ServSafe Exam

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.


About linguina

For most of my life I've loved to read and to make stuff. My mother says I taught myself to read when I was 4, and I never looked back. I also liked fooling around in the kitchen, but my mother wasn't really into cooking, so I learned a lot of that on my own, too. My sister and I had the Betty Crocker New Boys and Girls Cookbook (1965), and naturally I had to make the Enchanted Castle Cake. I learned how to bake bread when I was 14, and I bought a copy of the Joy of Cooking when I was 17. My aunt and uncle gave me Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my 19th birthday, and the first thing I made was soufflé. I've always been more of a baker than a cook, though. When our niece used to visit us during her breaks from college, she'd get me to show her some cooking things (including soufflé, of course!), but I kept having to tell her, "This is just how I do it. I have no idea if it's the right way." Finally, I took a basic cooking class, and that changed my life. After that class, I signed up for a 4-day baking class at King Arthur Flour. That's when I knew I was really a baker. Now I'm taking the professional pastry program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. With this training, I'll become a pastry chef.
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