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 }

Kry May 22, 2012 at 8:19 am

EEEWWWWW!!! I recently completed a first year chef course and the one and oly time someone tasted a dish with their finger the dish was thrown out, the person got a zero for the day and was warned that if it happened again they would be booted from the class. There is no reason to taste with your fingers in this day and age!

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LovleAnjel May 22, 2012 at 8:19 am

It’s mind-boggling that the chef even tried to argue his case on that! You taste with a small spoon or fork & immediately toss it in the dirty sink. End of story. Have they stopped teaching Home Ec in high school?

On Top Chef the judges don’t watch the footage before judging, so they likely don’t realize the contestants are sticking their fingers in food (Colicchio wanders back once or twice but that’s it for oversight). Chopped has an open kitchen, and the judges will refuse to even taste a dish that may have been contaminated. Stick your hand in a dish or re-use a spoon and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll lose.

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Helen May 22, 2012 at 8:34 am

The chefs are also using their hands to cut the vegetables and meats that go into the soup, not to mention kneading the dough for the bread, and any other preparatory things.

Many chefs do not wear gloves in the kitchen, and practically nobody does at home.

I’ve taken seminars on foodborne pathogens, and the much more likely causes of foodborne illnesses come from the produce and meat packing industries and failure to store/heat foods properly.

Assuming that nothing you eat will ever be touched is unrealistic.

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admin May 22, 2012 at 10:14 am

Helen, that is a very good point. Handling food with one’s bare hands while prepping is standard but after it is cooked, it’s time to don the gloves when touching food that is about to go into someone’s mouth.

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JC May 22, 2012 at 8:40 am

What I’ve heard chefs do (or should do), is have one tasting spoon that they keep on their person for the entire shift, and when they want to taste a dish, they use another spoon or ladle and use it to drop a taste of the food onto the tasting spoon. That second spoon then goes into the wash. Complicated, but clean. The story above? Gross. What if he were just handling raw fish or unwashed vegetables? Might as well just have stuck his face in the bowl and licked off a taste.

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Elizabeth May 22, 2012 at 8:41 am

The chef had no need to check the temperature of the soup. It didn’t matter if he thought it was or wasn’t hot enough. The customers wanted it warmer, so make is warmer!

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twik May 22, 2012 at 8:55 am

I must admit, I’m puzzled as to why using a spoon would have been gross.

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sv May 22, 2012 at 9:01 am

I was once at a fast food joint when the person in front of me returned an unwrapped sandwich. The attendant at the counter simply rewrapped it and put it back in the queue of things to sell. As it happened, I was the next person to order that type of sandwich, and when he handed me the one that was returned ( looking kind of sheepish – he knew I saw him ) I said simply. ” No, not that one. ” There is something inherently yucky about knowing someone has handled your food in an unsanitary way. I think, when we eat out, we all mentally block the possibility of pinkies in our food. Don’t think I could possibly have eaten the soup after seeing that!

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Susan Purcell May 22, 2012 at 9:18 am

Yes, I agree with you. I also would not eat that food, but I would take it one step further, and contact the Board of Health for your County and complain. I have worked for years in a school cafeteria, preparing, food, and we all have to have current Food service Santitation Certificate. Hot Food is hot and Cold food is cold. It does not seem like the Chef gets It, and will continue to do that for other customers food. Some one stop him please. Last summer at a local Fast Food restaurant,
I saw a employee pick up a plastic glass by its lids ? no gloves on, and proceded to make a drink, Yes, I did call the manager over and tell him, yuck I don’t want to drink from a cup that has germs all over the top. Please people be clean.

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Skittle May 22, 2012 at 9:18 am

EWWWW!!!! I would NEVER step foot in that place again, but then again I refuse to step foot in a local place that couldn’t manage to get me a salad (in 3 tries) that didn’t have rotten or moldy vegetables on the top, then tried to charge me for all 3 and the cheeseburger I ended up eating… That day did not go so well for them

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Angel May 22, 2012 at 9:22 am

Ewww. That’s just disgusting. I guess it’s a good thing that the kitchen was an open floor plan. But I would never go back to that restaurant again!!

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Hemi May 22, 2012 at 9:23 am

OP-I would have refused the food also. I know it’s not a big deal for some folks, but for me, it is a total deal-breaker.

Situations like this is why I do not eat out very often. In closed kitchens, you never know what happens to food that gets sent back. You hear gross stories of what servers or cooks do when food is sent back and it is disgusting. I *tried* to watch the recent tv newsmagazine story on this and I just couldn’t.

