Michele Aquino: Gourmet food handlers

I don’t like to be paranoid about germs when I go out to eat. I like to relax and I hope that the restaurant has enough pride to provide training and demand safe practices form their employees. I prefer to assume that public policy measures are keeping me safe to a point and my healthy immune system can be counted on in case of a slip up.

When dining upscale, paying a higher price for smaller, more chic portions, many may assume that good food handling practice comes along with meticulous placement of micro-greens. This could be the case, but the same pitfalls exist for any high volume kitchen, with workers who are susceptible to the same illnesses and temptations to cut corners in order to get through the night.

When I read through the New York Times’ Dining and Wine section, restaurants are frequently featured for their chef’s artistic take on comfort food or rising celebrity status. The slideshow photos showcase the restaurant’s unique décor, avant-garde fare, and often a basic health code violation. A pair of hospital-esque latex gloves probably subtracts from the photographers’ artistic visions of plated fancy foods. Maybe chefs just take off the gloves for the photo shoot or move the tongs.

While New York health code does not require gloves to be worn during food prep, it does prohibit bare hand contact with ready to eat foods. Proper glove use is one way to comply. Of course, there are many restaurant employees who will misuse the latex gloves, so thorough handwashing is essential.