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Taka health inspection: Return of the glove

sushichefWhen it comes to food safety rules, there has always been one that really bothered me, one that I sort of fundamentally disagree with as a cook. Of course, you know that I’m talking about the moldy ice machines…I mean, seriously, who cares? The ice in there is cold, it stunts the growth of any really harmful bacteria. Stop being such a baby about it.

Ok, obviously I’m kidding. Moldy ice machines are gross.

When I’m cooking, there are really only two situations in which I don gloves – cutting super-hot peppers or if I’m handling a single large piece of meat for an extended period of time, like trimming and cleaning a pig. Other than that, if I’m sitting at an open kitchen and I can see the folks preparing my food, I’d rather see freshly washed bare hands over latex gloves any day of the week.

Why? Because, when you have a layer between your skin and the food, it is very easy to touch something and not realize that you have just contaminated the gloves, then just go about your vegetable chopping, oblivious to the fact that you are spreading chicken gizzard all of your kale salad. So, in many respects, freshly washed hands are safer, as the chef’s awareness of when his hands are clean or not is much higher.

So, imagine my surprise when I hear that Taka Moriuchi, the man and myth behind Taka, one of my favorite sushi bars in the city, will no longer be serving nigiri because of a health inspection citation for not wearing gloves. This isn’t the first time he has butted heads with the inspector over this issue either, leading to a $1,000 fine. You can read all about the event in a series of posts on Taka’s blog, Sushi and Passion. *spoiler alert – He solves the glove situation and you can once again get nigiri at Taka, so relax*

The idea of a master sushi chef getting cited for making nigiri barehanded is beyond ridiculous to me.

But I know there is someone out there doing a little fist pump because the sight of bare hands on your food makes you cringe, so I’m curious- did “The Man” go too far with their regulations, or can you sleep a little easier knowing there is one fewer fleshy finger forming fresh fish* in Atlanta.

*That alliteration sort of got a mind of its own there, sorry.

- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog

2 comments Add your comment

Lorenzo

May 21st, 2013
4:22 pm

The problem is not just with the glove rule but with restaurant health codes in general. In some types of establishments, I would be more comfortable seeing the cook wear gloves. But in a sushi restaurant, where tradition requires bare hands when making nigiri, I suspect tradition also requires scrupulous attention to the cleanliness of those hands and that the likelihood of people getting ill from this practice historically has been low. I’m sure there are other traditional food preparation techniques that similarly don’t fit the health codes. The problem with restaurant health codes is that, like gloves, one size does not fit all.

sansho1

May 22nd, 2013
10:53 am

News flash — most restaurant cooks don’t wear gloves. They just keep them nearby for when the health inspector shows up. I’ve worked in half a dozen kitchens, and even the cleanest and most well-run among them have had an inspector fire drill. It’s amazing how much can get done in 30 seconds!