Food hygiene is an important consideration which ever path your catering career takes. One of the most common questions that beginner chefs and cooks ask is if they are allowed to wear a watch in a kitchen.
The food hygiene guidelines state that watches should not be worn when working with food. However, in my own career I have come across lots of other chefs who choose to wear a watch. There are several reasons for this decision.
Food Standard Agency Rules
I will link to the Food Standard Agency website Here that shows the specific rules regarding personal hygiene (which jewellery comes under). As shown above, this clearly states that watches and other types of jewellery should not be worn.
However, the reality is that this is a recommendation, and different kitchens have different policies on the issue.
Why Would A Chef Wear a Watch
In this day and age there is no real reason to wear a watch for general time keeping. In a kitchen, everywhere you turn there seems to be a clock on the wall. Add to that, the fact that everyone has a phone in their pocket, and the argument that you need to wear a watch to be able to know the time doesn’t make much sense.
Some chefs do like to wear them though for a variety of reasons as we’ll look at below
Why Chefs Should Wear A Watch
- Chefs can use the timer on their watch: This is one of the main reasons and is a fair argument. Kitchen timers are great but you can get caught out if your timer goes off and you are not at your section to hear it (you may be in the walk in fridge getting ingredients for example.) When you return you may be oblivious to the fact that the timer has gone off. Not realising, you may forget all about what you are cooking, and only remember when it resembles burnt charcoal in the oven!
- Prevents a phone getting greasy: During a typical working day, a chef’s hands get all manner of food types on them. Constantly getting your phone out of your pocket to check the time is going to result in it getting grubby quickly.
- Prevents being distracted by a phone. The last thing a chef needs when he or she is busy rushing around is to be distracted by a txt or missed call when trying to check the time. In fact phones can be a problem in kitchens and for this reason some kitchens ask chefs to leave their mobile phones in their lockers.
- Some people just enjoy wearing a watch: Plenty of chefs feel more comfortable with a watch on and don’t see a good reason to take it off.
Why Chefs Shouldn’t Wear A Watch
Just to be clear I am impartial on this subject (I personally never wore one but I had no objection to those that did) However, for the sake of balance here’s the main reasons why Chefs shouldn’t wear watches.
- The Food Standard Agency says so: To some this is enough to satisfy the argument against wearing a watch. The Agency set the food safety guidelines and there is no good reason to go against them.
- They are un-hygienic: Food stuffs can make a watch quite dirty and if it is not washed properly this can cause problems.
- Cause burns and injuries: If a chef is wearing a metal watch for example it could add to the many dangers faced by chefs. If the watch were to heat up it could actually cause a burn. Alternatively if a hot liquid gets spilt onto the chef’s wrist the watch may make the burn worse by melting or heating up further depending on the watch type.
What Type Of Watches Do Chefs Wear?
Those that choose to wear a watch typically choose a robust watch such as a Casio G Shock or similar. It’s important that the strap is tight on the wrist to prevent it constantly slipping down and getting in the way.
The most important point for chefs when choosing a watch, is that it is water proof. Being able to fully clean the watch at the end of each day is important for hygiene reasons. This is the main reason smart watches are not suitable to be worn in kitchens.
Chefs typically don’t wear a metal bracelet type watch when working. As mentioned earlier, metal absorbs heat quickly and it could lead to some nasty burns.
Can Chefs Wear Rings and Other jewellery?
The food standard agency advises that the only jewellery that should be worn is a single wedding band. Most married chefs choose to wear their wedding ring at work as they will usually have it made from a tougher metal so that it stands up to the daily knocks and washing routine.
I wrote an article regarding the 12 main hygiene rules (linked here), as well as whether or not chefs can wear shorts (linked here) which readers will find helpful.
During a standard working day, chef’s hands go through a lot of punishment, not to mention the scrubbing down the section at the end of a shift. Wearing an expensive wedding ring made from a softer metal is probably best avoided.
Head Chefs would be very unlikely to allow any of their brigade to wear a bracelet or bangle. It’s seen as an unnecessary safety and hygiene risk, as well as the fact that trying to cook all day with a bracelet on your arm would get annoying pretty quickly!
Earrings are generally allowed so long as they are the stud type. During a busy service there can be lots of accidental bumping into each other, particularly in smaller kitchens, and dangling earrings would present a safety risk.
To Sum Up
If a chef chooses to wear a watch then it is usually a resilient type that can stand up to some punishment, or alternatively an old small watch that they don’t mind getting knocked about. The main issue is that whatever watch is chosen it must be able to be thoroughly scrubbed under water at the end of each shift.
If you about to start a career as a chef I would advise leaving any watches and jewellery at home or in your locker. Each kitchen is different and if you notice that no other chefs are wearing watches then chances are the Head Chef doesn’t like them in his or her kitchen.