The last time Melbourne-born chef Tobie Puttock accidentally cut himself with a knife was about seven or eight years ago. That’s back when Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant on Collins Street in Melbourne wasn’t even a pipe dream.
But today, Puttock says knife injuries are by far the most common accident he sees as the head of Fifteen’s kitchen. He will be sharing stories about these and other safety challenges at the opening breakfast of the 10th Annual Safety In Action Conference on March 20 in Melbourne.
The idea behind the Fifteen program is to inspire and train disadvantaged youths and to encourage them to build careers in the restaurant industry. The trainees learn all about knife and kitchen safety as well as other occupational hazards at Box Hill TAFE.
But, Puttock says it is still something he needs to drill into them while they are undergoing their first year of experience in the restaurant.“Basic things like hygiene and how not to cut yourself, things that seem like common knowledge to us, are not so basic to a teenager who eats a lot of fast food and hasn’t really spent much time in a kitchen,” he says.
Even tasks as simple as walking through the kitchen have their risks, which Puttock says is also tough to explain. “I tell them to be careful walking and they’re like, ‘Are you serious?’ Well, it could be slippery, someone could be carrying a pot of hot oil…the kitchen is a very dangerous place.”
Puttock likes to instruct that it isn’t the knives, the stoves, the bottle crusher that hurts people – people hurt people. It’s mistakes like a chef leaving a knife under a tea towel, or sitting a hot pan straight from the oven on the bench without warning others, that can end up injuring even the most experienced of chefs, like Puttock.
“I really try to drill into the trainees the urgency and importance of kitchen safety,” he says. “I try to get around it with good communication. Because, they have to remember you could kill someone if you aren’t safe or aren’t using proper hygiene.
If you were cutting raw chicken on a cutting board and then put a piece of fish on it, you’re cross contaminating and you could seriously hurt someone with food poisoning.”
Tobie Puttock has worked with Jamie Oliver on a number of projects, including Fifteen in Melbourne. Puttock will be sharing his experiences with the trainees at Fifteen and other top-level kitchens at the Safety In Action Conference, which is hosted by the Safety Institute of Australia's Victorian division and sponsored by WorkSafe Victoria.
The 10th Annual Conference and the concurrent trade show run from March 20 to 22 this year at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.