Written by Mark Hitri.

Photo by James Creange.

“If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.”

As a cook I have heard this more times than I like to admit and once I became a chef have said it many times as well. Cleaning, however, should not be relegated to “IF” you have time to do it but a routine habit and core value of how you work in a kitchen. We all know the health inspector loves a clean kitchen and bugs prefer a dirty one. As important as it is to keep the health inspector happy and the bugs away, there is another reason to focus on a clean kitchen. It has to do with how it feels to work in a clean space as opposed to a dirty one. You want to feel proud of the kitchen you work in. A clean kitchen creates a welcoming environment that you want to work in. Once you are a chef, it doesn’t mean you get out of cleaning. I was inspired by one of my chefs who, when I came into work, was on a ladder cleaning the AC vents in the ceiling. It made me realize that a clean kitchen is more than just wiping down the countertops. It was an example of excellence that I took into my kitchens once I became a chef. Often, I would start a project and then one of the kitchen family would come up and say, “I got that chef.” They were willing to do the job for me because I was willing to work with them. So, if you want to be someone people will work for, you have to be someone they want to work with first. I also tell my students if you work in a dirty kitchen it’s your own fault. Work proud. Work clean. Do you have time to clean or do you make time to clean?