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SashatheBrit May 22, 2012 at 9:49 am

I’ve worked in many a restaurant and this is common practice. Still gross.

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Inga May 22, 2012 at 9:54 am

I have worked for many years in a kitchen myself. We do not wear gloves when preparing the food, so everything we made are touched by our hands, many times. This also includes the food that will not be cooked/fried after we have touched it, such as salad. We do however wash our hands A LOT, and in addition to soap, there is also desinfectional fluid available. So our hands are clean. I have never heard of a customer getting ill after eating our food (I eat it myself, too). And when the authorities who check our clenaliness etc. (I don’t know what they are called in English) come by, they always approve of us and our methods. In fact, I have heard one of them say, that it is better to prepare the food without gloves, because then you tend to wash your hands much more often! What I’m trying to say is: if his hands were clean (which they probably were, as he probably is an educated, experienced chef), you would have survived. Skin is not toxic.

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Daisy May 22, 2012 at 10:06 am

Since most restaurants don’t have open kitchens, we don’t get to see how our food is produced, but we’ve all certainly consumed oodles of other people’s germs along with our moo goo gai pan and panzerottis without contracting raging dysentery or typhus. I do have an open kitchen and frequently cook for others. I use a proper wooden tasting spoon, one with a large bowl on one end, an open channel the length of the handle, and a smaller bowl on the upper end. You stir the pot with the large end, tip the spoon, and sip from the upper end. If the chef doesn’t sample the food as it cooks, chaos may ensue. For example, there’s the time I laboured over a beautiful buttercream icing, which requires heating sugar and water to boiling, then beating the syrup into egg yolks. Without tasting, I wouldn’t have known that I inadvertently used salt instead of sugar until the guests were busy spitting everything back on their plates!

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Ripple May 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

Most health departments have requirements for kitchen employees to wash their hands at least once every thirty minutes, for a minimum amount of time (some locales require a timing device on the hand washing sink to make sure the employees wash the full time). And having your hands under running water while washing fruits and vegetables is not sufficient. Even if the chef had just washed his hands, to stick a finger into someone else’s food is just gross. Maybe the customer won’t get sick, but it still is not professional.

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Ann May 22, 2012 at 10:43 am

Anyone who thinks this is at all gross, should never eat out. I mean never.

Although why a 5-star hotel would pretend to be an all-day diner by having an open kitchen, is also beyong me.

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Lisa May 22, 2012 at 10:46 am

Agreed that this unsanitary, and I am a confirmed germaphobe, but what about sushi? I adore sushi, and somehow manage to get past the fact that they are preparing my food in front of me with bare hands.

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Annie May 22, 2012 at 10:49 am

In my county, sticking a bare finger into something already cooked (or bare hands on something that won’t be cooked) is a Health Department violation. Also, the fact that the soup was lukewarm might point to the soup being kept at an improper temperature (unless the soup is stored cold and then warmed for each patron).

A number of people have been pointing out that bare hands touch food all the time and people don’t get sick. That is a bit silly. The majority of people don’t get sick. People with compromised immune systems (the elderly, the young, anyone with an immune suppressing disease) very well may get sick.

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Ashley May 22, 2012 at 10:52 am

I’m certainly glad the manager was willing to work with you and get things resolved. The only reason I can see that the tasting spoon might be equally gross as dipping a finger is because if this chef is willing to dip a finger in the soup, and then serve it to a customer, there’s no telling how many times he’s used that same tasting spoon in a day.

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Stacey Frith-Smith May 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

It is nice to know that food has been handled with care. I personally am okay with clean hands provided they have been washed with hot water and soap. I don’t think much of hand sanitizer as a substitute for this as it dries the skin and who wants any of the residue on their salad or fruit? As for tasting, it’s good to set up a stack of spoons next to your pot and use each once. No danger of any bit of saliva falling back through a channel in the spoon (as perhaps in the wooden tasting spoon). I do agree that there shouldn’t be an issue with someone tasting with a clean spoon from a soup bowl, but it is nicer simply to have a freshly prepared bowl once the soup or casserole has been deemed unsatisfactory. Wasteful, perhaps, if the dish is expensive, but it pays dividends in restoring goodwill from a customer who found the first plate or bowl of food unsatisfactory- for whatever reason. It also makes a nicer appearance at the table and is likely to mitigate the idea that there is still a problem with the dish (unless indeed the whole pan of food from the kitchen was poorly prepared). Happy dining!

