It could be said that sanitation practices in the Singaporean hawker centers were questionable. Tables coated with a film of yesterday’s Tiger beer and wiped down using a curry-encrusted towel, sparked the imagination to say the least. Gee, if this is the dining area, I wonder what the kitchens look like?
Not easily deterred from the calling of a good dumpling, I was never particularly put-off by the filth. I am a diner and dives kind of girl with a stomach of steel and a collection of wet-wipes in my purse. I might even be twisted enough to say that in the proper setting, a good accumulation of grime can make a restaurant more attractive. It can wear its filth like a biker in leather – While leather pants are generally, and I think unanimously, unattractive, Russell Brand can make them look pretty good.
While in Singapore, I had the pleasure of getting to know a fist-bumping kitchen cowboy called, Chef Chuckles. He would adamantly disagree with my leather pants analogy. In fact, he even disliked that I rested my elbows on the hawker center tables – not in the name of poor dining etiquette, but in fear that my forearms might break out into an incurable rash.
I bring all of this up because the Big City Neighborhood Bakery is in power-cleaning mode, so cleanliness is on my mind. The Big City Bakery, quite opposite to many hawker centers, is an incredibly clean kitchen all year round. Still, from time to time, every space needs a detail job. So, we shut down for the week and scrub from the floor to ceiling, not missing a single shelf of a speed rack or leg to a table. This is an amazing practice and a testament to the greatness of the Big City Neighborhood Bakery’s management.
It was the table legs that were particularly important to Chef Chuckles. They were his litmus test. While my initial evaluation of a space has always involved tabletops, a quick glance at the staff, and menu items, Chef Chuckles always looked down. He was looking at legs. If they were un-touchably, filth-coated and black, beers could barely persuade him to sit down. Clean table legs equaled clean food. That was that.
Below the line of sight, they’re often overlooked, but indicate a restaurant’s attention to detail. This marker of sanitation has changed my approach to every restaurant where I dine, or table that I clean. I remember fondly and think, “Would Chef Chuckles eat here?”
So, with all of this said, tomorrow, I would like to dedicate my potion of scrubbing at Bid City Neighborhood Bakery to safely handled noodles, and Chef. May the food be wholesome and the table legs shine.