I'm Certified: Taking the ServSafe Food Safety Course

Dave takes the ServSafe Food Safety Certification program and get another certificate suitable for framing.

For more basic recipes with simple ingredients ... so easy, even a dad can do them, visit There's a Dad in the Kitchen. 

I said, “I’m certified,” not, “I’m certifiable!”

You’d think that educators would love learning; that they would anticipate and just quiver all over for any chance to get into a classroom and learn. Such is not the case. Trust me. I know from experience that educators make some of the most challenging students on the face of the planet. Most would rather be teaching than be taught.

And yet…continuing education is required of all who work in education, (as it should be). Everyone from superintendents to classroom assistants are responsible for keeping “up” with the latest trends, techniques, and methods. It’s just that we make horrible students. As a whole, we’re critical, and we get easily bored. We’re also absolutely horrible at following directions. Sad, but true.

After I earned my Masters degree from West Chester University, I decided to take some time off. It was short-lived. For most teachers there are only two ways to earn more money. One is to gain experience. The longer you’ve been teaching the higher step you reach on the salary scale. They other way is to increase your level of education. After earning a Masters degree, you can continue to advance up to and including 30 additional post-graduate credits. As I was helping to support a young family, it was back to the classroom for me, (in addition to holding down summer jobs during the years I was in the classroom).

After earning thirty additional credits, I decided to take a break. It was short-lived. Many colleagues were encouraging me to become a principal; not something I had any desire to do. Idealistic as it may sound, I really had to convince myself that I would have more of a positive impact on kids as an administrator than I would if I stayed in the classroom.

It was back to the classroom for me at the University of Pennsylvania to earn my principal’s certification.

One day, shortly after starting as principal at Royersford Elementary, I was receiving my annual performance review from Dr. Edwin Coyle, then superintendent at Spring-Ford. “I’d like you to go back for your doctorate,” he told me.

“Why would I want to do that?” I asked.

“In case you ever have the opportunity for a central office position,” was his reasoning.

“Don’t take this personally, Dr. Coyle,” I said, without totally thinking about what I was saying, “but I don’t want to be like you.”

He took it well. What I meant was that I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. “Progressing” beyond being a principal was not in my plans, and it certainly wasn’t in my blood. I would have “died” without daily contact with students, and for twenty-five years proudly served as principal of Royersford Elementary School. Even though I retired only two years ago, it seems like a lifetime since I “administered.,” and my current interests and endeavors recently took me back to the classroom.

When I write blog posts, I certainly don’t want to mislead or misinform, and now that I’m cooking more frequently for groups at Parker Ford Church, I want to make certain that food safety is a top priority.

There’s no recipe this week, but I would like to tell you about the food safety course that I recently completed. It’s called the ServSafe Food Safety Manager’s Certification course and it’s offered at community colleges in the area. It’s also offered by Paster Training, Inc. which is located in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania. I registered online and a book for the course was shipped directly to me within two days. Food safety certification requires sixteen hours of training. The first eight result from completion of the course manual. The second eight hours accrue as a result of a day-long classroom experience. The day in the training course culminates in taking a 90 question multiple choice examination. 75% is the minimum required to earn certification, although someone at the church told me that he didn’t want anyone cooking for him who only earned a 75%! I earned a 97% missing items under the Foods and the Facilities categories. The remaining eight question categories were all 100%’s.

I have to tell you that if you’re squeamish, don’t take the course. The section on food borne pathogens is disconcerting and sobering. Everyone in the course had second thoughts about where they ate during the class’s lunch break.

I will pass several areas of importance onto you. First, get a kitchen thermometer. They are inexpensive and very necessary if you want the food you prepare to be as safe as possible. The first use of a thermometer is to determine doneness when cooking meat. It helps to avoid over-cooking. More importantly, use the thermometer to keep food safe. Cold food should be kept at 41°F or colder. Hot food should be kept at 135°F or hotter. If you can’t, you can safely hold cold food for four hours, and safely hold hot food for six hours. Before reaching those time constraints, either reheat (or re-chill) the food or throw it out. Reheating something? Heat it to 165°. In an upcoming post, I’ll tell you about the importance of proper chilling of food after cooking/serving when you’re getting ready to store it.

Another emphasis of the course was the importance of hand washing. Doing so prevents cross-contamination, (raw meat to ready-to-eat food, for example), and also prevents the spread of germs and illness. It is important to use hot water with soap and scrub your hands for a minimum of 15-20 seconds, drying them with a single-use paper towel. Get a load of this:  We learned that anti-bacterial washes aren’t that much more effective than good old hand washing. Most say they kill 99.9% of germs, but there are so many billions of germs that the .1% is still pretty formidable. (.1% of one billion is a million, for Pete’s sake!)  And with that happy thought, I’ll leave you. I’ll have a (safe) recipe for you next week!


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carolina paul April 19, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Welcome to the club Dave! i too am ServSafe certified and found the safe temperatures and pathogen info to be really helpful...now to put that baby to use!
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Douglas J. Trainor February 04, 2013 at 08:49 AM
Dear Dave, Thank you for your interesting article and congratulations. I have a question -- is the ServSafe cert the one required by the Chester County Health Department or are there several certs possible in Chester County? I'm going to read all your articles. I have been thinking of blogging about food too. I was trained as a mathematician and computer scientist. However, I've used those mad skills over and over in different areas: like consulting on implantable computers before they are marketed following FDA guidelines, GLP/GMP pharmaceutical R&D, clinical trials (human and animal), over-the-counter natural products (one of my former mentors wrote part of DSHEA on a presidential commission), food (I maintain one of the largest collections of material on food plants in the world), and I have even been a Peer Reviewer for the publication "Zoonoses and Public Health". Lately I've been dabbling in food safety. But before all that in the 1980s, I used to consult in the motion picture and television industry and wrote animation software, operated animation cameras, and even worked as a computer animator for a feature film. Anyway, you have inspired me to try and fork a blog this morning...


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