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MellowedOne May 22, 2012 at 11:30 am

Gross, gross, gross. Hands are like the public transportation system for every little germ, bacteria, etc. and we unwittingly (or ignorantly sometimes) are more than happy to help them to a new destination.

No wonder there are so many federal and state regs in place to help minimize/eliminate stupid practices like the one the OP mentioned.

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Calli Arcale May 22, 2012 at 11:45 am

SV — wow, they openly rewrapped and attempted to resell returned food? In my state, that’s illegal — if food has been served to a customer, it must be destroyed. (Optionally, by eating it, but the employer would have to be very careful to avoid the appearance of encouraging the staff to eat it.) This is because there is no way of knowing whether a customer has adulterated it, intentionally or through ignorance. It would be a heck of a way to find out they’re a chronic carrier of hepatitis B.

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inNM May 22, 2012 at 11:50 am

I don’t know about other people, but I am very sensitive about food. My boyfriend can cook the two of us the same meal, with the same ingredients, at the same time, and he will be fine, and I will be with food poisoning symptoms for 2 days. This has happened twice. The last time, my boyfriend even tried eating food off my plate to see if he had the same reaction. Nope. Nothing.

So, I’m very particular about food and food preparation. If I saw what the OP saw, I would not have had any replacement soup, nor would I have had any other meal in that restaurant. I would have also contacted the manager and explained since the soup was contaminated, I was not going to pay for something I could not, in good conscience, eat. Then, I would report them to the health board.

That’s not to say that I’ve seen what happens in every restaurant I’ve been too. I take a leap of faith when I eat out. However, if I see something that is blatantly unhygienic, I cannot mentally nor physically put that food in my mouth. And my boyfriend can attest to the number of times I cancelled dinner plans because of something like that.

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Cobbs May 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

I agree with others here who say never eat out if poor hygiene is a phobia. I know I have eaten and survived with no consequences many so-called “gross” lapses of sanitary procedure. So, don’t worry, I say. Also, if you are a complainer or a snob you have consumed worse. Your food has been intentionally contaminated. Read “Kitchen Confidential.” I smile, and smile often, in restaurants since reading it.

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Shalamar May 22, 2012 at 11:58 am

A while ago, I visited a bakery to buy some cookies. There were two employees behind the counter; one was helping another customer, and the other was busy eating a cupcake. (That seemed a bit weird in and of itself, but wait – it gets weirder.) After Employee #2 finished her snack, she LICKED HER FINGERS and asked me what I’d like. I said politely “First, could you please wash your hands?” She stared at me in astonishment and asked “Why?” The other employee, who turned out to be the manager, hadn’t seen the finger-licking and was equally surprised by my request. I explained why I was asking; the manager turned on the employee in fury and said “You did WHAT? Go wash your hands immediately!” She apologized to me and gave me the cookies for free. I’m not sure if Employee #2 lost her job, but I never saw her there again.

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LovleAnjel May 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm

@ Helen
“…practically nobody [wears gloves] at home.”

Yes, but my family shares germs all over the place. It’s not the salad that’s going to give DH my cold ;)

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June May 22, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I have worked in very dirty restaurant kitchens and very clean restaurant kitchens.
Best advice is something my friend did in college. She ordered a grilled cheese from a popular chain diner. It had a hair on it when it was served. She sent it back, but not before taking her toothpick and mashing up the bottom of the sandwich. When the waitress brought her the “new” sandwich, my friend checked the bottom and it was the same one! I seem to recall the manager got involved when the waitress got snarky about sending it back a second time.

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TylerBelle May 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm

It seems like the more liquid the food, the more repelling for bare hands to touch. As nasty as fingers can be in soup, I think I could take that moreso than finding a hair in it. At least I think I could. For watching those cooking competitions on tv and seeing some of the contestants work with hair hanging around their face makes me shudder. One doesn’t have to wear a Ruth Buzzi on Laugh-In style hairnet, but at least pull any long hair back or wear headbands/bandanas or something (as a lot do :)).

I remember an episode of TC where judge Tom Collichio warned the contestants not to put tasting spoons back into the food after use, instead put them into the “bain-marie” (yay for me, I had something unknown to look up!), so I wondered if an issue had been raised about their cleanliness.

I agree with the OP is what’s most disturbing to me is how the chef still didn’t see an issue with his tasting methods after customers raised a concerned about them. I doubt it would be much more trouble in getting into the habit of using a clean spoon for tasting.

