The Melting Pot Restaurant, Inc.’s Executive Fondue Chef Jason Miller discusses food safety, food prep and quality assurance. Founded in 1975, The Melting Pot offers a unique fondue dining experience at more than 125 restaurants around the globe and has 15 international locations in development.
How important is the issue of food safety to The Melting Pot?
Food safety is paramount at The Melting Pot, and should be in every restaurant, but particularly at our restaurants due to our unique fondue dining experience.
At The Melting Pot, we offer guests the ability to order up to four courses, including a a variety of entrées that are prepared at the table in one of four fondue cooking styles and served with seasonal vegetables and our signature dipping sauces. In addition, our menu also features fresh salads, cheese and chocolate fondue, as well as a menu of specialty cocktails and fine wines. Quality control audits are in place at each of our restaurants to oversee how we are serving our guests. In terms of safety and sanitation, every restaurant is responsible to meet their minimum heath code standards as directed by their state codes. In over 40 years of business, The Melting Pot is proud of having a great track record and minimal issues with food safety. Since we are serving unprepared proteins and vegetables our teams must go the extra mile to ensure a superior product is delivered consistently.
What practices are in place at The Melting Pot to ensure food safety and quality?
In order to ensure food safety, we have thorough line checks and quality control to inspect each station where the food is prepared and stored prior to being served to our guests. We keep cold food at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot food at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. As items are brought to the table, our highly-trained servers will advise guests on how to prepare their proteins – from lobster, sirloin, salmon, pork and tuna – by following a detailed cooking time chart that outlines how to prepare their food based on the fondue cooking style they have selected. Guests are directed to follow these guidelines to ensure that they are safe to consume. The waiters will always go above and beyond to make sure their guests are comfortable with the cooking process before allowing them to get started.
What is typical prep work each day?
In the morning, our local chefs and kitchen staff prepare their proteins and vegetables at their specific stations. After this is prepared, the items are stored until our guests order them. Each restaurant location is supplied with a kitchen guidebook. This guidebook contains recipes and specifications on how to handle and prep all of the courses and ingredients that go into each dish.
What kind of food safety training do back of house and front of house staff undergo? And how does it differ or fit to match each job?
In order to train our leaders, The Melting Pot offers Front Burner Brands University (FBBU), which provides advanced training to our store operators and front of house staff to further our commitment to exceptional food. Front of house and back of house teams are provided with food safety training and online programs upon each new restaurant opening, which is reinforced daily by their local management teams. Roles at The Melting Pot range from hospitality specialist, server, server assistants to kitchen managers and each team member is provided with a job description of their day-to-day expectations.
Is the training ongoing to instill the best practices in staff?
FBBU spans a three-day period and is held four times a year. FBBU focuses on a range of content across twenty-one courses and includes a two-hour intensive session on a line check at every station in the heart of the house and bar areas. As the executive chef, I personally oversee the line check workshops to instill the importance of food safety, sanitation, and quality control at our restaurants. Team members that return from FBBU are provided with on-going training and extra circular training to advise their staff. When we open a new restaurant, we give them all of the guidance and tools they need to perform the practices for our guests.
Due to The Melting Pot’s unique business model – with customers partaking in the cooking process – what is done or said to guests to ensure their safety and well-being regarding food safety and quality issues?
Servers are provided with a scripted statement to relay to guests as they serve each course to the table. In order to ensure a satisfactory meal, we provide each table with a cooking time chart based on how each cooking style should be prepared. Our waiters are encouraged to follow up with guests during their meal to make sure they are comfortable and fully understand what they need to do in order to prepare their meal.
When you dine out, what do you look for in a restaurant regarding quality and cleanliness and have you ever walked out of a place because your expectations were not met?
When I dine out, I judge a restaurant’s cleanliness on the standards of their restrooms. If their restrooms are clean, then the restaurant should be running smoothly. From my experience with working in kitchens over the last 30 years, if you have a polished front of the house then the back of the house follows suit to a degree. Yes, I have previously walked out of a restaurant due to the fact that my expectations were not met. They have stemmed from a variety of reasons, like an unkempt restroom, spots on the silverware or crumbs left on the table from previous guests. A great dining experience should be worth every penny.