Between Classes With...David Wixted, School of Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism

Sanitation is extremely important whether you're cooking at home or in a restaurant. We asked David Wixted, Assistant Professor in the School of Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism, to share his expertise and give some helpful hints.

You have several disciplines within the hospitality management field, tell us about your background in kitchen sanitation.

When I started in the early '70s with my parents when they first bought their restaurant, the B & D Tavern in Mechanicville, sanitation was always important, but not in the forefront. The biggest thing I've seen is how the times have changed with sanitation and how sanitation practices have really come to the forefront. I took my first sanitation class at SCCC with John Gepfert with 1995, and it opened my eyes to how the practice of sanitation has changed. What I learned we incorporated back into the restaurant.

When did you make the switch to teaching others about sanitation?

That's funny. After I took the class, I started teaching informally with my family at the restaurant. I was never a favorite at barbecues or picnics because my family would say, "Oh no, here he comes…is everything cold enough?" I taught my first sanitation class at SCCC in Fall 2000.

How did you become interested in the field?

It was always an interest of mine because of the family restaurant and because of how important sanitation is. All of the guidelines and recommendations are written for a purpose.

As the lead sanitarian at the Saratoga Race Course, you were involved in making sure that vendors adhered to sanitation standards. How did you accomplish that during your 13 years working there?

I used the codes that are used in industry. I made my own inspection sheets with the codes, and I would go to a restaurant or a concession and I would inspect, like a health inspector and write things up. As the track's in-house sanitarian, I had the power to throw food away. We can't take a chance. It was also to teach vendors about what they had done and how to improve it. The track opened my eyes that it's just not about holding and cooking food; it's about dishwasher temperatures, when you wear gloves, how long a product has been out. You have to check temperatures when product is received.

Okay, what's the deal with the five-second rule?

There is no deal. If it hits the floor, it's no good. If there are bacteria or viruses, they will immediately get on the food, the utensil, whatever it is.

Parting thoughts...

Here are my top five tips for a clean and safe kitchen.

#1. Wash your hands often. I cooked dinner yesterday for my mother's birthday, and I washed my hands at least a dozen times.

#2. Cook food thoroughly. Always make sure that you cook it to the proper internal temperature. For example, ground beef should be cooked to 158 degrees. That's a well-done burger. By cooking it, you will kill E. coli that might be present.

#3. Clean and sanitize all surfaces, cutting boards, utensils, before and after use. To home sanitize, I use bleach and water. Bleach is a great sanitizer. One cap full of bleach to a gallon of warm water works well. I use sanitizing towels to wipe down my cabinet handles and refrigerator handle.

#4. Use different cutting boards for various foods. You can find color-coded cutting boards: green - produce, red - raw meat, yellow - raw poultry, and orange or white - cooked meat. That is to prevent cross contamination. Wooden cutting boards are great as long as they don't separate because bacteria can live in those crevices.

#5. FIFO (first in, first out) Label and date cans and boxes and follow the FIFO rule. For example, in my pantry with chicken stock, the ones already in there, I move up front, and I put newer ones in back. I label and date and rotate everything.

Bonus: Defrosting methods - Don't leave meat on countertop to defrost. The best thing to do is to put it in the refrigerator. You can also put meat in the microwave, but you have to cook it immediately. Also, you can defrost it using running, cool water. For example, I put shrimp in a strainer under cool, running water to defrost. They will defrost within 10 minutes.

About David Wixted, Assistant Professor

David Wixted is an Assistant Professor in the School of Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism. He has been a member of the SCCC faculty since 1999. David teaches Introduction to Beverage Management, Introduction to Hospitality, Meetings and Convention Management, Computers for the Hospitality Industry, Food Administration and Menu Planning, and Sanitation Techniques. David holds a B.S. in Vocational Technical Education from SUNY Oswego and an A.A.S. in Restaurant Management and Food Service Administration from SUNY Morrisville. He is certified as an Instructor and Proctor for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and he is also a certified Instructor for Health Communications Inc., teaching the Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) program for Alcohol. David was the first faculty member featured in the weekly column "From the SCCC Kitchen" for the Daily Gazette and to date has had over 30 recipes published in the paper. He authored the Instructors Resource Manual for Dining Room Management and has peered reviewed three books. David stresses sanitation with his students in all his classes adding that every time they wash their hands, he wants them to think of him.

April 2012