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Hellbound Alleee May 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I don’t ever want to eat food that is not tasted in some way by the chef. If he doesn’t taste his own food, he has no idea if it’s any good. You taste food with a clean tasting spoon.

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Alpaca May 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I’d have been perfectly fine with the soup if he’d brought it back to me. I don’t mind him sticking his pinky in it as long as his hands were washed. i’d be more appaled by all the germs, drugs, and whatnot that is on the money we handle on a daily basis.

My grandfather was a sous chef at a 5 Star Superior Grandhotel and i know for a fact that he used his fingers to test if the meat was cooked right (every chef probably knows that you just need to touch it and depending on the firmness of the meat you know wheter or not its done or not)
In the kitchen everything is touched.
The Chefs responsible for the entre and salads touch the food with their hands. toss the salad with their hands and put it on the table.

I agree that it could be problematig with people that have a compromised immune system BUT..if your immune system is so bad that you couldn’t handle the germs that are essentially the same as on their own hands , on the money they handle and on the door handles they touch, then maybe eating out in a restaurant isn’t the best option.

In a restaurant they probably have less chance of getting in contact with those germes, because the kitchen is cleaned thoroughly every evening after service is done, staff is required to wash their hands regulary and (if the health department checks them regulary) the food is constanly refrigerated so that no germs can grow on them.

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Green123 May 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm

The customer is always right. If the soup was returned with a complaint it was cold, the chef’s job is to heat it up till it’s visibly steaming, not to ascertain whether he thinks it’s warm enough – by whatever method.

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Snarkastic May 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm

One night, over the holidays, my god-father was preparing his “famous” rib roast. A family friend of theirs was making some other complimentary dish in the kitchen. As the floor plan is open and it’s not a huge space, everyone can see what’s happening in the kitchen. My mother and I are sitting at the table chit-chatting, when we notice the family friend double dip her tasting spoon into the giant pot of whatever-she-was-making. We share a horrified look that serves as a silent agreement that we will not be eating that dish this evening. Yikes!

So, thanks, but no thanks to others putting their fingers, licked spoons, etc. into my lunch. OP and family handled this well and the manager was very gracious.

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Gracie C. May 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I think perhaps the OP finds the thought of the tasting spoon gross because SHE had already sampled the soup. If I get soup that isn’t hot enough I’ve usually at least tasted it twice (the first time, and then again after stirring in case there is just a weird warm pocket that stirring can even out), meaning my germs are now in the dish. Fine for me, but a little gross for someone else to be taste testing.

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Clair Seulement May 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Sorry, if you spend 8 nanoseconds on Food Network you see nothing but direct manhandling of food. This is looking for problems IMHO. Eat in from now on.

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GroceryGirl May 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I read a book once by some semi-famous chef who said “if you think that a chef’s fingers aren’t in your food, you are delusional” I get that it might be icky to see but chefs use their hands, they are one of their tools and wearing plastic gloves is just not practical. I’m sure that chef’s hands were clean as he was cooking and preparing meals.

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kingrings May 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I understand and completely agree with the logic behind the defense of prepping food with one’s bare hands. However, I’m still repulsed by it. Even though I know it’s not germier than anything else done to the food, still the thought of someone dipping their hand into my food grosses me out to the point where I’d send it back. I know that makes no logical sense…

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Another Alice May 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I think it’s a normal gut reaction to be grossed out by a bare finger in soup, however when I think about it, I’m pretty meh about it. As was pointed out, chefs use bare hands to prepare food constantly, and especially for something like salads, who knows if they wiped their nose on their hand right before? A disgusting thought, sure, but a practical one. I think people would be sick way more often if it was a legitimate fear. For the sake of professionalism, especially with an open kitchen, the chef was silly to do that. I wonder if he was a bit old school.

I actually do agree that gloves are worse than bare hands. With gloves on, you can’t feel that your hands are dirty, and as more and more food residue gets on them, it’s going to get mixed in. It’s much, much easier to forget to change gloves than wash hands. In addition, I don’t know what chefs’ gloves are made of, but if it’s latex – EW. I’d rather a bare hand than a latex glove any day, but that’s just my (perhaps not-so-humble) opinion.

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Cat Whisperer May 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I’m with the people who say “the customer is always right.” If you feel your soup isn’t warm enough, then it isn’t warm enough, and it should be warmed up. If you don’t want to see people sticking their fingers in your food, and you see someone in the kitchen or wait staff sticking their fingers in your food, it’s your right as a customer to refuse it and and the management has an obligation to offer you something you think is acceptable.

