Cold And Happening
An efficient cold storage system plays an important role in food production and preparation
By Pradeep Suvarna
An efficient cold storage system is critical in any food management business, the hotel industry included. Food that is stored properly in the right temperatures and in the right cold storage systems will minimise contamination and deterioration to a significant extent.
So important is this issue, that there are industry guidelines about food storage that all hotels and restaurants have to adhere to. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has outlined some regulations when it comes to cold storage in the F&B segment. Explaining this, Vishi Oberoi, F&B director at Novotel Imagica Khopoli said, “Frozen food must be stored at -18°C (0°F) in refrigerators, refrigerated display units must be 4°C (40°F) or colder, raw and ready to eat/cooked food should be stored separately. Also, food should be covered and labeled with date and time of production and expiry. To facilitate cleaning and to deter pests, all food should be kept 15cm (6 inches) above the floor.”
Another basic guideline is keeping packaging material covered to avoid contamination and follow the rotate stock method (FIFO – First in, First Out and FEFO – First Expire First Out). The most important rule to follow is keeping rejected material separately to avoid cross contamination.
Vivek Kalia, Executive Chef, Indore Marriott Hotel added that while planning the cold storage room, it should be kept in mind that all raw, processed, packaged, rejected, returned or recalled food items are segregated; even allergen material and marked and secured products (hardware & cleaning chemicals) are distinguished. “The storage area for raw food should be kept separated from the area of work-in-progress, processed, cooked and packaged products. Furthermore, containers made of non-toxic materials should be provided for storage of raw materials, work-in-progress and finished / ready to serve products,” he added.
THE BIG CHILL
An efficient cold storage system plays an important role in food production and preparation. Refrigeration is a technology that is used in hotel and restaurant kitchens to maintain freshness of produce and increase its shelf life, without affecting its quality. Technological developments have helped in ensuring that food remains storage in commercial cold storage units retain their nutritional value without significantly altering its organoleptic qualities.
Talking about this, Chef Mani Mohan Pathak of Howard Johnson Hotel Hebbal, Bengaluru said, “For chilled foods, quality and safety are reliant on the food being maintained at a sufficiently low temperature throughout its life to prevent growth of bacterial pathogens and to minimise growth of spoilage microbes. Chilling also has beneficial effects on quality, minimising moisture transport and maintaining flavour, colour and texture.”
The decision of investing in a cold storage system can be on the basis of F&B outlet’s size, menu selection and availability of ingredients.
Saurabh Srivastava, executive chef of Aloft New Delhi Aerocity added, “Cold storage helps maintain the right temperature of ingredients to be used for cooking. Since its nutrient value remains intact, the overall food is of high quality and of utmost perfection.”
It is also interesting to note that a optimal cold storage also has great business benefits. Manoj Rawat, executive chef of Hilton Garden Inn Gurgaon Baani Square, explained this perspective, “Food production is a dynamic job and the uncertainty in this business can make it very challenging for the culinary team to meet the guest needs every time. Hence, an efficient cold storage is important to maintain the cold chain and for large storage needs. A cold storage must be well spacious, lit and practically designed so that it helps in food storage effectively.”
This is especially in the case of produce that is often classified as ‘high-risk foods’, for instance, meat, poultry, dairy, seafood, eggs, or even cooked rice and pasta. It can also extend to ready-to-eat foods that have high-risk of contamination like casseroles, quiche, pasta salad, pizza, sandwiches or cakes.
Chef Prasad said, “By keeping these high-risk foods under 5 degrees Celsius in a refrigerator, they are prevented from entering the ‘danger-zone’ – or temperatures between 5 degrees Celsius and 60 degrees Celsius. This temperature zone is the one that provides bacteria with the perfect environment to rapidly grow and multiply, causing food poisoning.”
