Carving a Niche in the Food Economy

The city of Lynn has a great food economy with large companies such as Old Neighborhood, Traditional Breads, Side Kim Foods and Kettle Cuisine, not to mention numerous small eateries and small convenience stores that sell prepared foods influenced by Hispanic and Asian cultures.

One thing they all have in common is having to adhere to a state law requiring every place that prepares or serves food must be trained and Serve Safe certified. This law plays a huge part in making sure consumers are safe from having their food mishandled and consequently getting sick.

“The purpose behind all of this is food safety,” said Espenoza, who specializes in teaching the manager level course. “Per the 2013 Food Code every establishment has to have one Serve Safe certified person on duty in the building at all times. It’s also part of your requirements for a food permit.”

Carving a niche for himself in this field is Sergio M. Espenoza, a Lynn resident and 32-year-old native of Lima, Peru. He is also a self-described foodie who knows how important it is to understand each culture’s way of preparing food.

He is a 2008 graduate of Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts School in Rhode Island where he studied food service management and event management. Unfortunately, at the time the economy was negatively impacting the events business. But an internship at the Newport Comedy series led him to more events and more ice carving. At Johnson & Wales Espenoza was a member of the “Chippers Club” – those with the gift of ice sculpture skills.

Soon after he moved to Lynn in 2009, he managed restaurants and mentored with a company called HR Foods.

“They are the largest Serve Safe company in the New England area,” Espenoza said, adding that he used to instruct the Spanish classes which eventually led to meeting Bud Khan, a mentor, and learning how to take eight-hour Serve Safe class and break it down to a four-hour class with a written test to follow. The test is now offered online.

When it comes to safe food, Espenoza temperature is the key. Any hot food has to be kept at 135 degrees and cold food has to be kept at 41 degrees or lower.

“That’s a common thing for people not to realize,” Espenoza said.

The other big issue is cross contamination, which he said can happen in so many ways. The biggest factor is hand washing and exciting the bathroom with a paper towel touching the door handle. He said in a well-constructed restaurant there will be a bathroom for employees only and one for the guests. “And the fact that 50 wash their hands and 50 of people don’t,” Espenoza said. “That last step with the door handle is supper critical.”

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