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Mission in the kitchen

Cliff Thompson
BIZ Parish, Jill PU 7-1
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EAGLE COUNTY – You may never get a chance to meet Jill Paradis while dining at any of the hundreds of restaurants here, but you can offer her a silent thanks.She’s one of the people that is helping make sure your dining experience is pleasant. She runs a food-safety training service designed to make sure the kitchen practices of area restaurants are following proper safety procedures. Her goal, she says, is to help restaurants avoid spreading food-borne disease. Many sessions require her to use her extensive background in Spanish, and, she said, many of them have little or no understanding of proper hygiene. She has a degree in Spanish and studied in Spain and elsewhere.Paradis, 27, started her Culinary Translation company a couple of years ago after discovering food-safety training for Spanish-speaking kitchen workers was lacking or absent. She made the discovery while working with low-income women, at a nonprofit anti-hunger organization. Many of the women worked in restaurants and didn’t have a basic knowledge of food safety or an understanding of the importance of something as simple as washing their hands before handling food.”The food industry is missing the boat on training the Spanish-speaking staff about food safety,” she said. “It’s so important.”Her clients include a pretty sizable cross-section of the corporate world. Her first client was Qdoba in Denver, then Marriott and other organizations. But she also works with individual mom and pop businesses, too.Local programOne of her projects is the Rocky Mountain Promise to Food Safety, a volunteer training initiative for Eagle County restaurants that is supported by a coalition of businesses and governments.During the 2 1/2-hour training sessions she teaches employees about hygiene, time and temperature considerations when handling food, proper cleaning methods and even proper use of thermometers so proper temperatures are achieved.Many of the problems she encounters in restaurants stem from ignorance, and nearly 25 percent of food-borne disease is spread by lack of hygiene, she said.”It’s often a matter of not understanding the rules,” she said. “We have a world-class restaurant community and we need to offer world class food and food safety. “We pay all this money for food,” she added. “We need to make sure the person making the salad for us washed his hands.”Observant dinerWhen Paradis dines at a restaurant, she notices things most people might not. One of her pet peeves is bartenders handling money that’s often full of germs and immediately squeezing a lime in a drink, then dropping it in.”My family hates going out to eat with me because I’m always pointing out stuff they don’t want to know,” she said.Another thing she watches carefully is raw shellfish, which can harbor disease-causing organisms such as the vibrio virus that can cause a host of problems ranging from gastric distress to death.”It’s better to buy shellfish in months that end in ‘R,'” she said, adding that pathogens proliferate in warmer months. “You need to make sure what waters they come from and make sure they’re stored properly. Anything cooked is safer.”In addition to doing the training sessions, Paradis also does quality-assurance inspections where she looks at kitchens and watches the staff handle food.She also volunteers each year at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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