And This Little Pinky Says, “Too Cold!”

by admin on May 22, 2012

My mom, husband and I went to a very nice hotel restaurant for lunch (the hotel is a 5 star hotel) and given the prices and the location you would think their employees would provide good customer service and maintain basic hygiene standards. Wrong. We all ordered the soup and bread option for our lunch and waited for the soup to arrive. I should mention here that the kitchen for this restaurant is completely open so you can see exactly what is going on at all times. Plus we were seated only about 10 feet from the kitchen so we had a good view. Anyway, our soup arrives and we try it and discover that it is lukewarm at best. None of us enjoys lukewarm soup so we contacted the waiter and said our soup was lukewarm and had it sent back. Now because we can clearly see into the kitchen we saw the soup arrive in the kitchen and the chef receive the soup. Now the chef didn’t seem to think that the soup was lukewarm as he used this opportunity to use his finger (not even a tasting spoon which is still gross) to check the temperature of the soup. Then he decides it is indeed lukewarm and puts the soup into the warning oven. Then the chef signals the waiter to bring our soup back to us with the added extra germs from his fingers still in the soup. We obviously weren’t happy and told the waiter we wouldn’t accept the soup under any conditions given what we saw go on in the kitchen. Now the manager of the restaurant was very good and did comp our soup and speak to the chef (given the open plan we heard the whole conversation) but the scary part was that the chef kept saying over and over that he was “just tasting the soup” and “didn’t see what the problem was”. If this was the way he checked all his entrees for taste and quality, you can see why we have never gone back to that restaurant again!   0430-12
Why would have a clean tasting spoon been gross?  As long as the chef does not put it back in the soup or whatever other food he is tasting, using a clean spoon seems to be a good way of gaining information on the status of the returned dish.
I am a devoted follower of the “Top Chef” series and some of them do stick their pinky finger in dishes to taste test them.  Not sure what I think of that considering the emphasis the judge chefs have on sanitation.   Gordon Ramsey goes ballistic on chefs who use fingers to taste.   When I have catered events in the past,I and my staff wore food service gloves when handling food and always used spoons to taste but then I am a food safety freak.   In an open restaurant kitchen, it would seem to be unproductive to have chefs sticking fingers in food in full view of the patrons.

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

kelly May 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

I am from the Uk, and this would be illegal here as it is against all regulations. People carry a lot of nasty germs and bacteria on their hands some through hygeine issues, and others naturally (such as strep B). Sticking your finger into someones food is a sure fire way of spreading bacteria and disease. I find it shocking that the admin here thinks because her staff use gloves and spoons they are food safety freaks. This is the law here.

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Enna May 28, 2012 at 10:42 am

I silightly disagree with Helen: food should only be touched as long as it needs to be touched or handled – the less it’s touched the less likey there is a chance of cross contamination. There maybe or maybe not rules about sticking fingers into food in the UK but if you touch food that doesn’t need to be touched you could then contamiate the food that you prepare afterwards.

As for tasting spoons – so long as the spoon in clean what is the problem?

If the chef thought the soup was warm enough what was he going to do? Send the food back? It’s like he thinks the customers are lying. He should have just heated the soup up.

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A.B. May 29, 2012 at 3:59 am

Assuming the customers were using spoons to eat their soup (I would hope so!), it’s entirely possible that they placed their spoons back into their cups/bowls of soup after first tasting it and determining it was lukewarm. If that was the case, then it would have been gross for the chef to use a tasting spoon in the soup – not gross for the customers, but gross for the chef. Am I right? ‘Cause their spoons were in their mouths and then in the soup and then the soup was in the chef’s mouth… Right??

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Robert May 30, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I’m going to have to go with the minority here and say I would not have had a problem with it any more than I have a problem with a chef chopping vegetables, meat, etc for my soup (or for a salad or any dish cooked or not cooked).

Of course I am also an anti-germophobe, I avoid antibacterial soap whenever possible and I think those disposable sanitary gloves food workers are often made to wear are just silly. I prefer to keep my immune system busy; keeps it from getting bored and practicing on plant pollen, peanuts, shellfish, etc.

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justme June 15, 2012 at 9:26 pm

It is gross, but disturbingly typical. I only worked in food service for a few years, and the things I saw–from stirring pizza sauce with one’s whole arm, to a girl refilling salad bar containers with her bare hands (though, she could have at least washed them first, in my opinion)–were astounding. I still enjoy going out to eat, but I try not to think too hard about what happens to my food behind the scenes.

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White Lotus January 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm

The chef needed to use his finger (and not a spoon) to check not the taste but the temperature. How cool the soup was would determine how long to leave it in the warming oven. I can’t believe all you restaurant pros seemed to have missed this aspect of what happened.
I taste by using my stirring spoon to put food into my tasting spoon. I sometimes use gloves for mixing. I wash my hands and clean surfaces, of course, but I think a lot of people — encouraged by the lucrative cleaning products industry — have gone overboard on the sanitation thing. We live in a world that is, by some people’s standards, filthy and our world cannot be made sterile. Expecting food to be sterile is ignoring the very nature of food. While we need to be clean so that we don’t get sick, we are part of the environment as is what we eat. All those chemical cleaning products scare me more than the kind of honest dirt that comes on washed hands, and which also exists on the outside of those gloves.
This would not have bothered me, as I can easily see doing this in a home kitchen. Somehow, I have faith that the chef’s hands are sufficiently clean.

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