New Jersey Steak House Goes Above and Beyond on Food Safety

When David Walzog got the go-ahead to design the kitchen for Strip House at The Westminster Hotel in Livingston, N.J., the executive chef’s wish list drew on his experiences working at the Monkey Bar and Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C., both in New York City.

Walzog insisted on 14 sets of refrigerated drawers—where food is held below 40F. Several drawers were installed on the line, providing more space for plate assembly and enabling 14 cooks to keep surfaces clean and orderly.

Drawers and gaskets are cleaned daily, and twice a week they’re disassembled for bleaching. The quarry tile floor in the kitchen is graded and easy to hose down and power wash, he says.

Strip House’s five walk-in coolers are extra-spacious. The lowest shelf is 10 inches off the floor, two inches higher than health codes mandate, Walzog says, to facilitate mopping and cleaning. Rubber-coated shelving resists rust and cleans and moves easily to accommodate a variety of bin sizes. Safety glass and wire grating enclose two pairs of fluorescent bulbs for ceiling light.

Each walk-in is equipped with three hanging thermometers. In addition, Walzog uses a portable battery-operated infrared thermometer. Walk-in air temperatures are recorded three times a day to ensure that proper safety levels are maintained. Strip House also stocks dozens of stem thermometers so each employee can carry one.

Two boxes of gloves are positioned on the hot line and one on the cold line for easy access. Baseball caps or paper toques are the suggested head wear, and black leather shoes with steel toes and sealed tongues are recommended.

Additionally, every manager is certified in ServSafe food-safety basics. “Someone is always going through the ServSafe program, so people are constantly talking it up,” says Walzog. Recent graduates always exhibit improved safety understanding, he says, changing sanitation containers more often and often buying safer shoes.

“The topic of food safety is one that never dies,’’ he says.

This article was originally published in Restaurants and Institutions Magazine