OLATHE, Kan. — You may never watch those celebrity chef shows in the same way again after you hear what Kansas State University researchers found. The chefs’ habits were a recipe for food safety nightmares.
Action of the culinary kind can satisfy our entertainment appetites. But Bryan Severns, a chef who directs food programs at K-State Olathe, can’t stomach celebrity chef shows.
“Most of ’em are terrible, okay. I get really mad, so we don’t watch ’em generally,” said Severns.
He finds it all very hairy.
“These people are cooking, they’ve got fancy hair all over the place, and they’re serving people.”
That isn’t the only poor food safety habit that K-State researchers observed. They watched 100 cooking shows with 24 celebrity chefs.
“Twenty-three percent of chefs licked their fingers — 23 percent! That’s terrible,” said Dr. Edgar Chambers, one of the researchers.
He said about the same percentage touched their hair or dirty clothing and then didn’t wash their hands before handling food. Many also didn’t wash between handling raw meat and vegetables that wouldn’t be cooked, and cutting boards weren’t changed.
“Now suddenly that tomato has all the germs that were on the raw meat because it was also touching the cutting board,” said Londa Nwadike, a consumer food safety specialist for K-State and the University of Missouri.
Researchers found celebrity chefs didn’t use meat thermometers. Nwadike says using one is the only way to tell if meat is cooked to the proper temperature to kill bacteria.
So why do the chefs’ habits matter?
“We all kinda assume that it’s okay for everybody to be doing it that same way,” said Nwadike.
When it’s not. Researchers hope their findings will lead celebrity chefs to at least remind people to wash their hands or change the cutting board. They say after all, cooking is about making food that tastes good and is good for you.
About one in six Americans has a foodborne illness each year. The research is in the Journal of Public Health.