Two culinary experts have weighed into the controversy surrounding two bearded student chefs, with the view that a high standard of hygiene must be maintained in any cooking environment. The Sunnah tradition of wearing a beard poses a challenge for Muslim chefs, including for hipsters simply sporting it for fashion.
A recent incident at two hotels in Durban has sparked outrage after hotel management refused to allow two Muslim student chefs to continue their internships if they did not remove their beards. Mohammed Yusuf, 17, and Huzaifah Mohideen, 23 are both students at the Capsicum Culinary School and were doing internships at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel.
According to Yusuf, he was asked by a sous chef to shave off his beard or leave the hotel. Upon speaking to the head chef, Yusuf learnt that this was actually part of Southern Sun rules however he claims he did not see that in the contract that he signed.
Capsicum has also released a statement saying that while it adheres to the strictest standards of hygiene and safety in their teaching kitchens, they also understand and support students who follow their own choice of cultural and religious practice in the form of dress and appearance.
Well known culinary expert Shanaaz Parker, who own her own culinary academy, has expressed a general rule when it comes to hygiene and the art of cooking.
“Kitchen hygiene is very important because it is one of the aspects that we teach first. The moment a student starts we teach them everything from having their hand washed to wearing earrings properly and avoiding hanging jewellery. All hair must be covered. In fact we as lecturers have to make sure our hair is covered too,” she said.
But Parker feels the situation could have been better handled.
“What they should have told them is that if you want to do cooking, you have to wear a mask.”
Parker explained that a lot of hotels are opting for a ‘halaal friendly’ attitude which implies they should be in touch with the people they are catering to.
“We have places that say they are halaal friendly which should imply that they understand halaal and sunnah. Looking at the situation with the beard what they should have told these two interns is that if you are going to be in the cooking arena then you are going to have to wear a mask.”
A head chef at the Gold Circle Race course in Durban as well as a former student at Capsicum culinary school, Faraaz Vincento Panaino said that hygiene is a top priority in any kitchen.
“All hair must be covered because hygiene at any kitchen is the most important fact. Be it the head chef or the intern everyone one needs to follow the same rule,” he stressed.
Panaino believes that the hygiene of a hotel kitchen is a reflection of the way in which the hotel is run.
“Even though I have a small beard I always make sure that it is covered. I never go into the kitchen without a beard guard and I make sure the same rule applies to all those who work with me. The way we carry ourselves is a reflection of the institute we are part of and I do not believe we can compromise our hygiene standards,” Panaino emphasised.
Both chefs agree that hair or any foreign object found in a dish is a restaurant’s worst nightmare. A lack of hygiene or oversight of hygiene practices is damaging to any brand.
In a written response to a news source the Tsogo Sun group said the act was purely an adherence to hygiene policies to ensure the safety of guests. VOC (Najma Bibi Noor Mahomed)