The kitchen may not be the first place that comes to mind when insurance is mentioned, but People & Partners’ resident chef and insurance sensei, CEO Jeff Whittaker, explains why every chef should be covered, and all commercial kitchens should have the right restaurant insurance.
I may not have a Michelin Star, but I have enough experience in the kitchen to be 100% sure that every chef should be insured, whether it’s basic property and fire cover, or more comprehensive restaurant insurance.
My wife and I have been married 48 years. For the first 40 years we divided our contribution to labour as follows:
However after six years our first son, Timothy, arrived and he was so much trouble that we divided our duties again as below:
Two years later our daughter, Collette, arrived. She was good but only slept during the day. At night she screamed along with her brother, Tim. So we divided the duties again.
After another 34 years had passed, I decided I was being a bit selfish. I was probably being a bit hard on myself, but being the generous person I am, I agreed to amend the work division.
Note: our kids now have their own nightmare kids.
For eight years now, we have been doing this, and it works fine (in my opinion). To be honest, I love cooking but I don’t admit that often for fear of further amendments to the work divisions!
Having become a handy part-time chef, cooking not only for my family, but also for staff at functions, I believe anyone who cooks without being insured is taking a huge risk. The kitchen is arguably the most dangerous room in any building, especially if you’re running a commercial kitchen. There are plenty of compelling reasons to be covered at home, but for commercial kitchens it’s essential to look at all the necessary policies that work together to create the right restaurant insurance.
Cooking usually involves heat of some form (gas, barbeque and/or pressure) and very often in industrial kitchens the heat is combined with what most master chefs would describe as orchestrated chaos.
Restaurants, hotels, hawker, street food stalls, pubs, clubs, shopping malls, food floors, canteens, sporting venues, camping sites, beach resorts (to name a few)… all potential ‘hot spots’. Insurers take special notice of these activities in the companies they insure for Fire, Personal Accident, Medical Insurance, and Third Party Liability Insurance.
Because even on a minor scale, cooking is a common cause for all fires. It’s not just human error of course. Old or incorrect equipment plays a major role, and once a fire starts, insufficient precautions can be the difference between a manageable accident and a tragedy. On our risk surveys we always ask to see the kitchen or cooking areas and check for safe practices and fire extinguishers.
I am a very slow and precise cook. My wife calls me the slowest cook in the world. But I like to be thorough in the process. I prepare everything from scratch – no tins, bottles, premade sauces, frozen goods, bottled Jams or packets. So Sunday lunch can take four hours including two hours of preparation.
You would assume I’d practice what I preach by observing the strictest rules of safety in the kitchen. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wear the minimum of clothing: t-shirt and boxer shorts with no shoes or socks. It’s so hot in Cambodia, I can’t even wear an apron.
So I regularly get the following:
Let’s be thankful that I limit my minimalist attire and lack of protection to the kitchen in my home. Unfortunately, similarly irresponsible cooking practices have been applied on much larger scales, resulting in catastrophe.
The Great Fire of London in 1666 was started in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane. The fire gutted most of the city including many major landmarks of the day, most notably, St Pauls Cathedral. The only positive to come from the devastation was an end to the Great Plague.
Nothing was insured because Fire Insurance was not invented until 1678 with the Hand in Hand Insurance Company in the UK. People and Partners Insurance PLC today uses the Hand in Hand Logo (the handshake) to show its “partnership” with clients.
Fire Insurance has come a long way, and it’s one of the first policies that cooks (amateur or professional) should consider. But it’s just one of a few types of cover that ensure there’s adequate protection of the building, equipment, workers, guests and customers.
Insurance policies for chefs include:
The combination of dangerous equipment, human error, and lack of protection (e.g. cooking in your underwear) means there are no guarantees you’ll avoid accidents. A chef can’t completely control the quality of stock, equipment, and employees. Accidents can happen, and when they do, they can have dire consequences including the hospitalisation or death of patrons!
So as I always say, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you’re as cavalier as I am in the kitchen!
Jeffrey James Whittaker has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the insurance industry, working in high-profile roles in the UK, Africa, Australia and South-East Asia. He has worked on numerous ‘Mega Projects’ like sky trains, subway systems, hydro-electric dams and various oil/gas projects. Jeff is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute (London), a Chartered Insurer, and currently Vice Chairman of the Insurance Association of Cambodia.