Hotels deep freeze gravies and recycle them for over a month “What was mutton do pyaza becomes mutton black pepper in the afternoon, and rara meat in the night. This goes on for weeks,” says a leading chef, wishing not to be named.
Khameer uth gaya hai, kharab to nahi hua
is a popular phrase used by chefs for stale food served to employees.
The guys who get you great food straight from the oven are fed frozen leftovers sometimes stored for over a month. That’s the truth about the life of employees of leading restaurants in Delhi, behind the glitzy exterior that is projected to patrons.
In the wake of a recent food poisoning incident at a city five-star that left 70 employees hospitalised, we spoke to industry insiders to check how old was the food being served to staff in Delhi’s A-grade eateries. The revelations were worse than we expected.
“Food is collected from the bin and scrapped off guests’ plates, warmed up and sent to the staff cafetaria. Or, deep frozen for weeks, sometimes over a month, then disposed to the staff when it can’t be served to guests anymore,” says an executive chef who has worked for 30 years in leading Indian five-stars.
“Cost cutting is top priority for any hotel, and they do not allow food to be thrown away. There are no supervisions, hygiene and temperature checks for staff food in most hotels,” says the chef.
Even leading hotels that are HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and ISO 2200 certified flout food safety rules, say industry experts. “Food that must be disposed as per food safety guidelines is sent to the staff canteen, and it’s the night staff that suffers the most, as such food comes after parties get over. The hygiene standards in some hotels are worse than at a hawker’s,” says chef Devraj Halder, a former executive assistant manager, F&B, at a leading Delhi hotel.
Employees say they can’t take it anymore. “We were once served leftover doi maangsho (meat cooked in curd) which was clearly spoiled. It tasted bad but the chef insisted it’s fine. I preferred to stay hungry that night,” shares a house-keeping employee, wishing not to be named.
“I fell sick after eating the pastries ... since a lot of stuff is unsold, it’s sent down to the staff canteen,” says another staffer.
The hotel whose staff was hospitalised recently, however, said in a statement, “Shangri-La maintains stringent hygiene policies and adheres to the government’s Food Safety Management System to ensure a clean, safe environment for our colleagues.”