Name: Keith Norman
Company: South Point
Title: Assistant executive chef / food and safety manager
Describe your business.
South Point has never been a traditional Las Vegas property. The hotel has always been focused on the city as a whole and how it can benefit from the role we play within the community.
My role at South Point is to be a key contributor to the success of our dining offerings. I have spearheaded our property’s allergen awareness program and made great strides in helping South Point lead the way when it comes to large hotel properties focusing on food allergies.
The South Point has a unique ability to cater to a large variety of niches, and at the end of the day, our customers are like family and our main focus is making the experience prosperous and stimulating for visitors.
How do you keep people with allergies safe?
We’ve spent a lot of time creating this program for the culinary staff. Every person involved in the dining experience is properly trained in food safety awareness. Our entire culinary staff, including servers, managers, hosts, dishwashers, chefs, food preps and more, is required to attend our Allergen Training program and Steward Workplace Safety Awareness program every year. In addition, we mandate all chefs, managers and superiors have ServSafe Certification Training.
I’ve trained through the Food and Drug Administration in topics such as foodborne illness investigation, agri-terrorism and food systems disasters. I have certifications from the National Environmental Healthy Association, Nevada Restaurant Association, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Talk about the award you just won.
Once a year, the Nevada Environmental Health Association Executive Council honors one individual with the “Outstanding Nevada Environmental Health Professional of the Year Award.” We have routine health inspections, and it was the Southern Nevada Health District Inspector who nominated me for the award. The award is for someone who has demonstrated outstanding safety and health initiatives over the past year. It was quite the honor.
What are examples of how you’ve implemented your allergen program?
Our restaurants are equipped with a special allergen kit that is purple and easily recognizable in the daily chaos of the kitchen. It consists of everything needed to properly prepare food, from cutting boards, knives, measuring utensils and more. Even the tickets generated through our point of sales system with allergen-specific food orders are listed in a different color than those of customers without food allergies to avoid any mix-ups. Once the kit is used, it’s cleaned and readied for the next allergy-friendly meal preparation.
All menus are easily modified, so when customers tell us they have an allergy, the chefs will custom-create any menu item. Our menus are more like a blank slate; every special dish is prepared in an allergen-safe area to make it just as enjoyable as the original dish. The products are all stored and monitored to ensure there is absolutely no cross-contamination in each of our kitchens. We can generally adapt to food allergies on the fly, but we will also prepare special menus for those customers with allergies who contact us with advance notice.
What’s the best part about living in Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is one of the top culinary cities in the world, and with the high quantity of restaurants, we have the opportunity to really build awareness of the severity of allergens. We have gained great buzz within food allergy awareness groups. In November, we hosted more than 500 guests during the 2013 Food Allergen Bloggers Conference event and Food Allergy Research and Education Walk.
What do you do after work?
When I’m not at South Point, I educate culinary professionals and students about the importance of culinary safety and sanitation at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Las Vegas. In addition, I assist with nonprofit organizations to educate youth on making nutritional decisions, and I am a member of the Food, Allergy Research and Education (FARE) board.
How do you think food safety will change in the coming years?
I think it will continue to gain more prominence as groups such as FARE and grass-roots food allergy bloggers work to raise awareness.
Locally, all schools were recently required to have EpiPens in each classroom, which was a huge win for the food allergy fight. These are the moves that save lives and I think the more people who emphasize the seriousness of food allergies, the more people will understand the need for advanced safety techniques.
What are the most common things people are allergic to?
The top eight are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy.
What is the best business advice you have received and from whom?
Years ago, a very dear friend of mine, Barbara Glanz, told me that appreciation goes a long way and it is our job to share it from the heart.
If you could change one thing about Las Vegas, what would it be?
One thing I would like to improve about Las Vegas would be the level of involvement in community events. Without the support of our community, many businesses would not succeed. I believe the city needs to strengthen involvement to help give back to those who support us.
The South Point has always strived to be an avid supporter of the local community.
What are you reading right now?
Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande
Blackberry, iPhone or Android?
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would certainly like to still be at South Point. It has become home, and the staff and guests are family to me.
What is your dream job, outside of your current field?
I have always enjoyed speaking with people and helping them to establish who they are or desire to be. If I weren’t at South Point, I would become a national motivational speaker and life coach. But in all honesty, this is my dream job.
Whom do you admire and why?
I would have to say my grandfather; our relationship was special. His focus, determination, attitude and commitment to family, friends and strangers on the street was admirable. He would always tell me to do what I can, while I can and for whomever I can.
What is something that people might not know about you?
I like to think of myself as an open book. I really enjoy life and making the most out of it. I think that is a strong part of the passion and drive behind my work with allergen awareness.
I adore my family and friends, and I wake up feeling more thankful for one more day that I get to experience with them.