Over the last three weeks, the Tuesday seminars on food safety have been preparation for the ServSafe exam. ServSafe is a certification program administered by the National Restaurant Association. It’s based on the current FDA food code, and it’s updated every 5 years.
You can study on your own or take a test-prep course. The school brought in Maureen Lee to teach us what we need to know to prepare for the exam. If you pass the exam (minimum passing score is 75%), you get a certificate; the ServSafe certificate is a basic credential for restaurant management staff, and presumably it will make us more employable as well as safer in the kitchen at school. The certificate expires in 5 years, and because the FDA food code changes from time to time, you really need to get the latest test-prep book, and possibly take the current prep course, to study for the exam every time.
What you need to know to handle food safely in a commercial kitchen is more complex and more stringent than any home cook needs to know. At home if you wash your hands, refrigerate your leftovers, and keep your work surfaces and utensils clean, you’re fine. In a commercial kitchen, though, so many little things can contribute to making a customer sick. There’s a lot to know so you can make sure the food you’re handling is safe, and it’s good to make people who work in a commercial kitchen prove they know all that stuff.
The exam itself is one of these standardized things with the booklet with multiple-choice questions and a computer-scored answer sheet where you have to fill in the circles with your number 2 pencil. There are 90 questions, 10 of which are experimental and not scored. Of the remaining 80, you have to get 60 right. The problem is you don’t know which 80 are the real questions. I found four questions somewhat ambiguous, so I’m guessing they were experimental questions that will be edited for future use. Otherwise, I didn’t feel there were questions I couldn’t answer.
It takes a couple of weeks to get the scores, which are available online, so I’ll check there next week and see how I did. I have no doubt I passed, but it will be interesting to see my actual score.