a place where cured, smoked, pickled, and other similar preserved foods including vegetables, meats, and a variety of other preparations that were made and served cold or directly served cold including en aspic, en gelee, pates, terrines, sandwiches, forcemeats and many more. It was also the place that makes aesthetically pleasing canapes, Piece Monte, and a variety of garnitures.
The biggest problem with the cold kitchen is microbial contamination which may occur if the food is not properly handled. So, the chef who handling cold food used to adhere to all sanitation rules for keeping the food safe.
The world is now experiencing COVID 19 pandemic. Personal and surrounding hygiene has become a very important issue all around the world. When it comes to food, every person is now concentrating on foods that develops immunity as a means of achieving the end which for all would be eliminating the pandemic. Yes, foods from the cold kitchen are also the perfect category as we have an option to choose food which is rich in a particular nutrient which we are lacking back with.
- Continuous temperature check:
People never expected that even a security guard holds a thermometer and screens temperature of the personnel like a doctor which we are experiencing today with this pandemic situation.
Continuous temperature checking of a chef who is in duty should be mandatory and his/her temperature log has to be maintained as this is a major symptom a COVID patient would show out. If any person shows the symptoms, immediate action must be implemented.
- Physical Distancing:
Never a kitchen looked empty but due to this COVID-19 crisis, it is happening. Even though unlock was declared with a series of openings, even though hotels and restaurants were open, the kitchen is looking empty. Millions of chefs lost their jobs. Proper physical distancing in the kitchen is essential failing which we might spread the virus as the affected person might be in the incubation period. Where he/she might spread the virus to many others.
- Frequent hand washes:
Even though frequent hand washing is in practice pre-pandemic to which an additional sanitization of hands for every 30-40 minutes is mandatory now. Don’t forget to use gloves when we are handling ready-to-eat foods.
Working with a mask on is a little difficult but these would be compulsory as it protects you not to inhale the contaminated air when someone sneeze or cough, as in the kitchen there is frequent communication happening between chefs and a mask would be very effective and an absolute compulsion.
- Following holding temperatures:
Holding the temperature of food is already in practice but when it comes to the cold kitchen there are few preparations which are served warm but due to this COVID pandemic people feel that the food at the danger zone is not good for health so, either they expect the food to be ice cold or piping hot so, there may be a change in the menu where the menus will be planned accordingly.
- A movement towards sterile kitchens:
Already most reputed organizations follow hygiene procedures, one of them being sanitizing work surface but now the frequency of sanitizing should increase for about every hour or so.
And same applies to the most used equipment in the kitchen i.e. Chopping boards, knives... there is no doubt there are color-coded for different types of food material but from now they also have to be frequently sanitized to ensure maximum safety.
The above-mentioned habits are few mandatory changes in terms of working the environment which are must in common with all the kitchen departments but when it comes to a cold kitchen, to be in action post-pandemic, it would require an added layer of safety also in the way they process or handle food preparations.
- Separation of sub-departments:
Cold kitchens theoretically consist of multiple bifurcated areas but they still work as the same unit in the same place. Physical separations of sub-departments in the cold kitchen is necessary to create optimal working conditions.
- Cold buffets & platters:
Cold buffets were the first part of the food counter which a guest used to visit when they come to eat where the food is arranged in the fancy designed palters made of a different material.
But due to this pandemic people stopped reaching to a cold buffet. Instead, we can place a salad platter under controlled temperatures which are artistically presented directly on the guest table where they can still experience the cold food.
- Expectations of customers:
In pre-pandemic period cold buffets were huge and one had a wide range of foods to select and eat. Starting from salads,canapes,cold meats, smorgasbord... everything was a delicacy. And which were artistically presented which pleases our eyes the minute we see.
But because of COVID, the customer started rejecting cold foods apart from fruits and raw salads in a few cases. So now the menus will have a series of change where the cooked meats or food which are cooked hot but served cold for example, chaudfroid foods might be chucked out.
- Elaborate buffet presentations:
In pre-pandemic, the buffets were elaborately displayed with various edible showpieces like ice sculptures, butter sculptures, sometimes fruit & vegetable carvings or atleast a vegetable display.
But now due to COVID-19 pandemic, lining a cold buffet itself is endangered as there would be no sales or people might not opt for a cold buffet so the end of the day it is a complete loss for a hotel/restaurant. But I hope the art of lining the elaborate display will not end and it reverts back to normal after this pandemic. But it will take an additional investment where the lining of food should be individually portioned through which we might succeed in serving cold foods in buffets.
- Impressing guest with cold food:
Impressing guest with cold food now is a little difficult as people might not expect food from a cold kitchen. But yes, we can still impress them by telling the medical benefits of the salads or by constructing a salad which helps people to improve their immunity.
- Is it safe???
Yes, it is absolutely safe to consume cold food during the time of COVID adhering to the rules and regulations of safety and sanitation.
- Additional training:
All these safety norms would require additional training to be getimplemented and followed by the staff.
With multiple hindrances, cold buffets may turn “A Thingof Past”, and a requirement for improved service standards and methods is seen.
Following which we can achieve a safe environment to produce safe food for the guests. There might be a lot many operational changes in the kitchen but “All Are Madeto Serve Safe Food&to Have Great Cold Buffets Incoming Future”.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 BrandCai
Rajesh Gupta on September 17, 2020:
Very useful article to understand the cold kitchen working style post pandemic....
Shiladitya Dutta on September 08, 2020:
Vishwa Anand on September 07, 2020:
Very few people write about Cold Kitchen and its difficulty to get some reliable, verified and good information about how to go about in the cold kitchen once the pandemic period is over. This article is an eye opener for all the grade manger chefs and will help them a lot. THANK YOU CAI you are always different and proactive.
Lot of your students have either trained under me or worked with me. Your students are par excellence.
Very soon you will see the Culinary and Catering industry being run by your alumni who are now already in the top positions of the industry.
Chef Vishwa Anand