Thursday, October 9, 2008

Foodborne Illnesses

It's that time of the year. The potluck food Olympics are about to begin. Co-workers, neighbors and family members are anticipating taking their new recipes to holiday parties and family reunions. But, they're bringing more than just food. They're bringing armies of germs, bacteria and microscopic organisms that would love to work their way into any and every digestive tract they can find.

Everyone is obligated to bring a casserole, desert, meat, or salad. However, they may not take as much pride or care in the preparation of their contribution. Even worse, they might actually mean well but, they don't follow the rules of good hygiene. They simply don't know how to prepare a dish and reduce or eliminate the risks of food borne illnesses.

Personal chefs cook in a lot of homes. Any personal chef could tell you about at least one client house they would classify as a "Danger Zone" for breeding of all kinds of yucky germs and viruses.

Kahlil Wyche is a ServSafe (food safety) certified personal chef in Voorhees, NJ and owner of "Catering To Your Whims; a Personal Chef service". He explains, "I have seen everything from piles of moldy, dirty dishes stacked on the counters, cat litter boxes in the food panty, bugs in the flour, mouse droppings around the stove, spoiled milk and other unrecognizable green, hairy foods in the fridge. Add the shedding cats walking on the counters and dogs flinging slobber from floor to ceiling and you've got a breeding ground for some pretty nasty stuff that can make you very ill."

Chef Kahlil says that you should always question whether food items at pitch-ins are properly cooked, cooled and prepared for serving. Food borne illness can be very dangerous and the risk increases dramatically when foods are not properly cooked or are exposed to warm temperatures that promote the multiplying of bacteria and germs.

Here are some guidelines that you might want to print and share with family and coworkers before your next get together.

Rules for A Healthy Pitch-In:

If you don't know how to cook, it's okay to pick up a bag of chips and some salsa. You'll only get teased for a day or so.
Wash your hands (with soap!) before you prepare your famous meatloaf. Use hot water and anti-bacterial soap. If you finish scrubbing before you can finish singing the "Star Spangled Banner" your hands aren't clean.
If you have a mouse problem, see number 1 above or get a kitty.Put kitty and doggy in the bedroom and vacuum up any hair that might find its way into the brownies.
Check all ingredients to make sure they didn't expire in 1987.
Don't double the oven temperature and then reduce the cooking time by half just to get the casserole done faster. It doesn't work that way! Cooking foods to an internal temperature of 140-degrees will kill most organisms.
Don't leave cooked items on the counter for three hours to cool. Make a cooling bath of water and ice in a large container and set your dish in it for about 30 minutes to cool it down and then seal it and put it in the fridge or freezer.
If you accidentally sneeze on the plate of cookies, feed them to your family…not ours!
Don't put your item in the trunk of your car on a hot day. Use a cooler to keep foods hot or cold.
Don't set food out until right before it's time to eat – especially items with dairy products or mayonnaise.
When in doubt about your coworkers or extended family members' hygiene or cooking abilities, suggest hiring a personal chef to help with food preparation.
Ask everyone to pitch in a few bucks or have the company pay for the services. Everyone will be less stressed and personal chefs know how to prepare, store, transport and serve food items. And, while there's always a risk of food borne illness, a personal chef will dramatically reduce the risks. Here's to happy, healthy eating!

Industry Information

According to 2003 study conducted by, there are approximately 6,000 personal chef businesses operating in the United States and Canada. As culinary schools, colleges and universities add personal chef studies to their culinary curriculums, the number of personal chefs is expected to grow.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently chose the personal chef business as one of its top six home-based businesses to start in 2004.

There are currently three support organizations providing training and support to the personal chef industry. These include the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA), American Personal Chef Association (APCA) and Personal Chefs Network (PCN).

The American Culinary Federation and the USPCA offer certification programs for qualified personal chefs. However, certification and professional culinary training are not required for persons operating personal chef businesses.

For more information contact Chef Kahlil at or visit

Kahlil Wyche

Executive Chef/President, Catering To Your Whims
Executive Chef/VP, Abundant Harvest Catering
Viewer Contestant,The 16 Week Challenge TV Show

Voice 1.866.374.7131 or 856.383.8600
Fax 1.866.374.7131

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