HESITATE AT YOUR OWN RISK
In the contemporary world, it is impossible to run a commercial kitchen without an efficient cold storage unit. For instance, like Chef Mani Mohan Pathak pointed out, there is little chance for bacteria, yeast or mould to grow at temperatures below – 12°C, which means that frozen storage mainly influences food quality, not food safety. “Freezing food provides consumers with access to seasonal products that otherwise would not be available year round, unless imported from overseas with the associated cost and environmental impact, and products such as ice cream that could only be created using refrigeration,” he claimed.
Ilandhirai Vaivel, Executive Chef, Radisson Blu Hinjawadi added, “The right food storage helps in cooling the hot food before refrigerating and place the shallow containers so that it cools more quickly. By storing raw and cooked food or ready to eat food separately, chefs can eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.”
Cold storage facilities are commonly built to store perishable goods for longer period. Due to increasing demand, production of perishable goods such as fruit and vegetables continues to rise. To better preserve these goods and prevent them from spoiling, they need to be placed in cold storage facilities, underlining its importance.
Refrigeration technology is used in hotel and restaurant kitchens to maintain freshness of produce and increase its shelf life, without affecting its quality.
Chef Vikash Prasad, Executive Chef, The Westin Kolkata Rajarhat noted, “The downside of not having cold storage system is failure to sustain the shelf life of raw materials such as fresh vegetables, raw chicken, meat, egg. Moreover, not having proper cold storage system means shortening the timeframe for marketing the foods. This also increases the chances of food becoming unsafe due to spoilage, as many kinds of spoilage cannot be detected by naked eye, smell or touch.”
Vivek Kalia, Executive Chef, Indore Marriott Hotel said that in developed countries, the use of ‘cold’ handling and storage systems is seen as an investment to prevent perishable food losses. It can be highly cost-effective compared to increasing production to meet increasing demands for these foods.
“The use of cold technologies in the development of agricultural supply chains for meat, dairy, fish and horticulture products in the USA and EU countries began in the early 1950s along with the growth of the mechanical refrigeration industry; but cold chains are still limited in most developing countries,” he pointed out.
However, in addition to having a cold storage system, it is important to ensure that it is working in top form. Chef Alok Anand, executive chef, JW Marriott Kolkata said, “An inefficient cold storage will compromise on the food quality which could have a detrimental effect on the guests’ health and wellbeing. This could lead to fines or prosecution as well, apart from damaging the business reputation of the brand.”
Since an investment in a commercial cold storage unit does not come cheap, hoteliers have to make this choice judiciously. Chef Alok Anand recommended that the decision should be on the basis of F&B outlet’s size, menu selection and availability of ingredients. It would also depend on the cold storage brands available with good after sales service.
Manoj Rawat, too, agreed with him. He suggested considering the size of the F&B business, which broadly includes the number of outlets, banquets etc. “Additionally, the hotelier needs to deliberate on the floors where the whole F&B operations is spread as well as the offerings in terms of different cuisines. More options more resources. And most importantly, the hotel’s inventory should also be taken into consideration as the number of rooms is a deciding parameter,” he explained.
Chef Vikash Prasad has four parameters for the selection of a cold storage unit – operation volume, operation standard, FSSAI guidelines and food safety.
At the same time, it is important the various technologies available in the market, and even contemplate whether it is viable to have a combination of these. Chef Mani Mohan Pathak explained, “Chilled production facilities, cold rooms and freezer rooms, frozen food rooms as well as blast chillers and blast freezers all play their part in locking in the freshness regardless of whether you are working with fish or seafood, meat or poultry or fruit and vegetables and dairy.”
Since food safety and hygiene play an important role in today’s scenario in hotels, Vishi Oberoi believes that it has become imperative for a hotel to have a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) in place and further that it should be HAACP certified. Ultimately, the investment in a cold storage system will depend upon the size and category of the hotel.
The significance of an effectual cold storage system can never be overstated in the F&B business. No hotel or restaurant would want to deal with the issues that come with food wastage or contamination, or worse, food poisoning. All of these have the possibility of potentially causing irreparable damage to a hotel’s business as well as reputation. This it can be easily avoided, by investing in the right kind of cold storage systems, which underscores its importance in the food chain, literally!