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“If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen”

When your industry is the source of a phrase like this you know there’s something up. Unfortunately, a perfectly air-conditioned kitchen is often considered a luxury in the Australian foodservice industry and with temperatures skyrocketing across the country, many chefs are left looking for clever ways to stay cool during long days on the grill.

Of course, there is the usual considerations – ventilation, circulation and hydration. But what can you do personally to keep yourself from turning into a hot and sweaty mess? We’ve got the inside scoop from switched-on chefs around Australia and here are their tips…

Get in early, claim towels

Let’s be honest, the only reason most chefs get to work early on a stinking hot day is so they can create a secret stash of clean towels for their shift. Put a couple of moist towels in the freezer then wrap them around your necks for the ultimate personal air conditioning. Save a couple of clean dry ones for four hours in when all you need is a wipe down. Thank us later. 

There’s no shame in an extra five seconds in the walk-in

This is a no brainer – visit the walk in more often and take a deep breath before heading back out. Bring on a hot day and all of a sudden all the cooks are volunteering to clean the walk in. We’ve even heard of some kitchens putting a chair in there and calling it the ‘day spa’.

Drink, drink, drink

Even if you’re not thirsty, drink lots of water. If you stop sweating or stop feeling thirsty it’s almost too late and you might be on your way to heat stroke. Stop what you’re doing and drink something straight away. It’s better to lose a few seconds to take a drink than be completely dehydrated and useless on the line. If you’ve got a good boss, consider asking if they’ll invest in bulk cold sports drink for chefs, it’s easy to drink and replaces your electrolytes so you’ll feel much better. A good relationship with the bar staff could lead to a constant flow of drinks for the team, hold them accountable if this is their job.

Light = heat

Something many people don’t think about is light. During summer in Australia it’s smart to block any light coming in through your windows using block-out curtains or shutters. This will make a big difference to the temperature inside.

Consider ground level fans

Air circulation is your friend, but it is often difficult in a kitchen as it could kick up dust or cool down plated food too much. If you aim fans away from prep and hot food areas (and keep it clear of dusty spots) and place them on the ground it will circulate air near your ankles which is a godsend.

Pair this with a sneaky roll up of your pants and you’ll get a surprising amount of air flow around your legs. 

Under clothes

It may seem counterintuitive but wearing and extra layer underneath your chef whites helps a lot with sweat. Some chefs swear by compression style sports tops, others plain cotton t-shirts and several women we spoke to said silk tank tops were the best. Wearing nothing under your chef coat often means you get a veritable waterfall of sweat heading for your pants, and can increase risk of chafe (which is another battle entirely). Experiment with what works for you, but it will only take one shift of horrible chafe to have you coming round to our way of life.

Don’t talk about it

You know how bad it is when you really need to go to the bathroom and you hear a tap dripping? It’s the same with heat. If you (or your colleagues) continue to fret about the heat, it’s only going to demoralize the crew. With the constant reminder almost as uncomfortable as the heat itself. Of course, it’s hot, we’ve all noticed, don’t mention it. It may even be worth covering up your kitchen thermostat, that way you don’t even have a point of reference.

What are your strategies for dealing with the heat in the kitchen? Did we miss anything? Let us know on Facebook! Hopefully some of these tips are useful for your next shift. We’ll see you in the walk-in!

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