Keeping cool in the kitchen: How to beat the summer heat

Chefs provide some key tips for staying cool in hot restaurant kitchens while temperatures hit the triple digits.
Pan on fire in a steamy kitchen
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

The start to the summer has been a hot one, with sweltering heat simmering across the United States. For the third weekend in a row, much of the country has seen temperatures in the 100s.

Working in a kitchen in this heat can be a challenge. The high temperatures outside, in conjunction with already steamy conditions in the kitchen, can make for a seemingly miserable environment.

We spoke with numerous experts to get their unique tips on making restaurants and cafeterias cooler places to work.

Cool clothing. “Buy a good uniform that is breathable. I recommend Clement Design and Le Nouveau Chef. Breathable material for both your chef's coat and pants will help more than you think in the kitchen.” Chef David Zamudio, Alma Cocina Latina

"We started a couple years ago using things like neck coolers, you can damp it in water and then they’ve got cooling crystals in them, so they cool you down.”  —Mike Lenard, Founder and CEO of TaKorean

Ditch the jeans. “Generally, we prep in T-shirts until it’s time for service, which helps. When I worked full time in the kitchen, I would usually switch from jeans to chino pants; and I've also spent more time in the walk-in. I do my orders and prep lists in there. At my restaurant Gravitas, we sometimes bring in fans on hot days to help.” Chef Matt Baker, Michelin-starred Gravitas

And coats. “Even though we work in an open kitchen that's well conditioned in summer, the make-up air from the hood blows in outside temperature air as is. So, we definitely feel the temperature going up. I noticed our chefs switching from the usual chef coat to the T-shirts usually allocated for preparation cooks.” Chef Pepe Moncayo, Michelin-starred Cranes

Stay hydrated. “Drink lots of water, and if it’s extra hot in the kitchen, I like to stash a couple of wet towels in the refrigerator and when I need to cool off, I’ll place them on my neck and face.” Chef Michael Correll, Ruse

Fresher air. “If no AC, get some hi-velocity fans to get the air moving—fresh air in, stale air out. Make sure everyone takes breaks for iced water or other low sugar/calorie beverages. Your staff loves what they do, but the heat can make things miserable—try some of these and ASK your staff for more. They’ll appreciate it.” —Rob Morasco, vice president of innovation at Sodexo

Rotating Stations. “A big thing is to have people cross trained. You don’t need somebody to be stuck on the grill all day. You can have multiple people tapping in and out.”—Mike Lenard, Founder and CEO of TaKorean

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