That said, I am also in agreement with the people who say that if you eat out, you better not be grossed out by people touching your food.

I also have to admit that even among family, unless you prepared the meal yourself, or watched the person who prepared it for you, you may not be getting food prepared under exactly pristine hygienic conditions.

When I was a kid of about 9, one Sunday my mom was preparing roast beef for dinner. The roast had come out of the oven and my mom had put it on the kitchen table to rest before bringing it into the dining room. While the roast was resting, she’d gone out into the garage to change clothes from the washer to the dryer. (The kitchen had a door opening into the garage, and at the other end of the kitchen, a door into the dining room.)

My mom came back into the kitchen from the garage just as I came into the kitchen from the dining room. And what did we see but the family cat up on the kitchen table, daintily licking one end of the roast!

My mom looked at me, and I looked at her, and I knew what wheels were turning in her mind: if I hadn’t come into the kitchen and seen the cat licking the roast, she’d have chased the cat off the table, cut off that end of the roast, and served us the remainder with nobody any the wiser that the cat had been at it.

The roast was given to the cat to finish, and my dad went out and got take-out hamburgers for the family.

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Cass May 23, 2012 at 12:58 am

As a chef, I obviously had to sit various Health and Safety exams for that necessary certificate. In Britain (I can’t speak for the rest of the world), there is nothing to forbid one from dipping a clean finger in a soup. However, it isn’t due diligence and reputations of restaurants and individual chefs are made and broken on these small actions. One case of someone getting ill from the food you make can have disastrous effects and end in heavy fines and unemployment so, whilst it may be ‘fine’ onw should not be so naive as to take that chance. Of course it happens. Even in the kitchen I work in under a Michelin Starred head chef.

You basically have to taste the food you make (though if it’s sent back because it’s cold, well, just heat the bloody thing up) but you should be using a clean tasting spoon. There is nothing wrong with a clean tasting spoon. It’s also frowned upon here to use gloves in restaurant kitchens – the fact that the chef becomes limited in their sense of touch and restricted even slightly in their movement means that it increases accidents and you won’t see them used outside of cafe kitchens and places that rely on pre-mixed ingredients since, obviously, there is less physical work needed (though some places with open kitchens feel compelled to use them because so many people believe it is a requirement and they can’t afford to lose business on even a misguided preconception).

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Kovitlac May 23, 2012 at 1:46 am

I have to agree with Helen. While the tasting-via-a-pinky was probably a bit out of line (although I likely wouldn’t have cared either way – I’m not what you would call a germaphobe), if you’re THAT freaked out about anyone touching your food, you probably shouldn’t be eating out to begin with. Like she said, chefs use their hands to cook and plate the food, which involves (yes) bare hands against the food itself, usually without gloves. If you haven’t keeled over by now, you’re probably going to be alright.

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OP May 23, 2012 at 2:47 am

Hi Everyone-
It’s the OP here. In response to the questions about the tasting spoon, Ashley was absolutely right that the reason I thought it might be gross is because I wonder how many times that same tasting spoon has been used. I know it’s a health code violation, but some people might view tossing a tasting spoon in the sink after just one taste to be wasteful and keep using that spoon over and over again. Or they keep it on a dirty counter next to raw meat before using it or in the pocket of a uniform that might not be clean after a few hours. Okay, I know I’m a germophobe but those are my fears. Of course if a spoon is used once and then promptly put in the sink to be washed I have no problem with it. Also, in answer to someone’s question, this 5 star hotel employed the open kitchen to be trendy. It was a luxury dining room with tapestries on the wall and gorgeous handmade wood furniture. The Queen actually stayed in this place when she was in town and this hotel is where I had my wedding (it was before this incident) which made the whole thing even worse.

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Cat May 23, 2012 at 8:21 am

When I handle food during preparation, I have carefully cleaned the surface area, the bowls, knives, spoons, whatever I will be using and have carefully washed my hands up to and including the wrists. If I open a refrigerator door, oven door, faucet, answer the phone, etc., I wash them over again.
I do not think the chef washed his hands, even the fingers, before he tasted the soup with his finger. If he will promise not to stick his finger in my soup, I will promise not to spit in it before he does so.

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Clair Seulement May 23, 2012 at 8:27 am

And it’s not true that people only touch food with their bare hands before the food is cooked. I constantly see chefs touching the food directly while plating, especially in places where the food is stacked precariously or otherwise creatively presented.

