Not much to see; why restaurants embrace the open kitchen

Sales of magical bacteria-vision goggles remain stagnant.

Because they don’t exist.

Time magazine (is it still printed?) breathlessly praises the open kitchen trend as a response to Big Food and fast food horror stories.

A check of any local restaurant inspection results will show that dangerous microorganisms can fester with bad practices at the fanciest and dumpiest places; they’re equal opportunity pathogens.

For maximum transparency, restaurants ranging from fast-casual superstar Chipotle, to indie eateries favored by foodies, to massive fast-food chains like Domino’s are all turning to the open kitchen.

The problem is, an open kitchen doesn’t tell me, the consumer, whether the cooks washed their hands after having a dump, whether the food is being kept at proper hot or cold temperatures, whether a thermometer was used to verify a safe temperature had been reached, and, most importantly, where all those ingredients being assembled into a meal came from. Does the groovy Chipotle source lettuce from growers who have exemplary food safety programs or do they get it from where they get it.

An open kitchen may make people feel better, but does nothing to answer questions about microbial food safety.

Camel burgers on the menu in Saudi Arabia

Amy is forever telling me she wants a llama. I figure she saw it in the movie, Napolean Dynamite, and that maybe it would be cool in a retro sorta way. She also grew up with deer, so there’s some validity to it.

Amy also talks of the farm on Interstate-70 between Manhattan (Kansas) and Topeka where she would see a camel on the hill. I never saw the camel. But Amy told the story to enough people that she finally ran into one who knew of the Kansas camel, and said the farmer got rid of it.

Maybe it was made into camel burgers? Cause that’s what they’re doing in Saudi Arabia, where a fast food restaurant is offering baby camel burgers as the latest way for the camel-crazed country to enjoy one of their favorite delicacies.

Saleh Quwaisi, one of the owners of the Local Hashi Meals restaurant in the capital Riyadh which plans to open a second branch soon and considers to expand further, said,

"The idea…was to invent something new. It is about the love of Saudi people for camel meat.”

Walid Sanchez, managing director of, a popular Saudi online dining directory, sees a huge market for camel burgers as Saudis like to try out new menus and appreciate the quality of locally made meat.

"People like camel meat but no one experimented with camel burgers before…I think it will be a popular thing, it will definitely take off.”

Ahmad al-Okaili, ordering "Hashi" burgers — Arabic for baby camel — for him and his children, agreed: "I like their idea and enthusiasm, they’re the first to do this and they’ve become famous with it, which is well-deserved."

Food handlers don’t have time

Researchers at Kansas State published the results of a study of the barriers to food safety practices of food handlers.  Conducting focus groups with 159 food handlers, split into 2 groups, the researchers report that food handlers not only have a lack of food safety knowledge but also often a lack of understanding why employees should comply with food safety guidelines.

Yep. Totally.  So what do we do about it?

The recommendations the researchers provide are:
-Provide regular food safety training to their foodservice employees;
(sure, except training for knowledge change on it’s own doesn’t do much, as they state in their press release)
-Educate employees about the consequences of improper food handling to improve attitudes toward food safety; (we prefer to use “compel” instead of educate, education is too limiting).
Place signs about consequences of improper food handling in food production areas; (kind of like our food safety infosheets?)
And three food safety culture ideas — (at barfblog we’ve been talking about food safety culture for a while, as have Frank Yiannas and Chris Griffith):
Encourage food safety compliance with verbal reminders and praise;
-Be good role models;
-Incorporate food safety practices into employees’ daily routines to eliminate the perceptions that they do not have time to perform them.

Hey this is great — but what’s missing is the how. Just telling managers to make more time for food handlers isn’t very realistic. Food safety communications types, us included, need to get out and start testing food safety culture and measure behavior. And share the results so everyone can build on it.

I presented some similar findings of food handler barriers at IAFP 2007 and some qualitative data on food safety practices at food service (highlighting time pressures especially) at IAFP 2008. I don’t think the solution to time pressures is telling the industry to slow down, or more "education". I think we need to engineer processes and equipment (like self sanitizing knives), look to new tools (like using sanitizer during busy times, instead of handwashing) — and test them. If they work, and they don’t slow the kitchen down, it’s an easy sell.

Our research in food safety culture needs to move to show me, don’t tell me.