Unilever Solutions elevates the restaurant industry through training in food safety

Every culinary student worth his chef ’s jacket will relentlessly have the voice of his instructor playing in his head, reminding him about the value of handling food properly. In the same vein, it’s every restaurant owner’s nightmare to have a customer complain of food poisoning.

But face it, in the commercial kitchen sphere, not everyone is created equal. There are the schooled ones adroit with the nuances of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), a systematic approach to food safety, and there are those who never got any formal training and are in it because of their passion for cooking.

Thanks to institutions like Unilever Food Solutions (UFS), the essentials of food safety are accessible to both trained and untrained food professionals via the Chefmanship Academy. (In the Philippines, UFS distributes international food brands like Knorr, Lipton, and Best Foods.)

Throughout the year, in various provinces, chefs, and trainers from the Academy share their expertise with a crowd of industry members – from big-time restaurant owners, kitchen crew, to aspiring chefs, and food entrepreneurs – and give lectures and hands-on workshops on food safety.

The first initiative of its kind in Southeast Asia, Chefmanship Academy was established by Unilever Food Solutions to meet the many needs of food professionals in the industry. Call it passion, the academy’s mission is “to inspire greater service efficiency, customer satisfaction and business profitability.”

The academy traces its roots to Germany where it covers 165 topics with over 12 diverse modules “combining real world insights with factual research from industry insiders, together with hands-on learning experiences”.

Chef Carlos Felipe Aluning couldn’t stress any more the importance of the program to his students. The Sous Chef for Culinary Applications of UFS, Chef Aluning leads the Academy’s team of lecturers. A graduate of the De La Salle College-St. Benilde Culinary Arts track, Chef Aluning started out as a cook-help for a five-star hotel. There, he was assigned to cut vegetables. Eventually, he moved up.

On his way up the culinary ladder, Chef Aluning became aware of the importance of having the entire culinary team learn how to properly handle and prepare dishes. Excellent food isn’t just about taste and presentation, it’s also about making sure it’s well-prepared and free from toxins and contamination.

Poor food handling and the lack of food safety could result in food-borne illnesses. As a cook or establishment owner, be very afraid when a customer suddenly starts complaining of stomach problems, nausea or diarrhea, since these are symptoms of food-borne illness. If the scenario worsens, the customer could go through life-threatening situations especially for the elderly, young children, and pregnant women.

Chefmanship Academy workshops are by invitation only, especially for regular customers of UFS. But if an establishment would like to have its team go through the course, it only needs to contact Unilever Food Solutions, and Chef Aluning and his team will come.

He adds, “The big hotels have their schooled chefs who have been trained about the right way to prepare and handle food. Our workshops are especially for those involved with restaurants and whose staff did not really go to school. Being chefs ourselves, we try to share our expertise with them. This workshop should at least be given as a refresher course every year to all the staff.”

It helps that there was a boom in the hotel and restaurant business last year. This has encouraged business owners to step up and improve the quality of their products and food service through workshops and trainings. The Academy, for its part, has received requests from far as South of the Philippines, in Boracay, Iloilo, and Davao last year, to preach their advocacy.

“We’ve also been requested to conduct workshops in Mindanao. I think hotel and restaurant owners are realizing that the training wouldn’t only benefit their employees but also their business. Food safety is an integral part of their enterprise.

“If something happens, just one mistake, they know it could ruin what they’ve invested in.”

Academy workshops are ideal for
restaurants with teams who have
no formal culinary schooling

The course is an entire package consisting of topics such as HACCP, a systematic approach to food safety, food-borne illnesses, hazards in the kitchen, temperature danger zones and the best system to apply in the participants’ workplaces, to name a few. But always, the workshops are tailorfitted to the kind of establishment the participants are in and the level of knowledge of the participants.

Even culinary school graduates can benefit from the workshop, adds Chef Aluning, “In school, the theories are taught. But as chefs, we can impart to them our actual experiences. They can also consult us, and we could offer them solutions to their food safety problems.”

Participants get to take away practical lessons in the actual food demonstrations where they are given the whole nine yards on food safety: from preparing the ingredients, cooking, plating, to serving the dishes. The team makes sure participants leave no chance for contamination from the kitchen to the customer’s table.

Chefmanship Academy also updates participants with the latest trends in food safety measures. Chef Aluning notes, for instance, that parameters change through the years: “Four years ago, the danger temperature zone was from 5°C to 60 °C. This is the danger zone wherein bacteria grows if you keep the food in this temperature for more than four hours. Now, it’s 5°C to 57.8 °C, which means the bacteria is more tolerant of the temperature. You have to keep updated in terms of standards every two to three years by checking with the World Health Organization.”

Meanwhile, food critics abroad are starting to show more appreciation for Philippine cuisine. TV host and food writer Andrew Zimmern included Filipino dishes in his top foods trends of 2013 in the US. He wrote, “This is the year, finally, that Pinoy foods have their day in the sun.”

The people behind Chefmanship Academy are feeling positive about this development. “People are more mindful and more critical about the foods they eat. Caterers, for instance, use food warmers now instead of just food trays to preserve the integrity of the food. “

Entrepreneurs, he adds, are realizing that learning food safety practices is an essential key to keeping their business robust and fresh.

The courses in Chefmanship Academy vary per season in response to the students' needs.
Entrance into the class is by invitation only.

Chefmanship Academy is located at Unilever Philippines, 1351 U.N. Avenue, Paco, Manila.
Landline: (+632) 588-8888. www.unileverfoodsolutions.com.ph


Prevent outbreaks of food poisoning by following these steps:

Reprinted from the Chefmanship Academy Takeaway

• Inspect your deliveries.
• Familiarize yourself with product information.
• Check for date of expiry on processed foods and dry goods.

• Store perishable food at the right temperatures.
• Always wrap and label items (date received, production and date of expiry, quantity).
• Observe the First In, First Out (FIFO) stock rotation system.
• Raw meat and seafood should be stored separate from cooked and ready-to-eat food

• Ingredients should be processed and kept at the correct temperature.
• Once thawed, the ingredient should be consumed within a day. Avoid refreezing ingredients.
• Cook ingredients within two hours of removing from fridge.

• Kill or reduce microorganisms by cooking food thoroughly.
• Cook at the required minimum internal temperature.
• Download the minimum internal temperature chart at www.ufs.com/sg/chefmanship.

• Keep hot food at 57°C, and cold food at 0°C to 4°C.
• Hold food for service in small batches so that it will not reach the temperature danger zone (TDZ).
• Measure internal temperatures every 2 hours.

• Divide ingredients into several parts to speed up cooling.
• Reduce cooked food temperature by submerging the containers in an ice bath: First 2 hours from 57°C to 21°C Next 4 hours from 21°C to 4°C or lower
• Use a blast chiller for faster cooling.

• Reheat food at a minimum internal temperature of 74.0°C for 15 seconds within 2 hours.

• Use only clean and sanitised utensils at all times.
• Serve food at the right temperature.
• All staff must practice good hygiene.

• Untouched leftovers can be reheated and serve.
• Uncut or whole vegetables used as display on the buffet table may be used for cooking or garnishing as long as they are still fresh.
• Throw away leftovers that have been touched.

• Know every step: from serving of the food, down to how it was produced, stored and received.