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babbaloo May 23, 2012 at 8:27 am

There is no way to prepare food without the use of hands.

It makes little difference if the hand is bare, or covered with plastic–the problem is what is ON the bare hand or or the plastic glove.

If a cook or chef sneezes, they could have just as easily wiped their nose with a bare hand as a plastic glove hand–if they just touched raw food, they could have done it with a bare hand or a plastic glove hand. Did I get food on my hands? Let’s wipe them down a DIRTY apron and continue using the plastic gloves.

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Shea May 23, 2012 at 9:20 am

I once worked as a cook on a guest ranch, and yes, just about everything that I served had been touched, at some point in the preparation, by my bare hands. I kneaded bread, picked up raw steaks, shucked corn and handled fruit with bare hands, but that doesn’t mean it was unsanitary, because I WASHED my hands literally every time I changed tasks or touched anything that wasn’t the food. I was taught to do a proper hand-wash by a surgical nurse, in addition to going through food-service training, so you can bet that my hands were very clean.

If you’ve ever eaten a meal at someone else’s house, I can guarantee that they touched the food with their bare hands, and in all likelihood they weren’t nearly as fastidious as I was about hand-washing. If the cooks were licking spoons, not washing their hands after using the toilet and sneezing on the food, then sure, you’ve got reason to be squicked out, but I don’t understand the idea that a mere touch of a hand on food suddenly makes it unsanitary.

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Ann May 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

OP — I understand that an open kitchen is “trendy”. I live in a major city that thinks it invented trendy. Doesn’t make it any less silly in a 5-star hotel, Queen or no queen.

(Besides, the Queen goes where she’s invited, and plasters on a smile no matter how cr*p or silly it is. She is a trooper.)

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The Elf May 23, 2012 at 11:00 am

If this bothers you, never work in a restaurant.

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OP May 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Yes but there are two points here: Firstly, he used his finger to taste our soup in full view of us. I don’t get why a clean (see my comment from earlier) tasting spoon can’t be employed. There is simply no reason for fingers in this instance as there was a more sanitary way of accomplishing his task. This is a completely different instance than making pastry, kneading dough, etc where the use of hands is essential. Secondly, the chef wasn’t really “tasting” anything. We said our soup was too cold, his job was to warm it up. Instead, he took it upon himself to put his finger in our food to “prove” to us that the soup was not in fact too cold. It was a passive aggressive gesture because he didn’t want to take the time and effort to warm up the soup. From both these perspectives, the chef was wrong and he made his establishment look bad. And by the way, when I mentioned the Queen had been there, it was because I expected higher standards at a place that charges $15 for that very soup we were talking about. When you pay higher prices and the establishment has a reputation to maintain, I think it is only fitting to expect better service from the employees.

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kingsrings May 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I worked at a couple pizza places years ago. We always prepared the pizzas and touched everything regarding them (the dough, toppings, etc.) with our bare hands. Never did we wear gloves. I don’t see how that could make any difference though because, as someone above just said, whatever happens to one’s bare hands to make them unsanitary can still happen with the gloves on, too. And our pizzas went into the oven to be baked, so whatever germs got on them before that were killed by the heat anyway. Yet when I worked at a Dairy Queen, we were trained never to touch food with our bare hands. In that case though, that was just for the cold items. If we had to grab a cone, we did it with a napkin. If we had to cut a banana for a split, we cut it directly just touching the peel part. BUT, the employees preparing the hot foods in the back always touched the food items with their bare hands. So, I don’t know what gave, other than the cold items were prepared within customer eyesight, and they didn’t go into an oven to be baked.

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crella May 24, 2012 at 5:04 am

“Anyone who thinks this is at all gross, should never eat out. I mean never.”
“If this bothers you, never work in a restaurant”
“If you spend 8 nanoseconds on Food Network”

Because it occurs does not make it right or tolerable. Normal food prep is done in many cases with washed bare hands. This is a little different though…. I don’t think that testing food temperature with a finger is in the food codes ;-) It is true that there is horrible food prep being done out there, but that doesn’t mean the consumers should suck it up as part of the price of eating out, or somehow have to mentally convince themselves it isn’t happening in order to enjoy a meal.

There are more violations on the Food Network than you can shake a stick at, the same spoon in a pot over and over again, tasting with a tasting spoon over the pot and food falling back into the pot…I was quite surprised…if they are going to push these people as experts and their food as the best, it would seem that the least they could do is be an example of sanitary food prep.

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